Spectacular time for skiing Skyway

The cross-country skiing at Skyway on Grand Mesa is probably the best in the state right now. The Grand Mesa Nordic Council has been grooming the trails along with help from volunteers to make the trails on Grand Mesa easy to ski. The best part about Skyway is it’s close to Grand Junction.



Drive time and distance: 65 minutes; 49.8 miles.

Elevation: 10,628 feet.

Length: various loops from 2.3 kilometers (1.43 miles) to 9.3 kilometers (5.78 miles); combined total of 19.6 kilometers (12.18 miles).

Skiing time: 2 to 4 hours.

Difficulty: Beginner to advanced on regularly groomed trails.


Photos by BILL HAGGERTY/Special to The Daily Sentinel

The cross-country skiing at Skyway on Grand Mesa is probably the best in the state right now. The Grand Mesa Nordic Council has been grooming the trails along with help from volunteers to make the trails on Grand Mesa easy to ski.  The best part about Skyway is it’s close to Grand Junction.

The freakishly warm weather we’ve been enjoying lately (we wouldn’t dare call it “climate change”), has extended our hiking season well into December here in the valley.

Meanwhile, up on the mountain, our beloved Grand Mesa Nordic Council has been hard at work, happily grooming its way into the 2012–13 cross-country skiing season.

The Nordic Council is a volunteer, not-for-profit organization of people who love to cross-country ski and snowshoe. The council grooms 54 kilometers (32.4 miles) of trails on Grand Mesa with funds donated from skiers and snowshoers, plus business sponsors like REI, fundraising events and grants.

Thanks to the efforts of the Nordic Council, its expert groomers and its hard-working cadre of volunteers, Nordic skiing along groomed trails on Grand Mesa is the best in the state right now. In fact, Grand Mesa Nordic Council was asked to host the United States Ski Association’s Summit NRL Race on December 8–9. The race is usually held in Summit County, but Grand Mesa was “about the only venue in the state ... with enough snow to race,” according to Robyn Morrison, membership director for the Nordic Council.

Morrison is also the person who provides daily updates on conditions and grooming at Skyway, County Line and Ward Lake cross-country ski areas on the mesa. You can go to http://www.gmnc.org to find out the latest or become a council member and get an email each day from Robyn.

That’s how I found out the early-season USSA race was attended by approximately 100 juniors, seniors and college teams from around the state seeking national Nordic ranking.

Skyway is also 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.

To reach Skyway from Grand Junction, take Interstate 70 east for 20 miles to the Grand Mesa/Powderhorn exit (No. 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 Ski Area 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.

This wonderful Nordic wonderland isn’t just for cross-country skiers. It’s also a haven for snowshoers. In fact, earlier this year the Nordic Council laid out a new trail between Skyway and County Line called the Summit Trail. This week, the council is looking for a few snowshoers to help pack out the Summit Trail before it can begin grooming this new trail. Contact Robyn at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) to volunteer.

On another note, I’ve received a couple emails lately about driving in wildlife country. Many newcomers don’t realize just how big mule deer are and how much of a dent they’ll make in your vehicle if you hit one, not to mention the possibility of driving off the road and killing yourself.

So, here’s the deal: First, slow down in wildlife country, especially at dawn and dusk. Watch the sides of the roads for deer, elk and other wildlife on our highways. If you see one critter, there are bound to be more, so slow down even more, flash your lights, honk your horn, and do anything to make other motorists aware of animals on the roadway and to possibly scare the animals away from the road.

If you cannot avoid a collision with a deer, don’t try to swerve, especially if the roads are icy. You don’t want to kill yourself or a passenger. I hate to say it, but it’s better to hit the deer.

If you do, pull off to the side of the road as far as possible, keep your headlights on and put your emergency flashers on. Be cautious approaching the injured animal. It can still be very dangerous and kick the crud out of you. If you’re sure it’s dead, pull it off the road so no one else will hit the animal.

Note where you are on the highway. Find the nearest mile marker sign, and figure how many tenths of a mile the animal is from that marker. Then, within 24 hours, call the Colorado State Patrol on a non-emergency line to report the accident. That’s about the only way you’ll ever get your insurance company to pay for the damage, which will certainly be in the thousands of dollars. But that’s what happens when you hit a 200-pound animal.

So, be careful, and happy trails.

Have a question or a suggested hike? Email Bill Haggerty at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).


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