by the Crestone Nordic Ski Alliance
The snow is here and hopefully we will be getting more soon! There are a number of skiing, riding, and snow shoeing opportunities in the Crestone area. For those who like to Nordic ski, the US Forest Service has closed FS Road 949 up to the South Crestone/Willow Lakes Trailhead to motorized vehicles in order to protect the resource from possible damage due to motorized vehicle traffic in the snow. Because they have closed this road, the Crestone Nordic Ski Alliance (CNSA) has been able to obtain a permit to groom for skiing and snowshoeing. By the time this goes to print, the 1.5 + mile Nordic trails on the roads hopefully will be groomed for both skate skiing, classic skiing, and snowshoeing. Additional trails off of the road are planned in the more gentle, grassy sections of the area on the Rio Grande National Forest, to make these sports more accessible to kids and beginners, and to lengthen the snow trail system. Other snow trails are in process of being planned on adjacent lands, which belong to the BLM, the Baca Grande POA, and Baca Water & Sanitation. Some day it may be possible to have 10 km of groomed snow trails!
While there hasn’t been enough snow to groom the Baca Golf Course, the skiing there has been quite good due to grass underneath. Several inches of snow, once set up, provide for an adequate base for skate skiing as well as classic skiing. If you go out on the golf course to ski, please stay off of the greens. When there is enough snow, over 8”, the CNSA will groom for both classic and skate skiing out there. It is quite wonderful to ski out on the golf course under the moonlight!
To see what the CNSA has been doing, look up Crestone Nordic Ski Alliance on Facebook. To become more involved, or to find out more, join the the Crestone Nordic Ski Alliance Facebook group. Better yet, become a member of the Crestone Nordic Ski Alliance.
There are other opportunities to ski around Crestone, especially when there is a lot of snow. One nice ski outing, when the conditions are right, is to ski out on the Liberty Road towards the Sand Dunes, and perhaps even on the Dunes!
Not groomed, but a great place to ski is the North Crestone Creek Campground road. This year the access gate was closed early and there hasn’t been traffic on the road. It has a gentle incline and because it is in the canyon shade, the snow doesn’t melt off quickly.
Another easy ungroomed route to take is from the Crestone Cemetery. Park at the pullout by the gate and ski the unplowed road that goes west from the cemetery. It loops around through the piñons and, if you turn right at a junction about a mile up, ends near the North Crestone Campground.
For those who like to get into the higher backcountry to ski, board, or snow shoe, there are opportunities up each of the creeks, with runs known by their surroundings, such as Willow Park and Shumei Buffet. Some even ski the peaks here! Remember if you are venturing out into the backcountry, especially in the winter, you need to provide for your own safety and comfort, and this often includes avalanche training. To find out more join the CNSA as a member, and/or join the Facebook group.
Regional Nordic skiing
Within the San Luis Valley, there are more Nordic skiing opportunities supported by the San Juan Nordic Club. They groom several trail systems including Rock Creek over near Monte Vista and Big Meadows on the way up to Wolf Creek Pass. For more information about those trail systems, go to sjnordic.wordpress.com, and to become a member of their club, email them at email@example.com.
As you travel out into the region, there are more skiing, riding, and snow shoeing opportunities. After all, this is Colorado. To the northwest is Monarch Ski Area, and to the southwest is Wolf Creek Ski Area. Both of these areas consistently have the best and most abundant natural powder snow in the region. While having lift service, they both have ample backcountry skiing and snow shoeing opportunities, with Wolf Creek having a groomed trail system for skate and classic skiing, as well as snow shoeing.
Traveling a bit further brings you to Chama, NM. On the weekend of January 15 & 16, 2016, the Chama Chili Classic will take place. This event is a wonderfully warm-spirited ski and snow shoe race plus chili cook off. It is held just within Colorado on Cumbres Pass and in the town of Chama, and it is great for families. Check out their site: skichama.com.
Then we come to Pagosa Springs, about 2 hours from Crestone. Their club grooms the Nordic trails at Wolf Creek Ski Area, as well as many other trail systems near and around Pagosa Springs. They have their winter festival on the weekend of February 12, and host several ski races and a variety of other events. Check them out at pagosanordic.com.
Leadville, about 2 hours from Crestone, at 10,000 feet, supports its Mineral Belt Trail system, and hosts the Leadville Loppet each year in February. For more information, check out leadvillenordic.com.
And a little further away, we arrive at Crested Butte, about 2.5 hours from Crestone, called The Nordic Ski Capital of Colorado. On February 6, 2016, Crested Butte Nordic will be hosting the 30th Anniversary Alley Loop, a 42 km skate or classic ski race, which is a qualifier for the American Birkebeiner in Hayward, Wisconsin. This is one of the largest Nordic ski races in the region, and it has shorter distance races as well as kids’ races. Many racers will be in costumes! For more information, see CBnordic.org.
These are just a few of the winter recreational opportunities around the Crestone region. We are so fortunate to have these here, as well as the many others within the greater region of Colorado and New Mexico. Most of these trail systems and races are done via non-profits—basically it’s people supporting people to enjoy the life-long sports of skiing and snow shoeing. Please support them.
Become a Crestone Nordic Ski Alliance member!
The CNSA is totally member-supported and run through the local non-profit, E3 KFM. To know when grooming is occurring and to know when events are happening, become a member. To join, annual dues are $20 for individuals and $30 for families. There are opportunities to learn to groom, to learn to Nordic ski and race, and to do trail reconnaissance for the possible extension of future trails. Contact CNSA at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also send dues to Crestone Nordic Ski Alliance, c/o E3 KFM, PO Box 686, Crestone, Colorado, 81131. Be sure to include your email when you send in your dues. Thank you to everyone who has already joined, especially those from out of town!
See you out on the snow!