Pooches have a place on the trail, too
Aspen, CO Colorado
ASPEN ” It’s true, cross-country skiers hate to find otherwise perfectly groomed tracks cratered with paw prints. However, there are places where skiers can ski and dogs can trot alongside with impunity.
Of course, if you own backcountry touring gear, your options for getting out there with Fido abound (keeping in mind the potential for avalanches and laws against letting dogs run wild in designated wilderness areas).
But if you’re on classic or skate-style nordic gear, head for the Aspen Cross Country Center, headquartered at the city golf course. Most of the golf course, and the Aspen-Snowmass system for that matter, is off-limits to four-legged users, but an outer loop at the Aspen Golf Club is designated for pooches (and their skiers).
Bernie’s Boulevard is about two miles long, circling the perimeter of the golf course. Linked to the golf course is the small Marolt Trail loop, located between the golf course and the high school tracks. It is 1.5 miles in length. Dogs must be in control on both loops.
The Aspen Cross Country Center, at the golf course, is one mile west of Aspen off Highway 82. The center runs out of the clubhouse building. Stop in there for a trail map.
Maroon Creek Road, left unplowed beyond T-Lazy-7 Ranch, is another option for skiers with pets. The ranch sets nordic tracks up the road to Maroon Lake, but be forewarned, skiers share the road with snowmobilers, skiers and pedestrians. Also, Maroon Creek Road passes through avalanche terrain.
To get there, head up Maroon Creek Road from the roundabout west of town; drive until a barrier of snow at the ranch forces you to park ” about 1.5 miles beyond Aspen Highlands ski area.
Highway 82 up Independence Pass is popular with skiers, snowshoers, pedestrians, dogs and snowmobiles. There is no set track here, but it’s generally skiable, whatever your gear.
To get there, drive a few miles east of Aspen on the highway until you reach the pass closure and a wide area for parking. The potential for avalanches exists here, too.
The East Aspen Trail extends along Highway 82 east of Aspen. While no tracks are set here, a skier could establish his or her own on snowy morning. Leash laws apply here.
The Rio Grande Trail, running northwest from town along a former railroad bed (it’s nice and flat) is open to dogs, though they are required to be leashed. Tracks should be set there after a descent snowfall, or make you’re own. Keep in mind, this trail won’t hold snow for long if the weather gets warm and sunny.
To get there, head down to the Aspen post office and look for a wide bicycle trail that takes off behind it, across the street. There is no designated parking at this trailhead, but you can pick up the trail off Cemetery Lane and park at Stein Park. In the midvalley, Basalt High School is a good spot to pick up the Rio Grande Trail. Tracks are set upvalley from the school.
Castle Creek Road beyond Ashcroft, south of Aspen, is also open to skiing. Dogs are not allowed on the Ashcroft Ski Touring trail system, but they are permitted on the public road/trail that leads up to the end of the valley and into the backcountry areas of Pearl Pass and Cooper Creek.
The road is pretty easy to ski on any sort of equipment from Ashcroft to the Pine Creek Cookhouse ” a distance of a little more than a mile ” though it is not groomed. Beyond the cookhouse, the route is likely to be packed down, but it crosses into avalanche-prone terrain. Keep in mind your dogs may encounter the horse-drawn sleigh that carries guests up to the cookhouse.
To get there, drive 11 miles south of Aspen from the roundabout; parking is available at the historic Ashcroft ghost town site.
Outside of Glenwood Springs, Sunlight Mountain resort boasts 29 kilometers of “groomed cross country and snowshoe trails.” By groomed, operators mean they roll it periodically. It’s a great place for heavier duty touring skis, but conditions may not be favorable for light nordic gear. Dogs are permitted, though they’re supposed to be leashed. Frequently, they’re not.
To get there, turn west off Highway 82 in Glenwood Springs at 27th Street. After crossing the river, the road turns south and becomes County Road 117 (Four Mile Road). Take a right at the sign for Sunlight to remain on 117 and follow it about 11 miles up to the ski area. The cross country system begins immediately to the right of the entrance to the parking lot ” also the locale of the Sunlight Stables.
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Pitkin County Health Department has put together a “Frequently Asked Questions” guideline for its new Traveler Affidavit Requirement, which starts Dec. 14.