Fine at County Line

Take trek to Grand Mesa for great Nordic skiing

A pair of unidentified cross-country skiers brought their dogs with them to County Line cross-country ski area. Dogs are welcome on the designated dog loops there.

Grand Junction resident and ski enthusiast Peggy Pilcher at County Line. Various groomed loops, including a designated dog trail, make gliding across Grand Mesa a breeze.


County Line 
Cross-Country Ski Area

Drive time and distance: 65 minutes; 52.2 miles.

Length: 1.1 kilometers (0.68 miles) to 14.1 kilometers (8.76 miles).

Elevation: 10,839 feet.

Skiing Time: One to four hours.

Difficulty: Beginner-intermediate.

Dog friendly: Yes.

How to get there: Take Colorado Highway 65 across the top of Grand Mesa to the Mesa/Delta county line.

The cottonwood tree outside my office window shows signs of budding. The long, slender branches of globe willows in town are slowly beginning to turn a little yellow-greenish. 

Finally, after a long cold winter, the spring equinox, which occurred just the other day, ushered in longer, warmer days. 

Streams and creeks in this area are running a little milky with low-elevation snow melt. Mud at the Bureau of Land Management’s Lunch Loop recreational area adjacent to Monument Road was nonexistent by Wednesday. It may have collected a few puddles from localized rains since then.

Yet, as tempting as it may be to put away the skis for the year and don hiking boots, don’t do it. That’s because Nordic skiing on Grand Mesa has been nothing less than great lately.

A trek to the Mesa/Delta county line cross-country ski area on the mesa confirmed that just the other day. 

The nonprofit Grand Mesa Nordic Council ( grooms 54 kilometers (32.4 miles) of trails on Grand Mesa, including the trails at County Line, with funds donated from skiers and snowshoers like you/me/us.

Now is a great time to make a little extra donation to this great group to keep those groomers grooming until the weekend of April 6–7.  That’s the final weekend they’ll be out, but who knows how long the snow will last beyond that. 

Right now, it’s Nordic track heaven, and you don’t have to leave man’s best friend at home for this trip, because the Nordic Council provides designated dog trails here. Loops from one kilometer (0.62 miles) to about four kilometers (2.48 miles) are beautifully laid out by the good folks who groom these trails four times a week, weather permitting.

Please observe all regulations pertaining to leash laws and clean up after your pet.

Here are a few other things you should think about (with special thanks to the Nordic Council, which already thought of them for us):

■ Provide a hardy breakfast for your four-legged friend, at least an hour before exercise. Longer-bodied dogs should eat two hours before exercise. Like horses, they may bloat, which is very dangerous.

■ Carry plenty of snacks and water for your dog.

■ Booties to protect pads and paws are a must. The polar fleece snow booties used by Alaskan dog-sled racers are available on the Internet.

■ Give your dog plenty of time to acclimate to altitude.

■ Some dogs may need additional layers of warmth. Those polar fleece sweaters at the pet store are great.

■ Give your dog a chance to rest. He’s working a lot harder than you are.

■ When your adventure is complete, be sure to have blankets or old sleeping bags in your car to warm your dog.  Just like after riding a horse, get that blanket on your dog.

■ Check pads, stomach and groin area for scrapes or chafing from snow build-up.

■ Never let your dog ride in an open pickup, wet or dry.

■ Ask your vet first, but if your dog seems stiff, you can give it aspirin according to weight: one regular or buffered aspirin per 40 to 60 pounds. Smaller dogs may have one-fourth to one-half an aspirin. NEVER give your dog Ibuprofen or Tylenol.

If you ski or snowshoe with a four-legged sidekick, hazards exist that you may not see, because you’re on top of the snow, while your dog is post-holing through the deep stuff. They may encounter stumps, ruts, vegetation, rocks, fallen trees, stream beds, water bodies and many other natural and man-made objects that could cut a paw, sprain a leg or freeze a toe.

Because of these issues, many responsible pet owners won’t bring their dogs to this alpine wonderland. If you do ski with your pet, however, here’s one final word: If your pet does not come to you when it’s called, it should not be off leash. 

Nonetheless, if you’ve got a pet who needs to burn energy and get out as much as you do, do us a favor: pick up his do-do, and take old Fido to a place where he’ll be appreciated.

Go to for up-to-date conditions reports on Grand Mesa, then join the Nordic Council or drop a few bucks into the donation box at the trail head next time you’re there. After all, you are the beneficiary of their fine deeds.

By the way, a posting on GMNC’s website says volunteers are needed April 7–8 to help deconstruct the Skyway hut and haul it to summer storage in Paonia. Work will start at 9:30 a.m. each day. Email .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) if you’re able to help.


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