On the trail: Making tracks to Ashcroft
December 20, 2011
ASPEN – Desperate times call for desperate measures, which is probably why guys were shoveling snow onto the cross-country ski trails at Ashcroft, south of Aspen, on Sunday.
I headed up there in hopes of finding some credible cross-country skiing – or any skiing, for that matter. And I did.
The privately run ski area had limited terrain open, but it was only charging $5, the number of runs and snow conditions being what they were, and I was happy to pay it. Not only was there some skiing to be found, but there was actually some set track for classic-style skiing.
A few of the trails in the trees between the King Cabin, headquarters for Ashcroft Ski Touring, and the Pine Creek Cookhouse were groomed and open. The snow was admittedly thin, with protruding vegetation in some areas, but when I poked a ski pole into the snow next to the trail, I found perhaps a foot of powder. You won’t find that at the Aspen golf course, where Monday’s trail report called conditions “pretty bony.”
The Aspen-Snowmass Nordic Hotline, by the way, said the skiing remained decent in the area next to the high school, though no classic track had been set. After another weekend of sunshine, the golf course was looking pretty sketchy, and most of my favorite nordic haunts have yet to make their debut in this season of scant snowfall.
At its higher elevation, Ashcroft is poised to improve quickly with more snow, but on Sunday, guys were shoveling fresh cover onto thin spots in the open meadows where the sun beats down. I had to appreciate the effort. Heaps of powder smacked of face shots as I shot through the soft piles.
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The sleigh ride to the Pine Creek Cookhouse, by the way, was also in operation on the barely snow-covered road above King Cabin.
While most of the cross-country trails that were open required uphill huffing and puffing or downhill coasting, with only a smattering of the longed-for kick-and-glide skiing, I was happy to be out in the sunshine, soaking in the views of the upper Castle Creek Valley and actually being on my skis for the first time this winter.
Like every skier, all I want for Christmas is snow.