Nordic Council, Grand Mesa trails ready for skiers
Doug Conant, operations director for the Grand Mesa Nordic Council, doesn’t worry about how much snows falls on Grand Mesa or whether the team of trail groomers will be able to keep up.
His biggest worry might be finding the grooming machine after it snows.
“I was up at Ward (Trailhead) to help Al (Fournier) last week after it received 5 feet of snow,” Conant said recently. “There was so much snow that when I went out to get the roller, I skied over the Ginzu (tracksetter) without knowing it.”
Last week’s interesting weather patterns that saw the so-called Pineapple Express dump nearly 5 feet of snow on parts of Grand Mesa was just another challenge overcome by the Grand Mesa Nordic Council.
The council is a nonprofit group dedicated to providing free Nordic skiing on 54 kilometers of track at the Skyway, County Line and Ward trailheads.
Conant oversees the grooming, sharing on-snow time with full-time groomers Al Fournier and Jon Canty.
“We’re a pretty well-oiled machine by now,” said Conant, who previously worked at Copper Mountain and Powderhorn Ski Resort before moving to Grand Junction, where he owns a trail-sign design company.
The season started a little light, but the last round of storms really made a difference, Conant said.
“We were a little behind in the early season but we did a good job of dealing with what we had to work with,” Conant said.
That skinny snowpack meant the grooming was done by snowmobile, not the larger PistenBully 100 snow groomer.
“There were just too many rocks still showing for us to get the (PistenBully) out,” Conant said. “But that changed last week.”
Conant said he measured 56 inches of new snow at Ward, with lesser amounts at County Line and Skyway.
That wet snow was a groomer’s delight.
“The moisture from the snow was absolutely wonderful for our groomers to work with,” Conant said. “It makes a great base. You run over it with the roller and by morning it sets a perfect track.”
That ability to handle different conditions, ranging from the thin snowpack of early winter to windswept storms that blanket the mesa with several feet of snow, not only assures skiers of great skiing conditions but also has those same skiers sending love letters to the Nordic Council.
“Yeah, can you imagine that?” Conant asked. “We’ve been getting lots of love mail this year.”
The Grand Mesa ski trails also host a number of snowshoers, most of whom respect the request to not walk on the set ski track.
“We have lots of members who are snowshoers and we’re happy to have them,” Conant said. “If we see they’ve established their own lane, we try not to groom over it, hoping the other snowshoers will use it, too.”
The Nordic Council, which faces a big budget cut next year, has become more aggressive in recruiting new members.
A grant from the Jean Thomas Lambert Foundation is about to expire, leaving the council facing an $11,500 gap in its grooming budget.
“Our annual budget is only about $74,000 but grooming and maintenance takes up about $50,000 of that,” Conant said. “A lot of people still think the Forest Service does the grooming.”
Much of the council’s budget comes from memberships and donations. Last year the council attracted a record 519 memberships and this year already has more than 400.
“I think we’ll reach 600 by the end of the year,” Conant said with a note of hope in his voice.
The Nordic Council will have membership tables set up this weekend at the annual Skyway Skuffle citizen race. You can read more about the race elsewhere on this page.
You can find membership information as well as a daily grooming report at http://www.gmnc.org.