Some of the best early Nordic skiing conditions found on Grand Mesa

Tucson residents Deb Fuchs (gray vest) and Erica Bennett (blue jacket) join John, Abby (in pack) and Holly Buschhorn of Grand Junction on a snowshoe hike at the Skyway Nordic Center on Wednesday. The ski trails are open but snowcover is moderate.



GRAND MESA — Cresson Van Winkle, industriously rubbing extra blue ski wax onto his skinny Nordic skis at mid-day Wednesday, looked up from his endeavors to laugh at the memory of the previous weekend.

“There were a lot of people up here, including some really good teams,” recalled Van Winkle from the parking lot of the Skyway Nordic Center. “I’ve never been passed by so many fast women in my life.”

The day before Thanksgiving found many visitors enjoying the Skyway trails, thanks to the clement weather, the good snow conditions and the coming holiday.

Among the visitors were Erica Bennett and Deb Fuchs, up from Tucson to snowshoe with John and Holly Buschhorn of Grand Junction.

The Buschhorns are members of the Mesa County Search and Rescue Team but this was their first time at Skyway.

John was carrying 21-month-old Abby Buschhorn in a backpack, and the toddler seemed quite content to ride along and enjoy the view.

“This is her second season and she really loves the winter,” Holly said.

Just another day at what are said to be the best early season Nordic skiing conditions in Colorado.

Fast women, snowshoers, babies in backpacks and skiers of all abilities have kept the Skyway trails busy this season and the Grand Mesa Nordic Council has been equally busy making the best of a bony snowpack.

There’s no shortage of snow, but as one skier said in passing Wednesday, “You better stay on the trails.”

Veteran trails groomer and former ski-racing coach Al Fournier, now in his fifth year laying tracks for the Nordic Council, was out Wednesday smoothing the Skyway trails with the council’s canary-yellow snowmobile.

“There’s plenty of snow but people still have to be careful and watch where they’re going,” cautioned Fournier,  who operated a Nordic center near Mancos before moving to the upper reaches of Leroux Creek.

He said the snow pack, ranging from 6 inches to twice that on the trails, will need to deepen before the council brings out the big PistenBully snow groomer.

“It’s really hard on that machine to run it when the snow’s this shallow,” Fournier said, well aware of the council’s limited grooming budget. “People ask me every day when the big machine’s coming out and I tell them, ‘When there’s enough snow.’ “

Skiers seeking groomed trails are presently limited to the Skyway and Ward Creek trail because the logging operation at County Line has until Dec. 1 to finish.

A brief stop Wednesday at County Line revealed a logger busy trimming and measuring a stockpile of massive logs in preparation for loading them on the logging truck.

The removal of all those trees has changed the face of the County Line ski trails, Fournier said.

“Oh, people are going to be surprised how much it has opened up,” he said. “A whole lot of trees came out and skiers are going to find things a whole lot different this winter.”

Skiers belonging to the Nordic Council receive daily a grooming update from Doug Conant, operations manager for the Nordic Council.

The Thursday email said Sunset, Winslow, Lion’s Loop Arroyo Vista Ridge and Vista Valley trails are open but “easy does it.”

With the County Line trail head closed, skiers with dogs can access Kannah Crossing and Scales Lake Trail via a shared route along the snowmobile trail across from Land’s End Road.

However, parking there is very limited.

Membership information and ski conditions are available at the Nordic Council’s website, http://www.gmnc.org.

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