By James Dickhoff
Special to The SUN
With fresh snow in the high country, the 2014-15 cross-country ski season begins.
The Wolf Creek Ski Area has groomed 5km in the Alberta Park Meadow Loop and the Pagosa Nordic Club is preparing to groom 5.5km at the Fall Creek Trail. The Alberta Park Meadow Loop is accessed from the end of the ski area Tranquility parking lot, where you can park and then ski down to the meadow.
The Fall Creek Trail is located on Wolf Creek Pass, 2 miles east of the overlook hairpin curve.
Locally, interest in classic X-C skiing and skate skiing X-C skiing has steadily increased since the Pagosa Nordic Club incorporated as a nonprofit volunteer organization in 2008. With nonprofit status, the Pagosa Nordic Club has been able to apply for grant funding to purchase trail grooming equipment, providing a number of groomed trails around Pagosa Country.
The Pagosa Nordic Club also took on the marketing of all area groomed X-C ski trails with the publication of an annual X-C skiing trail brochure, poster and advertising in seasonal publications in Colorado, New Mexico and national media exposure.
In addition, Wolf Creek Ski Area has continued grooming 10km at Alberta Park and the Pagosa Ranger District began grooming 14km of trails at Coyote Hill in 2009. The Wolf Creek Trailblazer Snowmobile Club also grooms up to 100 miles of multiuse trails around Pagosa Country. All of these trails are free to use.
The Pagosa Nordic Club has another great season planned with many X-C ski race events and free activities. Make note of these dates in your calendar.
X-C Ski clinics are scheduled for Dec. 13, Jan. 10 and Feb. 7. Participants can choose between classic X-C ski instruction or skate ski instruction. All local ski shops offer discounted rentals for the clinics. Never-evers, beginners and intermediates of all ages are welcome. Locations are announced the week of the clinic based on snow conditions.
Free Moonrise/Sunset X-C Ski Socials are scheduled for Jan. 2, Jan. 30 and Feb. 27. We all meet at one of the X-C ski trailhead locations, picked based on snow conditions. The trail is freshly groomed for your free ski under the colorful sunset and moonrise. Afterwards, we meet back at the trailhead for some hot soup and chili next to a campfire with hot cocoa and s’mores. This is a great family activity for X-C skiers of all ages. This is potluck style, you can bring something to share, though it is not required.
A free dog harness clinic is scheduled on Saturday, Jan. 3. The clinic is a dryland clinic at Yamaguchi Park, located in downtown Pagosa Springs, and will demonstrate how to harness your dog and use specific commands so your canine friend can pull you on your skis, snowshoes and bike. This clinic has been very well attended in the past and is growing in popularity every year.
The fifth annual Pagosa PAW Sled Dog Races are on Jan. 24-25. This event was originally scheduled in February. This two-day sled dog race event is part of the competitive Rocky Mountain sled dog race series, and the January date was set due to an opening in their schedule. We expect a significant increase in racers due to this new affiliation with Rocky Mountain. The competition features eight-, six-, four- and two-dog team sled events, freight events, canine skijoring (dog pulls X-C skier) and cani-cross (dog pulls snowshoer). This is an incredible spectator event with much of the excitement beginning at 8 a.m. as the dog sled teams are staging for their 9 a.m. race starting time. This is a spectacular must-see event. The event is currently planned to be at the Toner Ranch, approximately 17 miles north on Piedra Road.
The fifth annual Winterfest Nordic Ski weekend is Feb. 14 and 15. This year’s events feature a BB gun biathlon on Saturday, Feb. 14, with all ages and abilities welcome to participate. There will be a 12K/6K and KidK with three opportunities to shoot at targets in between laps. On Sunday, Feb. 15, the Plumtaw Ultra 30K and 60K freestyle X-C ski race takes place for the heartier Nordic skiers. The course follows Plumtaw Road to McManus and back. Last year’s event was well attended by visitors from around the state and Four Corners region. The Plumtaw Ultra was added last year as a means to attract serious racers from out of town and to provide a long race for locals to test their endurance skills.
The fourth annual Pagosa Springs Quad Challenge is on Sunday, March 1, featuring a 10K freestyle X-C ski at the West Fork trail, 5K road run along U.S. 160, 22K road bike to downtown and 1/2K swim at The Springs Resort. This has been one of Pagosa Nordic’s most popular race events during the winter. Participants can race solo or in teams of up to four.
Pagosa Nordic event/activity information, trail maps and X-C ski trail grooming reports can be viewed at pagosanordic.com.
The Pagosa Nordic Club serves as the local advocate for groomed X-C ski trails and you can find out current X-C ski trail grooming reports, trail maps, activity and event schedules at pagosanordic.com.
Pagosa Nordic is a nonprofit, 100-percent volunteer organization with a mission “To enhance winter recreational opportunities in Pagosa Springs by maintaining accessible groomed winter trails for skate skiing, classic cross country skiing and snowshoeing for all ability levels and to encourage and promote the use of these winter trails through education, marketing and events.”