Four Mile mission: Enjoy the skiing, then a soak
While the cross-country skiing on Grand Mesa has been fabulous, if you’re looking for something different, try cross-country skiing along Four Mile Road and the adjacent Nordic ski trail that travels through aspen and conifer groves and meadows from Sunlight Ski Area outside Glenwood Springs up to Four Mile Park.
Then, follow your ski with a soak in your favorite Glenwood Hot Springs Pool and maybe dinner out on the town.
During most of the year, Four Mile Road connects Glenwood Springs with the Sunlight Mountain Resort Ski Area and, beyond that, to Four Mile Park and the north section of the Thompson Divide region — Baylor Park and Mid Thompson Park.
This road is passable by two wheel-drive vehicles for a good part of the year. Right now, however, you really need four-wheel drive — or skis.
From Glenwood Springs follow the signs to Sunlight Ski Area. A few hundred yards prior to reaching the ski area, turn right on the gravel Forest Service Road No. 300. A closure gate within the first few miles of the road prevents automobile traffic from gaining access to Four Mile Road during the winter months, but that doesn’t mean you can’t ski here.
Prior to our last winter snowstorm, two of us drove up that snow-covered dirt road to the first parking area at the national Forest Service boundary. We parked there and enjoyed a wonderful ski through those aforementioned aspen and conifer groves and meadows.
Located at an elevation of 8,000 feet (2,438 meters), this trip ends at about 10,000 feet (3,048 meters) in elevation, and climbs pretty steadily for the first couple of miles. It then levels out and meanders through a couple of wide meadows before starting to climb again.
This time of year, it’s truly magical, but the area has seen it’s fair share of controversy recently. In late October. The Garfield County commissioners expressed their displeasure with the idea of a gas drilling company using Glenwood Springs and Four Mile Road as the haul route to a proposed drilling site near Sunlight Mountain Resort.
“Four Mile is not a haul route. It wasn’t built that way. It won’t support truck traffic,” Commissioner Tom Jankovsky said.
You see, from Glenwood to Sunlight, this is a quiet residential area with a very narrow, winding road passing through it.
Once you get beyond the ski area and Four Mile Park, however, Thompson Divide is an area of 221,500 acres of mostly public land stretching from Sunlight Mountain Resort southward to McClure Pass, and from just west of the Crystal River westward over to Divide Creek, and eventually down to Silt.
The region has witnessed gas drilling in the past and currently is targeted for drilling by several energy companies.
Most of the trails in this area are not maintained, so a topographic map of the area is a good thing to have, as well as any other information you can glean from the Sopris Ranger District Office. That office is at 620 Main St., Carbondale. You can call 970-963-2266 for more information.
Don’t expect groomed trails here like the ones you enjoy on Grand Mesa. This is a back-country experience, so prepare accordingly.
Make sure you tell someone where you went and when you’re expected back. Carry plenty of food and water with you. Also, don’t forget your Colorado Search and Rescue Card.
Colorado residents and visitors are well served by dedicated volunteer search and rescue teams, but mission costs are often in the thousands of dollars. By purchasing a Colorado Search and Rescue Card you are contributing to the Search and Rescue Fund, which will reimburse these teams for costs incurred in your search and rescue. Funds remaining at the end of the year help pay for training and equipment for these teams.
Anyone with a current hunting/fishing license, or boat, snowmobile, ATV registration is covered by the fund. For everyone else, the search and rescue cards are $3 for one year and $12 for five years and are available at more than 300 retailers in the state, places such as Summit Canyon in downtown Grand Junction.
The card is not insurance and does not reimburse individuals, nor does it pay for medical transport. Medical transport includes helicopter flights or ground ambulance. If aircraft are used as a search vehicle, those costs are reimbursed by the fund. If the aircraft becomes a medical transport because of a medical emergency, the medical portion of the transport is not covered.
So, before you go, even if you don’t know how to use a map, compass or GPS, purchase one of these cards. Then, don’t leave home without it. For more information on the fund, go to: http://www.colorado.gov/cs/Satellite/DOLA-Main/CBON/1251592090523.
Happy New Year and happy trails.