Opportunities abound for nordic skiing | AspenTimes.com

Opportunities abound for nordic skiing

Janet Urquhart
Aspen, CO Colorado

ASPEN ” Snowmaking on the Aspen golf course? Groomed nordic trails at Difficult Campground? A cross-country hub for midvalley nordic enthusiasts?

The Pitkin County Nordic Trails Master Plan, which documents the existing 100-plus kilometers of free, groomed nordic trails in Aspen, Snowmass Village and Pitkin County and outlines potential expansion of the system, is ready for formal review.

It has evolved with citizen input through a series of community meetings and will now be presented to the Pitkin County Open Space and Trails Board on Thursday, Dec. 6. The meeting will be held in the courthouse plaza building (plaza 1 conference room), 530 E. Main St., Aspen, at 11:30 a.m. The public is encouraged to attend and offer input.

Ultimately, elected officials in Pitkin County, Aspen, Snowmass Village and Basalt will be asked to adopt the plan.

“Really, I think the value of the master plan is it’s a tool to give good information to the decision makers,” said Ben Dodge, president of the Aspen Snowmass Nordic Council.

The inclusion of Basalt reflects both the burgeoning interest in groomed trail opportunities in the midvalley and the possibilities to provide cross-country skiing there.

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“We know there’s some strong interest in the midvalley,” Dodge said.

The council was pleasantly surprised, he added, by the enthusiastic crowd that turned out for a scoping meeting in the midvalley while the plan was being drafted.

Whether the Nordic Council ” a nonprofit group that oversees the system ” expands to encompass Basalt or whether the midvalley organizes its own council remains to be seen.

The master plan notes among its goals a desire for more challenging, hilly terrain, particularly for racing; more well-groomed flat terrain in the midvalley (easy terrain is popular with the greatest number of cross-country skiers); and more woodsy, rural skiing experiences.

For enthusiasts interested in expanded skiing opportunities, the key to the 39-page document is in the seven pages (three of them are maps) that outline the possibilities for new areas that could eventually be folded into the system.

The plan identifies existing, tenuous pieces of the system, where long-term arrangements to secure trail easements should be secured; and notes areas that could become part of the system, though no grooming is recommended ” the Hay Park Trail in the midvalley, for example.

Possibilities for new, groomed trails exist at the James H. Smith Open Space and Difficult Campground, both east of Aspen. And, the East Aspen Trail, which follows Highway 82 east of town, could be groomed to provide a link from the existing nordic loop at the North Star Nature Preserve all the way Difficult, according to the plan.

Richmond Ridge, off the top of Aspen Mountain, holds potential for nordic skiing with lift-served access, good snow coverage, great early and late-season use, spectacular views and rolling terrain, the plan notes.

A portion of the city of Aspen-owned Cozy Point Ranch, located near the intersection of Highway 82 and Brush Creek Road, also holds potential, according to the plan. So does the Capitol Creek Valley, though it would require coordination with landowners.

Aspen and Snowmass already both have cross-country ski centers on their respective golf courses; the plan envisions development of a midvalley nordic hub, possibly at the Roaring Fork Club or Basalt High School. Both the club, located in Basalt, and the school grounds also hold potential for regular grooming of trails for classic and/or skate skiing, the plan notes.

The PUD approval for the Roaring Fork Club actually requires the grooming of public nordic trails but in the past, track has seldom been set, according to the plan.

Also getting a mention: lighted, night skiing in designated locations, though the locales aren’t spelled out in the plan, and snowmaking at select locations to extend the nordic season.

“Snowmaking possibilities on the Aspen golf course were foreseen when the new water system was built in 2005,” reads the plan. “Similarly, the Nordic Council would like snowmaking possibilities to be considered in other highly used cross-country areas.”

A copy of the plan can be downloaded from http://www.aspenpitkin.com/pdfs/depts/21/NordicTrailMP_draft.pdf. The section on proposed system improvements begins on page 25.