On the Trail: Nordic splendor at Ashcroft | AspenTimes.com
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On the Trail: Nordic splendor at Ashcroft

Janet Urquhart
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

ASPEN ” With all the free nordic skiing around Aspen and Snowmass, Ashcroft is easy to overlook. Every time I make the effort to head up there, though, I’m taken in anew by the beauty of the place.

Truly, cross-country skiing enthusiasts are spoiled around here. The Aspen-Snowmass system now claims 83 kilometers of groomed trails in and between the two resorts and extending down the Rio Grande Trail to Basalt. And, depending on where a local lives/works, the nearest groomed track is likely within walking distance, or at least a quick city bus ride away.

Heading out to Ashcroft Ski Touring, located 12 miles or so south of town in the upper reaches of the Castle Creek Valley, requires greater effort. And, as a privately operated system, it’s not free. A day pass to cross-country ski or snowshoe (it offers separate, dedicated trails for each pursuit) is $15.



But on a bluebird day, the scenery in the upper valley is unparalleled. Last weekend, while several of my friends hit the Rio Grande Trail for the Town to Town Tour from Aspen to Basalt, I was at Ashcroft, enjoying the crowdless trails through the meadows and aspen groves of upper Castle Creek.

When I mentioned to a co-worker that I’d opted for Ashcroft, he said he has never skied there ” it’s on his meaning-to-get-there-someday list. It’s on my mean-to-get-there-more-often list.




While one of the Ashcroft trails skirts right by the ghost town of the same name ” a hard-to-resist photo op ” hands down my favorite trail anywhere in the Roaring Fork Valley is the River Trail at Ashcroft. The route closely hugs gurgling Castle Creek roughly between the ghost town and the Pine Creek Cookhouse. Some of it is shaded in deep forest, the trail is narrow, and a few, short pitches present a bit of a challenge, whether one is skiing in the up- or downstream direction.

Having skied it last weekend in one direction and then the other, I can say downstream is easier but both are equally fun, and equally scenic.

janet@aspentimes.com


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