On the trail: Perfect at Ashcroft | AspenTimes.com

On the trail: Perfect at Ashcroft

Janet Urquhart
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

ASPEN – While there’s something to be said for the March-like days of cross-country skiing I’ve been enjoying at the Aspen golf course lately, it’s just too early for spring snow.

I’ve been using my waxless skis for noon-hour loops in the sunshine, in tracks that soften from ice to midday slush. Great spring skiing, but not exactly what I have in mind in December, even though I managed to forgo gloves during one particularly balmy outing.

The closest I’d been to winter was a glorious day of colder snow at Spring Gulch outside of Carbondale. I plied the freshly groomed trails as big flakes of snow filled in the corduroy a week before Christmas. A day later, the temperature had zoomed back into the temperate zone and the Spring Gulch trails were mushy.

Sunday, I headed for the higher elevations of Ashcroft Ski Touring, hoping for chance to put some blue wax on my skis and fly on firm, December snow. It’s $15 to ski the private area, but the conditions were worth the outlay of cash.

I headed immediately up Fiske, a seemingly endless herringbone climb through the aspens, until the trail finally points downhill toward the Pine Creek Cookhouse. There, I crossed the road and hit River Run, possibly my favorite nordic trail anywhere in the valley.

The trail dips into the trees and follows Castle Creek, emerging at the ghost town of Ashcroft. It appeared my skis were the first to follow the freshly set classic track, and the conditions were nothing short of sublime.

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I popped out at the ghost town, followed the trail through the meadow to the far north end of the ski area and doubled back to my starting point, where I had the desire, but not the stamina, to tackle another full loop of the place. I headed back toward the cookhouse via an easier route, but eventually succumbed to my own limitations, and turned around for a glide back to the King Cabin (where one pays to ski) and my car.

If the snow doesn’t firm up in Aspen, look for me at Ashcroft again next weekend.

janet@aspentimes.com