On the trail: Biking? Nope, skiing
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
ASPEN – I very nearly pumped up the tires on my road bike Sunday and took it for the inaugural spin of the season. If only it had been a little bit warmer.
Torn, I settled on a second day of cross-country skiing, opting for what might have been the nordic season’s last gasp, for me anyway.
I hadn’t been out on my skis nearly enough this winter, so I tried to make up for it in two days, hitting three different loops around Aspen on Saturday before heading to Ashcroft Ski Touring south of town on Sunday.
While the snow around Aspen seemed to be disappearing rapidly (a guy at the cross-country center predicted the season would be over as soon as the coming weekend at the golf course), the higher-elevation Ashcroft was holding snow nicely, and it was in a lot better shape.
I’d had no luck hitting recently groomed track anywhere at Aspen-Snowmass for two straight weekends, but at Ashcroft, it felt like some of the trails had been groomed just for me. Crisp, untouched corduroy and unmarred parallel, classic track beckoned, as ominous skies began to spit snow in the upper Castle Creek Valley.
The trails through the woods, on the west side of Castle Creek Road, were particularly pleasant – soft, but not mushy, unlike the trails in town.
I breathlessly herring-boned up Lower and Upper Fiske, then soared downhill to the Pine Creek Cookhouse, where I crossed the road to hit my favorite trail, River Run, a picturesque path right next to Castle Creek that empties out into the ghost town of Ashcroft at the northern end.
I haven’t spent much time in the tracks this winter and, feeling less than confident, I kicked the skis off to trudge down a couple of short, precipitous pitches. At the bottom of the second one, I tossed my skis down and one of them took off. I tried to stab it with a pole, to turn it on its side and stop its forward progress, to no avail.
With the ski picking up steam, I had visions of it flying off the trail and launching into the creek. I wound up dashing madly down the trail, a ski in one hand, making desperate stabs at the rogue one. I was about to resort to a flying tackle when I managed to flip it with a back-wrenching lunge.
Still, with the skis back on my feet, and the snow starting to fall in earnest, I was glad I left the bicycle hanging in storage.
Ashcroft Ski Touring charges $15 a day to use the trails, or $10 after 12:30 p.m. It is scheduled to remain open through April 4.
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Friends of Colorado Avalanche Information Center has contributed to the state’s avalanche center for several years to help with forecasting for backcountry visitors. It cannot hold in-person fundraisers this year so its asking supporters to sign up for an annual membership.