By Lucas Vader
Two weeks ago, the DCI’s Grand Mesa “Staycation” article of winter activities on the world’s biggest flat top mountain came out. At upwards of an 11,300-foot elevation in Colorado, such a list is completely snow-themed.
That’s why, in order for the popular activity of cross-country skiing to work, there needs to be a behind-the-scenes workforce to make it a truly enjoyable experience.
On this local mountain, the Grand Mesa Nordic Council (GMNC) is that workforce. This year, the organization is 30 years old. They have been supporting cross country skiers since 1990.
GMNC is a community-supported nonprofit that relies entirely on voluntary contributions and grants to fund trail groom and maintenance operations.
GMNC volunteer Jane McGarry said the group’s mission is the continual grooming of 19 miles of ski trails for skate and classic styles at Skyway and County Line trail systems, grooming of four and a half miles of ski trails for classic style at Ward Nordic area, as well as maintenance of a little over 11 miles of ski touring area with marked and signed trails in that area.
On top of those maintenance items, they are responsible for warming the hut at the Skyway trailhead, and they provide opportunities for ski clinics and lessons, and they host ski races as well.
GMNC operates under a board of directors, led currently by President Joe Ramey.
Sunday was the official opening day for GMNC this year, and it advertised it with a new banner bearing the slogan “Social Distance, Naturally.”
Its website, gmnc.org, explains how to do just that.
Cross Country Ski Trails
The Skyway and County Line areas are two official trailheads about two miles apart from each other. Between them, they present about 19 miles of groomed trails for skate classic styles of cross country skiing. The trails are snowmobile-groomed earlier in the season until there is enough snow depth for the heavy groomer, the PistenBully 400. Neither are difficult, but GMNC declares that the County Line side is flatter. Steeper declines are marked on GMNC trail maps with caution signs. The trails pass through high timber, frozen lakes and some open areas. It promises grand views as well.
The Ward cross country ski trails are easy to find from the Cedaredge end of Grand Mesa, as they begin just off the highway at Ward Lake. There is a total of 11 miles of marked and signed trails in the ski touring area there, and it accesses backcountry skiing terrain.
“The neglected Skyway snowshoe trail has been revived!” GMNC announces excitedly on its website, gmnc.org. “Though we are a bunch of skiers addicted to glide, we think you will find the snowshoe trail enchanting.”
Down beyond the Skyway trailhead, a system of snowshoe specific treks are prepared and lined out by GMNC, allowing for a different flavor of snow sport.
GMNC maintains the signage along the trails, guiding folks to the right areas.
Anyone can book private or semi-private ski lessons through GMNC on its website, gmnc.org. The price for GMNC members is $65 and non-member pricing is $85 for a 90-minute lesson tailored to the participants ability. The lessons promise one-on-one instruction.
Events (and COVID)
GMNC is responsible for a number of Grand Mesa events each winter. This year, it is not ignoring COVID-19 issues, especially as it returns in seemingly full force.
Therefore, the next event is a “virtual” race scheduled for Dec. 12. Over the course of 10 days, participants will allegedly be required to complete the designated course while timed. Anyone interested in participating in that can email Dan Tille at email@example.com.
The remainder of the races planned, resuming on Jan. 10, are currently planned as regular races, preemptively.
There will also be a public clinic event, “Fundamental Movements for Classic Skiing,” on Dec. 19 at 9:30 a.m. The clinic is designed to help improve ski skills via basic techniques. The clinic will accept up to eight participants and the instructor will be Martin Wiesiolek, a level three PSIA certified cross country ski instructor.