OUT: Time nears for soup-on-the-loop group

Cross-country skiiers have fun on Grand Mesa

JOYCE TANIHARA OF CORY, accompanied by her two dogs Jack and Copper, returns to the County Line trails parking lot from a scenic overlook on Grand Mesa. Tanihara said she’s already skied 13 days this year on Grand Mesa.

A SNOWY DAY MEANS a romp on Grand Mesa for Barb Lacy and her new dog Bodhi, an 18-month old Labrador retriever. Bodhi nearly is pure white, a coloring attribute described as a “polar” lab, said Lacy.

MESA — About the time Sunday winds reportedly were gusting to 100 mph on Red Mountain Pass, Curtis Pfeiffer of Montrose headed out for a quick loop on the County Line cross-country ski trails on Grand Mesa.

Pfeiffer was well-bundled against the late-November storm that dropped up to 4 feet of snow elsewhere in Colorado and brought local ski area Powderhorn Resort another day closer to realizing its planned Dec. 11 opening.

Pfeiffer, who had brought out his “rock skis” for his first day this winter of touring around County Line’s Dog Loop, was more concerned about his choice of wax than he was about the weather.

“Nah, this wind and stuff doesn’t bother me as long as the hot soup doesn’t freeze in my car,” said Pfeiffer with a laugh. “ I wanted to get a day of skiing in November and I’m hoping blue wax was the right choice for today.”

With so many skiers using the waxless skis, it’s unusual to encounter someone who still bothers to check snow and air temperatures and water content in the search for the perfect kick-and-glide waxes. But the first view of Pfeiffer was him crouched against the wind, rubbing wax onto the base of his skis.

“Maybe I’m a bit old-fashioned,” said Pfeiffer through his considerable beard, which itself was gathering quite load of wind-blown snow. “I got this blue wax with a range of something like 19 to 32 degrees and it seems to be working pretty good.”

Pfeiffer needn’t have worried about the snow conditions. The Grand Mesa Nordic Council already has been busy packing some of the trails, building a base for the coming storms. There weren’t any tracks set yet, and not all the loops have been packed because some of them might need more snow before a machine can be used.

By mid-day Sunday, many of the main trails had been packed (although out of the trees, the blowing snow soon covered the tracks) and the tall blue poles marking the trails were in place, which made trail-finding in the blizzard conditions considerably easier. It seems early in the ski season, but some hard-core folks have been skiing on Grand Mesa for nearly two months now.

“Thirteen or 14 times,” answered Joyce Tanihara of Cory to a question about how many times she’s skied this year.

“I think I’ve gone 13 times but Jim and Art have 14.”

Tanihara was encountered about halfway to the scenic overlook on Loop Three. She was accompanied by her two dogs, Jack and Copper, along with human companions Jim Brown and Art Trevina of Cedaredge. They all were using backcountry telemark equipment for the mostly unpacked snow conditions.

“I went as far as the turn to the lookout before I turned around,” Tanihara said. “With the storm, there probably wasn’t much to see today.”

Trevina said he skied on new snow in October (10 inches) and again in early November (8 inches).

“We had a great snow year last year, I hope it repeats,” said Trevina, noting that we’re still at the minimum of the 11-year sunspot cycle. “That could mean we’ll have another really big year, which means great skiing all winter.”

Dogs are a common sight on the canine-friendly County Line and Ward Lake loops, while Skyline is kept dog-free.

On what seemed the stormiest day of the month, a quick loop around County Line encountered, in addition to
Tanihara and her two pets and several dogs seen at a distance, a near-white Labrador retriever named Bodhi energetically hauling around Barb Lacy of Grand Junction, and Shiloh, a quick, brown dog impatiently waiting for
Mary Narrod and Don Reagan to quit gabbing with a passing skier.

It was hard to tell who was having more fun, which is the very spirit of cross-country skiing. Sunspots or no, it’s already started out to be a grand winter.

About Grand Mesa Nordic Council

The Grand Mesa Nordic Council is a non-profit, volunteer-based organization that maintains trails and signs at Grand Mesa’s cross-country trails. Much of the group’s funding comes from memberships ($45 individual, $75 family).

Most of the people who ski Grand Mesa don’t bother to join since no fee is required to use the trails, all of which are on pubic land. But that’s even more reason to join the Nordic Council, and $45 for a whole season of skiing on groomed trails isn’t very much.

The Nordic Council sponsors a series of citizen ski races all winter. The first race, Winterstart, is Saturday with a 5-kilometer classic race at 11 a.m. and a 5-kilometer Freestyle race at 12:30 p.m.

Information is available at http//gmnc.org.


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