~ by Bob Volpe ~
It is a good year for snowshoe and cross-country skiers in the Teller high country.
The local trails and meadows received a lot of early-season snow since October, and the cold temps have kept that base firm, while frequent smaller storms add a nice powder layer. In fact, this year’s snow conditions could be the best we’ve seen in a long time for this time of year.
Teller County sports some great places for snowshoeing and cross-country skiing when conditions are right.
Perhaps the most well-known place to get your winter sports fix is Mueller State Park. The park is open year-round, and in winter is a great place to cross-country ski, and snowshoe. Almost any trail in Mueller State Park makes for good snowshoeing or cross-country skiing. Most trails are short, but it’s easy to create your own route by joining trails together.
But be aware that many of these trails start on a ridge and go down from there. Be sure you have the skill and stamina to climb back to your car. Rangers recommend you visit the visitor’s center for maps and information on current snow conditions. You can also call the visitor’s center at: (719) 687-2366 for current conditions. Entrance fees do apply. On the weekends, the park does provide many scheduled hikes and winter jaunts with park experts.
Another nearby spot that should be excellent this year is the Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument. They offer a number of good snowshoeing and cross-country skiing trails. The Shootin’ Star and Twin Rock Trails are very popular and make for an easy six-mile round trip trek. Stop in the visitor’s center for up-to-date information on trail conditions. Entrance fees do apply.
The Crags is another place cross country sliders/snowshoers can find to spend a day enjoying the silence of winter. With the recent heavy snows we’ve had, the Crags road is likely closed at the Mennonite Camp, so you’ll have to ski/shoe the road to get to the trailhead.
If you’re hardcore and are experienced, Pancake Rocks and Horsethief Park will get your heart pumping. The trails start at 9,7000 feet elevation and go up from there. After parking at the tunnel lot on Hwy. 67, you’re greeted with a step two-track trail right out of the chute. From there, the trail becomes more gentle for a while. If you chose the Pancake Rocks option, be prepared for more serious climbing, but the reward on top is worth the effort. The views are spectacular.
Links and Lake Skiing
Closer to home, the Shining Mountain Golf Course off Hwy. 67 is another secret haven for cross-country and snowshoers especially following recent storms. Sections of the more wooded front nine are ideal and are good for maintaining high snow levels. Another popular route is isolated pockets of the back nine, starting around holes numbers 11 and 12, and across the bridge.
But please stay off the greens. In fact, a good tip is to follow the course cart path areas.
Manitou Lake further north up Hwy. 67, is another great Nordic bet, following storms. The designated paths, especially into the Forest Service, can provide great winter treks; and better yet, they are fairly level. Fees, though, do apply for the use of Manitou Lake.
If you don’t mind driving a little farther, there are other Nordic centers scattered around the state. The closest to Woodland Park is Breckenridge Nordic Center. With natural snow and snow-making capabilities, it’s easy to find freshly groomed snow at Breckenridge Nordic Center for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. The center even has guided snowshoe adventures and Nordic ski lessons to help you get your snow legs before hitting the trails on your own.
Other Nordic centers around the state include: Crested Butte Nordic Center, Keystone Nordic Center, Vail Nordic Center, Aspen/Snowmass Nordic Center, Tennessee Pass Nordic Center, Frisco Nordic Center, Neversummer Nordic Center, Vista Verde Ranch, Winter Park Snowshoe Tour Center, Sunlight Mountain Resort, Steamboat Springs Ski Touring Center, Eldora Mountain Resort, Ski Granby Ranch Nordic Trails, Purgatory (formerly Durango Mountain Resort), Beaver Creek Nordic Center, Grand Lake Nordic Center, and Crown Mountain Park. Google any of these places for more information and fees.