New upper parking lot approved for Spring Gulch Nordic ski area near Carbondale |

New upper parking lot approved for Spring Gulch Nordic ski area near Carbondale

The new northern extension of the Spring Gulch Nordic trail system near Carbondale aims to extend season a bit longer, complete with a new upper parking lot.
John Stroud/Post Independent

Operators of the popular Spring Gulch Nordic ski trail system west of Carbondale won approval Monday from Garfield County to build a new parking lot.

Prompted by the impacts of a noticeably shorter snow season in recent years that can impact the main parking lot and lower trails off of Thompson Creek Road, the Mount Sopris Nordic Council (MSNC) has been looking at some solutions.

Among them is a plan to build a second parking lot that’s a little bit higher in elevation and in a more shaded area off the Marion Cemetery Road on the north side of the ski trails network.

This past season, 3.75 miles of new ski trails opened on the northwest side of the trail system. The new lot will access the Lariat loop trail, with access back into the main trail system at the base of Little Dipper and up to Finlandia. 

MSNC board member Matt Anabel said during the Monday Garfield Board of County Commissioners meeting that the new, 60-space lot should open earlier in December and stay open later into the season as the snow melts near the existing lot.

Commissioners unanimously approved the plan.

Both parking lots will be open during peak ski season, Annabel said in a followup interview.

“The idea is that they would both be open when we have good snow conditions,” he said. “But the new one will allow us an option when there is no snow at the base.”

Plans are to construct the new parking lot later this summer and into the fall before next ski season. It will be located to the south of the Marion Road, before arriving at two other parking areas, one of them private, that are intended for access to the Marion Gulch snowmobile and hiking trails in the winter.

The new parking lot will also keep Spring Gulch trail users out of those lots, as well as from parking along the Marion Road, which can happen on busy days when the main lot is full, said Jennifer DiCuollo of DHM Design, the landscape architect on the project. 

Construction will require a Garfield County Road and Bridge access permit, and be limited to the period between July 1 and Oct. 1, so as not to disrupt wildlife during the more sensitive times of the year. 

MSNC operates 18 miles of groomed ski trails in the winter in partnership with the private owners of the land, the North Thompson Cattlemen’s Association. The area is not open to the public when the ski trails are closed during the warmer months.

Spring Gulch opened in 1986, with a typical ski season from mid-December to mid-March.

However, in recent years, the area was unable to open during the low snow and unusually warm winters of 2017-18 and 2020-21 until Christmas week and even after the new year in that latter winter, Annabel said.

“We’ve had several years where the parking lot is muddy in January and February,” he said. “That’s just the world we live in now.” 

This past winter was an exception. After a later start to the season in late December, heavy snow throughout the winter kept Spring Gulch open into April this year.

Annabel said to “stay tuned” for a capital campaign coming later this year to help pay for the new parking lot and other improvements.

Post Independent interim Managing Editor and senior reporter John Stroud can be reached at or at 970-384-9160.

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