Aspen’s Cozy Point a spot for skijoring?
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
Aspen’s Cozy Point Ranch, looking to expand beyond its equestrian uses, may have hit upon just the thing (two things, actually) that locals are crazy about – dogs and skiing.
The ranch is gearing up to host its first skijoring clinic in late February, organized by the Aspen Animal Shelter, and could become a destination for both skijoring fans and Nordic skiers in general.
“We’ve got a lot of really nice acreage out here that’s underutilized, especially in the wintertime,” said Monroe Summers, general manager of Cozy Point Ranch LLC, which holds the lease to operate the ranch. Cozy Point is owned by the city of Aspen, though it’s located well outside of the city boundary.
There is room to pack down a one-mile oval track on the ranch’s large meadow at the corner of Brush Creek Road and Highway 82, and create a smaller surface for beginning skijorers inside the outdoor riding arena, Summers said. The facility could accommodate the activity throughout the winter months, for people who want to come out and practice with their dogs, he said.
Skijoring involves skate-style cross country skiing while harnessed to a dog or dogs.
It’s exercise for both skier and dog, and a good way for dog owners to bond with their pet, contends Seth Sachson, director of the animal shelter and an avid skijorer and dog sledder with his own dogs.
“That’s what’s so cool about it. It gets you out and your dog out, doing something together,” he said.
“I’ve seen people doing this, and they can really get cooking on skate skis with one good, energetic dog,” said Summers, who hasn’t yet committed to giving the sport a try himself, though he said he’s considering it.
Along with a track for skijoring, there’s potential to add a groomed Nordic trail that includes classic track at the 170-acre ranch, according to Summers. A long, 2-mile finger of the ranch extends downvalley to the Wildcat Ranch entrance, offering varied terrain and plenty of shade to hold the snow, he said.
The ranch also has a small snack shop with restrooms, built last year, that can serve as a warming hut, according to Summers.
The potential to add the ranch to the Aspen-Snowmass Nordic system will be discussed when the city’s Open Space Board and the Nordic Council meet on Feb. 16, according to Stephen Ellsperman, city parks and open space director.
For the skijoring set, the animal shelter will host a Feb. 26 clinic, with a classroom introduction from 10 to 11 a.m. at the shelter, followed by action on the Cozy Point track from noon to 1:30 p.m., and probably longer, according to Sachson. Participants who don’t own skate skis are urged to rent some from the Aspen Cross Country Center at the golf course; the shelter will provide the harness equipment and sells it, as well, he said. Shelter dogs will also be available.
A $40 donation to the nonprofit Friends of the Aspen Animal Shelter will be requested of participants. Go to http://www.dogsaspen.com for more information.
About 18 people turned out for a similar clinic, held Jan. 16 at Kate McBride’s ranch in Old Snowmass, according to Sachson.
Aspen resident Natasha Long was among them. A cross-country skier, but not a skate skier, she rented the equipment the day before the clinic and gave skate skiing a try for the first time at the golf course.
She took her 95-pound Bernese mountain dog, Duke, to the clinic.
“I loved it. I had so much fun,” she said. “Once we got our groove, we had a blast. At one point, he was pulling me so fast, I didn’t even ski.”
One doesn’t need a bona fide sled dog or beefy pet to enjoy the sport, though, according to Sachson.
“You don’t have to have a dog that pulls – if you can just teach your dog to stay out in front of you, it’s just a great way to ski and your dog is leashed,” he said.
Woody Creek resident Jimmy Ibbotson participated in the recent clinic as well, with his chocolate Labs, Dixie and Audrey.
Years ago, Ibbotson said, he had Labs that would grab the ends of his ski poles and tug him up Maroon Creek Road.
“I just wish I’d have found the harnesses while I was still young,” he said. “I’m too old for this, but it’s just so fun.”
The dogs love it, too, Ibbotson added.
“You get such a reinvigorated relationship with the animals, at least with Labs, if they have a job,” he said.
“What it does for me is, I hate to see winter leave now,” Ibbotson said. “It used to be, I couldn’t wait for it to end.”
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Reporter Ray K. Erku can be reached at 612-423-5273 or firstname.lastname@example.org