Nordic skiing at Skyway on Grand Mesa great in November
Sunshine, blue skies, 19 degrees and a great glide. Nordic ski season is here, and the folks at the Grand Mesa Nordic Council have been busy clearing trails and setting track at one of the finest cross-country ski areas in the universe.
If you’d shown up at the Skyway Nordic Ski Area two weeks ago, you would have found a few trails groomed, but you also would have found an unplowed parking lot with plenty of stuck vehicles. Good thing most people still keep shovels in their vehicles during the winter!
The parking area is now plowed out, and the Nordic Council does a fabulous job of grooming this area, as well as numerous other ski trails on Grand Mesa.
The Nordic Council is a community-based nonprofit organization composed of cross country skiers from around the Grand Mesa region. It is funded by membership fees, business sponsors, fund raising events and grants.
To reach Skyway from Grand Junction, take Interstate 70 east for 20 miles to the Grand Mesa/Powderhorn exit (49). That’s Colorado Highway 65, the National Scenic and Historic Byway. It will take you directly to the top of Grand Mesa. Go through the town of Mesa and past Powderhorn Mountain Resort for 10 miles to the Skyway parking area. It’ll be on your left, or east of the highway, just after you travel up the last major hill and reach the top of the mesa. There’s a brown highway sign on your right that points to the cross-country ski trail head.
The Mesa/Delta County Line Ski complex is another two miles past Skyway on Highway 65. A special hazard tree timber sale is going on now at the forested area adjacent to the parking lot at County Line. The contractor can operate up to Dec. 1. The timber is going to Doug Jones Sawmill in GJ.
There is a chance that skiers would not be able to access the trails from the County Line lot until after Dec. 1. The Nordic Council will groom and prep much of the County Line terrain from Skyway, including the dog loop, so it will be skiable quickly.
“The dogs aren’t going to be very happy,” GMNC Operations Manager/volunteer coordinator Doug Conant said, “but maybe they can go down the road to Ward Lake for a change of scenery for a week or so.”
The Ward Lake area is the third area expertly groomed by the Nordic Council. That trail head is five miles past County Line.
This area hasn’t been groomed yet, but thanks to modern technology, you can catch a current snow and grooming report straight from the Internet, and straight from the groomers’ frozen fingers. Glide over to http://www.gmnc.org for grooming reports, up-to-date information on ski racing, ski racers, trail maps, conditions reports, and a place to donate and help support your favorite Nordic council.
Had you checked out the website earlier this week, you would have found the following report from Conant:
“A bit too much, a bit too early, so be careful out on the fresh set.”
Lesson learned. Weatherman Mojo says more a comin’ so hold tight and take into account this very honest report:
Scales Lake: “Set for classic and skate, I’d keep my skater’s here. Winds shouldn’t be too bad, corridor skiing well. For the bold and daring — CAUTION PLEASE.”
Sunset: “Set classic, but room to skate through 95%. Be careful — UNMARKED OBSTACLES DO EXIST, and the marked ones also.”
Winslow — “Set classic and quite the coaster. Same 95 percent to skate as Sunset. Do we shovel now, or save the money to groom later through the season? Depends on who is holding the checkbook. I’d rather buy fuel later than new backs now myself. Some would differ. We’ll do what we can, and did throw some snow today, but without that World Cup date on the calender (yet), we’ll hold. Plus Winslow is surfing in Baja anyways.”
Lion’s Loop — “Or is that Lopp? Pretty safe from the obstacles but still soft. Makes a nice loop though. Always has.”
Arroyo — “Classic and skate, a few bones but easily identified.”
“No grooming as of yet, we await the logging operation’s completion. Mud and snow don’t mix with most of our waxes.”
The Ward Lake Nordic Ski Area will be the last area groomed, so if you’re looking for a true backcountry experience, this is the place to head.
You should also know that Skyway is the official training area for the nationally ranked Colorado Mesa University Nordic ski team. If you’d like to see these world-class athletes practice, show up at Skyway almost any day from now until next spring. They’ll be the ones whizzing by you like you’re standing still.