Nordic ski areas hope December brings more snowfall amid dry conditions statewide
As the calendar is about to turn to December, the warm weather and sparse snow across Colorado and Summit County continues.
The lack of snow has forced many Summit County ski areas to rely primarily on snowmaking in order to open up additional access to terrain.
Nordic skiing centers and trails throughout the county are struggling with the same problem, and the Breckenridge Nordic Center is the only Nordic skiing venue that is open — with very limited terrain.
Josh Dayton with the Breckenridge Nordic Center said there are about 6 kilometers of trails open at the moment, and he estimated the center had about 20% more terrain open at this time last year.
“We have about a kilometer and a half of our lower trail system open consisting of Baby Dough, Cool Whip and sections of Gold Digger,” Dayton said. “Our upper trail system has Otter Slide, Elk Dance and Heavens Gate open and skiable, but all of that snow is natural snow with natural hazards.”
That’s not to say Nordic skiers aren’t enjoying themselves.
“Everyone is thrilled,” Dayton said. “I think their expectations are low. They know the state is dry and the country is dry, so when they come to see that we have excellent skiing, they are blown away.”
Nordic skiing options at Keystone, Frisco and other places throughout the county, such as recpaths, have yet to receive enough snowfall to groom for Nordic skiing.
The season is still quite early, but the Nordic ski areas are having trouble predicting when they might have enough snow to open their doors to Summit County and visiting Nordic skiers.
As of Saturday, Nov. 27, the Frisco Nordic Center had no estimation as to when it will have enough natural snow on its Nordic skiing trails to open. The same is true for the Keystone Nordic Center, which does not have any natural snow on its Nordic trails and does not know when it will get the opportunity to open.
According to town of Breckenridge Director of Recreation Scott Reid, Gold Run Nordic Center in Breckenridge is working on making snow and is planning to open Friday, Dec. 3. That is if the weather permits and the snow that is made can stick around long enough to be groomed.
Reid also noted that the Breckenridge recpath will be groomed by the town when the snow arrives in earnest.
The weather forecast for the coming week shows high temperatures continuing to stay in the upper 40s and low 50s with dry conditions.
Despite the forecast, Dayton said he would be extremely surprised if at least 70% of Breckenridge Nordic Center terrain was not open by Christmas. The last time that happened was 44 years ago during the 1977 season.
The delay in the opening of Summit’s Nordic ski areas also affects the Summit High School Nordic ski team, which is patiently waiting to make the transition to on-snow training.
Head coach Eva Hagen was hopeful at the beginning of November that on-snow training could start after Thanksgiving, but that will be limited to the few trails open at Breckenridge Nordic Center.
Luckily, the high school Nordic team has some time to get up to speed before its first competition Jan. 6.
Reid said winter recreationists have been praying to Ullr, the Norse god of snow, in hopes that he “can bless us this winter” by summoning wintry weather so Nordic skiing can once again return in full force to Summit County.
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