Clubhouse Chronicles: For the love of the Spring Gulch trail system near Carbondale |

Clubhouse Chronicles: For the love of the Spring Gulch trail system near Carbondale

Lucy Silcox
AVSC Nordic athlete
AVSC athlete Lucy Silcox competes in a cross-country ski race.
Courtesy photo

When I get asked what sport I play, I first have to respond by asking if they know what cross-country skiing is. Then I have to correct the assumption that I have to travel to Aspen almost every single day to ski and then I have to tell them where Spring Gulch is.

If they have no idea what on Earth I’m talking about, I change the subject. Sometimes, I am much too tired to go through this whole ordeal, so I tell them I ski and let them make whatever they’d like of that.

I love Aspen for skiing, of course, but every time I look up from skiing at the high school trails, I see a house. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, I suppose, but it’s, well, a house.

Right next to the trail.

As a middle school athlete, I remember having conversations with kids my age from Aspen and, on occasion, they would refer to the locker in which they kept their ski equipment. I was of course baffled, given that at our ski area in Carbondale, the closest thing we had to a building was the portable bathroom. Lockers sounded oddly fancy.

But again, I suppose that’s the benefit of your trails being next to the AVSC clubhouse.

Now, don’t get me wrong, not all skiing in Aspen is on the high school trails and with the lovely houses and buildings. You can find house-filled skiing at both the Aspen and Snowmass golf courses, a hoard of snowmobile tourists when skiing up to the Maroon Bells, and then there’s Ashcroft, which is a lovely, picturesque and person-free landscape that is, well, an hour’s drive from Carbondale and lots of driving is not something I’m keen on doing every weekend.

Spring Gulch, however, is right there.

And there’s nobody.

When I say nobody, I don’t really mean nobody, of course. You’ll run into your fair share of people just out for a ski and who collectively smile at one another as you relate to this common enjoyment of Nordic skiing, especially in such a place.

I often come up on weekends or on particularly busy afternoons to see an almost full parking lot, and I feel rather shocked, because since when did this many people come up here? It almost feels like a secret of your own, skiing in nature without the glow of lights in somebody else’s home, somebody else’s life, to interrupt your time.

It’s almost funny, too, because my seventh-grade year, after a brutal cross-country race, I was lugged up to Spring Gulch to participate in trail workday, another lesser-known tradition that I certainly wished on that day had stayed out of my parent’s scope of knowledge because the work was especially brutal.

Many people around me were talking, laughing and having a generally good time as we threw a bunch of seed and then hay on top of the fresh dirt. Covered in dust, hay and sweat, however, I was not having it. If my parents had not thought to grab a bag of M&M’s, I’m sure I wouldn’t have made it.

On trail workday, we volunteers are often being carted around in trucks to snip overhanging branches and clear debris from the trail. But this year, we were working on expanding the parking lot. So really I should’ve seen it coming and known that my “secret” skiing location was going to be discovered.

Unfortunately, however, it was still a bittersweet shock. Knowing the joy of skiing and the serenity of the Spring Gulch trail system had become known to others created a steadfast aura of community and appreciation for Carbondale and our general surroundings.

It helped me to know the looks I got from my peers when I told them about my sport and they gave me a face that asked why I ever would want to do that was not a general consensus about Nordic skiing. Far from it, really.

AVSC athlete Lucy Silcox competes in a cross-country ski race.
Courtesy photo

A lot of my Aspen-based teammates often express their continued confusion with the trails at Spring Gulch. Even the downvalley kids still don’t know where every trail leads them, and whenever I’m asked where a trail goes, I answer confidently and then follow that up with a hesitant, “at least I think so.”

I’ve been skiing here for 10 years, and every day I get a little more confident in where I am. While Spring Gulch isn’t any secret of mine, I still discover something about it the more I ski.

Still, I never get bored.

I don’t think I ever will.

Clubhouse Chronicles is a behind-the-scenes column written by the Aspen Valley Ski & Snowboard Club that runs periodically in the Aspen Times sports section.