Looking for snow? Water Dog Reservoir is the perfect place to get your flurry fill

If you’re tired of looking at brown grass in the Grand Valley, head up to Grand Mesa for a day of cross country skiing. Water Dog Cross Country Ski Trail is under an hour from Grand Junction, and there’s snow.


Water dog Cross Country Ski Trail

Drive time and distance: 1 hour; 45.5 miles

Elevation: 9,760 feet (2,975 meters) to 10,160 feet (3,097 meters)

Avalanche Danger: Very low

Length: 11 kilometers (6.83 miles)

Skiing Time: 2-5 hours

Difficulty: Intermediate to advanced

Fifty miles in 50 minutes on our very own Pineapple Express ... Interstate-70 to Colorado Highway 65, the Grand Mesa Scenic and Historic Byway.

You can go from 50 degrees here in the valley to ... snow.

Fifty miles — well, 45.5 miles from Fourth and Main in downtown GJ — and you can be gliding, breezing and coasting across the dam of Water Dog Reservoir on Grand Mesa.

Within 50 miles, you can be cruising, drifting, sailing and whisking one moment, then herring-boning, floundering and struggling through “grapple” the next.

Grapple is that wet, thick snow found in many other parts of the world, but rarely here. It’s that snow that’s just beyond rain… little, round pellets of H2O that just happened to turn white.

But man, can you cruise, glide and generally breeze across Grand Mesa.

As long as you’re high enough in elevation and you’re not in the midst of a deadly wintry white-out!

Although places like Steamboat Springs are getting dumped on with snow, the north side of Grand Mesa is a bit void of the white stuff thus far this season.

As of this writing, Powderhorn wasn’t open yet. (It opened Thursday.) There’s plenty of snow on the top, but Tuesday, it was about 35 degrees at the base, and that’s too warm.

This most recent set of snowstorms should save Powderhorn and all you Alpine buffs, so check the forecast in the front section of today’s paper — (I know, you usually don’t read the rest of the paper, but give it a try. I’ll tell you right now, it’s WAY better than the cruddy newspapers I’ve been reading back east lately.)

Recent storms certainly increased the base higher on the mountain, which was already plenty good enough to glide and slide on Nordic skis. The road gets slick, too, so beware.

Also, give the right-of-way, and a big friendly full five-finger wave to those snowplow drivers who keep this winter wonderland open and accessible.

Speaking of which, when we were there the other day, Highway 65 was closed above Mesa Lakes Resort as the Colorado Department of Transportation, CDOT, was blasting avalanches in higher elevations.

No matter. The parking area for Water Dog sits at 9,760 feet in elevation and had/has plenty of snow. So did/does the West Bench Trail, just across the road.

Both of these trails are easily accessible from the parking lot at Jumbo Lake, the first lake Grand Mesa visitors encounter once they climb above Powderhorn Ski Area and past the sledding hill.

Take I-70 east to the Powderhorn/Grand Mesa turnoff in De Beque Canyon (Exit 49, Highway 65). Proceed through the town of Mesa. The Jumbo Lake parking lot is 13 miles south of town, a few minutes past Powderhorn Ski Area.

The 11-kilometer point-to-point back country trail begins across the highway from the parking lot and connects to the Griffith/Lake of the Woods Trail head.

Many cross country skiers travel the entire length of this trail and shuttle vehicles from the Jumbo Lake parking lot to the Griffith/Lake of the Woods trail head, 2.5 miles up the road.

However, most just ski out and back from either of the trail heads to avoid the hassle of the shuttle.

This is a back-country trail. No lifeguards. No set track. Therefore, skiers are advised to wax well or ski on waxless skis. Without proper waxing, this trail will wax you.

Many Nordic skiers, especially beginners, remain befuddled when it comes to waxing cross country skis. Since one of the first rules of back country survival is to go with someone better than you, these skiers should get plenty of advice from a friend about how to wax for that day.

If you want a little more information, however, my suggestion is to check out Board and Buckle Ski and Cyclery, Gene Taylor’s Sporting Goods, REI or Summit Canyon Mountaineering in Grand Junction, and ask the experts.

Also, before you go, tune into http://gmnc.info.

That’s the official website of the Grand Mesa Nordic Council. I’ve waxed eloquent on many occasions about this virtuous group. The council is a nonprofit organization “dedicated to promoting the safety, consciousness, fitness and fun of cross country skiing.” Volunteers and part-time workers from this organization set and groom the trails on the Grand Mesa for cross country skiers and snowshoers.

They have the BEST information on local skiing conditions you’ll ever find.

Now, a word about the real pineapple express: “A look at weather satellite imagery this weekend will show a long stream of moisture from off the Pacific directly into Western Colorado, often called a Pineapple Express as it originates near the Hawaiian Isles.”

I stole that from the GMNC website. See how useful it is?

Email Bill Haggerty at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).


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