Spring skiing at Skyway

It's a better glide this time of year on Grand Mesa

Three ski coaches from the University of Wyoming fly by on a run around the Skyway Nordic Ski Area on Grand Mesa last week. “It’s Spring Break,” they said. “And this track is fast!”



“This could be one of the best days of the year,” a retired guy from Grand Junction said Thursday, the first day of spring. The man added he has skied here about two dozen times this year.



Spring skiing at its best at the Skyway Nordic Ski Area, only 50 miles from downtown Grand Junction on Grand Mesa.



Spring skiing at its best at the Skyway Nordic Ski Area, only 50 miles from downtown Grand Junction on Grand Mesa.



QUICKREAD

Skyway Nordic Ski 
Area on grand mesa

■  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.



“I stand by my quote,” said the retired guy at Skyway Nordic Ski Area on March 20, the first day of spring. “This is without a doubt one of the top five days of the year, maybe one of the top two or three. I don’t know, since my memory is shot ...”

Well, I resemble that. In fact, I’d go a step further and say it was the best glide of the year for me.

That retired guy has had a couple dozen ski days this winter, so maybe he has experienced days with a better glide, but for me, it was fabulous.

It was also fabulous for three women’s Nordic ski coaches from the University of Wyoming who flew by so fast we didn’t catch them until we returned to the parking lot ­— and they’d already changed clothes and put their skis up.

“We just love it here,” one of them said. “This is spring break, so we headed over here. We’ve skied here before, and our teams have competed against CMU quite a bit. This snow is great. The track was really fast today.”

That fast track is groomed by the fabulous Grand Mesa Nordic Council, 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, as well as business sponsors, fundraising events and grants.

Thanks to the 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. According to the University of Wyoming coaches, it could be the best in the Rocky Mountain region, maybe the best in the nation.

And it’s already spring!

So, if you’ve already put your skis away for the year, rethink that move and head up to Skyway. It’s only 50 miles from downtown Grand Junction an about 394 miles from downtown Laramie, Wyo.

Take Interstate 70 east for 20 miles to the Grand Mesa/Powderhorn exit (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 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.

Skyway isn’t the only place to ski on groomed trails here. You could continue along Colorado 65 a few miles farther to the County Line Nordic Area, or the Ward Lake Area. Ward Lake, however, probably won’t be groomed again this year, according to the Grand Mesa Nordic Council, unless there’s more snow soon.

There are still plenty of events to look forward to on the mesa this ski season. Saturday, Skyway conducted the annual Barnelopt children’s event, hosted by the Sons of Norway and the council. This event was supposed to take place March 1, but it was postponed because of inclement weather.

Coming Saturday, you could be a part of the first Busted Lung 50K, as a racer or as a volunteer. This event has been established to help support the Grand Mesa Nordic Council’s grooming efforts. The council spends in the neighborhood of $40,000 per season to provide a unique, fee-free, Nordic skiing experience for residents of the tri-county area and beyond.

To register for the Busted Lung 50K, go the council’s website: http://www.GMNC.org. If you are a council member, please note you get a $10 discount on the published entry fee. 

If you are able to volunteer for this event, email Toby at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). The council is looking for bodies to help with registration, timing, aid stations, food and other miscellaneous tasks. If your business would like to donate an item for the post-race raffle, let the council know.

You also could join the Grand Mesa Nordic Council just for the end-of-season Members Appreciation Potluck from noon to 
2 p.m. on March 29 at the Skyway warming hut. Meet your fellow council members and council board members.

Bring your skis, bring some food, bring your appetite and bring your ideas for the 2014-15 season. The Grand Mesa Nordic Council will provide the drinks.

In case of inclement weather, the event will be postponed until Sunday. To find out more, become a member for only $45 a year ($75 for the whole family), and you’ll get a daily grooming report via email. 

So, keep those skis out until the Nordic Council tells you to put them up for the year. After all, they’re on the hill every day. They should know.


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