Slush and slide |

Slush and slide

Farland Fish enjoys the balmy conditions at Spring Gulch outside of Carbondale on Thursday. (Janet Urquhart/The Aspen Times)

Waxless skis and shirt sleeves.It’s that time of year for nordic enthusiasts, who are counting the days until their skis are relegated to the closet, as balmy temperatures and sunshine eat perceptibly away at the Aspen-Snowmass cross-country system.The Aspen Cross Country Center is scheduled to remain open through Sunday, March 25 and the city golf course should hold up until then, according to Tim Clement, the center’s manager. “We expect to be able to ski until the end,” he said Thursday.The Snowmass Cross-Country Center will stay open through Sunday, March 18, but the lower half of the groomed trails at the Snowmass golf course have already been lost with the receding snows, according to Thursday’s grooming report. A modified trail route uses the upper part of the course.The Aspen High School loops and North Star remain in skiable shape, as does the Owl Creek Trail, though skiers will find bare ground on the west-facing slope at Glendale Divide, the grooming report noted.The nordic system will be groomed as long as it’s feasible, until the closing dates, according to Clement.Grooming at the Maroon Creek Club and of the Rio Grande Trail, however, has ceased.Skiers are finding icy and crusty conditions early in the day, when it gets cold enough to freeze the snow the prior night, and slushy snow by afternoon – ideal weather for waxless, fish-scale skis.”The best time to ski is probably between 10 [a.m.] and noon,” Clement advised. “There’s still great skiing to be had.”All of the groomed trails at Ashcroft Ski Touring in the Castle Creek Valley remains open, though there are a few bare spots here and there. Ashcroft, at a higher elevation, is scheduled to remain open through April 8.”The skiing has been phenomenal,” a spokesman there said.The Aspen-Snowmass system is free, but Ashcroft charges $15 for a full-day pass and $10 after 12:30 p.m. to use its trail system.Spring Gulch outside Carbondale remains skiable, as well, with the snow still intact right to the edge of the now-muddy parking lot. On Thursday, Farland Fish was skate skiing in the soft Spring Gulch snow in a short skirt and sleeveless top.”I love this time of year for skiing,” said Fish, an instructor at the Aspen Cross Country Center.Even after the snow at the bottom of Spring Gulch melts and the grooming ceases, the trails up higher typically remain skiable for another month, according to Fish. They’re worth the walk to reach, she advised.

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