Following the snow to Spring Gulch in Carbondale
It’s rare that downvalley scores more snow than Aspen, so when it happens you gotta go with the snow.
For me, that meant reviving a tradition of skiing at Spring Gulch on Christmas morning. The 21-kilometer Nordic trail system outside of Carbondale suffered through a tough winter in 2017-18. I only went there once or twice. I recall picking my way through the brown, knee high grass in the bottom meadow.
What a difference this year. In addition to good early season snow, parts of the lower valley picked up six inches of snow or more Monday and Tuesday nights.
Aspenweather.net meteorologist Cory Gates wrote online Wednesday that downvalley typically scores better than Aspen when there is a southwestern flow.
That’s meant incredibly soft snow at Spring Gulch. The grooming was immaculate on Christmas. There’s a nice base and very few thin spots that I saw. The groomers have set both classic tracks and skate tracks.
But the Spring Gulch experience goes way past the grooming. Whenever you’re on a trail looking toward the south, Mount Sopris as well as other high peaks towering over the Crystal River Valley loom large in the view. While you might encounter a small crowd at the parking area, you usually feel like you have the trails to yourself.
The best thing is, you don’t have to be a poser. Anybody is welcome to ski Spring Gulch as they are (just leave your pooch at home). You see fast skate skiers decked out in tight-fitting clothing and dudes in blue jeans plodding along the classic tracks. You see families, small batches of friends and individuals seeking the solitude.
I am way overdue for an equipment upgrade. I’ve got a pair of Fischer classic skis that I bought during a demo sale at Bristlecone Mountain Sports in the early 2000s. My boots are archaic. The Nike sweat pants that I use for cross-country skiing and skinning are torn and frayed. Nonetheless, I never feel out of place at Spring Gulch. Simply said, the place soothes my soul.
Just a quick plug — the Mount Sopris Nordic Council operates Spring Gulch in partnership with private landowners. The council depends on contributions for grooming and other maintenance rather than a user fee. Keep Spring Gulch viable with a contribution.