County Line Cross-Country Ski Trails perfect for you and the pooch
Set track. Groomed trails. Grand Mesa is a mecca for such things, thanks to the wonderful work of the Grand Mesa Nordic Council (GMNC).
Take, for example, the Mesa/Delta County Line Cross-Country Ski Trails, expertly groomed by the GMNC.
It’s Nordic track heaven… and, you don’t have to leave man’s best friend at home for this trip since the Nordic Council provides designated dog trails here. Loops from one kilometer (.62 miles) to about four kilometers (2.48 miles) are beautifully laid out by the good folks who groom these trails four times a week, weather permitting.
County Line isn’t the only place to ski with your pet. Dogs are also welcome on several groomed trails in the Aspen area. The groomed Marolt and Rio Grande trails of the Aspen/Snowmass Nordic Trail System are great for the dogs because of their gentle terrain and open spaces. The Bernese Blvd. Trail on the perimeter of the Aspen Golf Course trail system, the Maroon Bells Road and Independence Road are all open to dogs.
There are certainly other dog friendly cross country/snowshoe areas in Western Colorado. Check with local land use agencies before you go.
Also, consult your veterinarian about proper care of the dog’s paws and other “issues” for your own pet. Please observe all regulations pertaining to leash laws and clean up after your pet.
Here are a few other things you should think about (with special thanks to the Nordic Council, which has already thought of them for us):
Provide a hardy breakfast for your four-legged friend, at least an hour before exercise. (Longer-bodied dogs should eat two hours before exercise. Like horses, they may bloat, which is very dangerous).
Carry plenty of snacks and water for your dog.
Booties to protect pads and paws are a must. Order the polar fleece snow booties used by Alaskan dog sled racers from http://www.raesharness.com.
Give your dog plenty of time to acclimate to altitude.
Some dogs may need additional layers of warmth. Those polar fleece sweaters at the pet store are great.
Give your dog a chance to rest. He’s working a lot harder than you are.
When your adventure is complete, be sure to have blankets or old sleeping bags in your car to warm your dog. Just like after riding a horse, get that blanket on your dog.
Check pads, stomach and groin area for scrapes or chafing from snow build-up.
Never let your dog ride in an open pickup, wet or dry.
Ask your vet first, but if your dog seems stiff you can give it aspirin according to weight — one regular or buffered aspirin per 40-60 pounds. Smaller dogs may have one-forth to one-half an aspirin. NEVER give your dog Ibuprofen or Tylenol.
If you ski or snowshoe with a four-legged sidekick, hazards exist that you may not see, since you’re on top of the snow, while your dog is post-holing through the deep stuff. They might encounter stumps, ruts, vegetation, rocks, fallen trees, stream beds, water bodies and many other natural and man-made objects that could cut a paw, sprain a leg or freeze a toe.
Because of these issues, many responsible pet owners refuse to bring their dogs to this Alpine wonderland. If you do ski with your pet, however, here’s one final word: If your pet does not come to you when it’s called, it should not be off lead.
Nonetheless, if you’ve got a pet who needs to burn energy and get out as much as you do, do us a favor: pick up his do-do, and take old Fido to a place where he’ll be appreciated.
Go to the Internet at http://www.gmnc.info for up-to-date conditions reports on Grand Mesa, then either join the Nordic Council or drop a few bucks into the donation box at the trail head next time you’re there. After all, you are the beneficiary of their fine deeds.
By the way, the following posting on GMNC’s website states: “We’re looking for some help over at County Line this weekend in an effort to well…curb our dogs. A few friendly folk (are) needed to remind the skiing and snowshoeing public what common courtesy on a groomed trail system means when it comes to our canine friends. As one of the few extensively groomed areas open to man’s best friend en masse, we’d hate to see it go to the dogs (poop).