After eight surreal weeks living in the mountains of rural southern Colorado, it’s time to return to Denver. At least for a while. What’s been great: the fresh air, the limitless hiking opportunities, the simplicity of inconvenience, the mountain vistas, learning about wildlife, and cooking everything from scratch. What hasn’t been great: the small, cramped quarters of two people WFH, working from bed, doing laundry by hand, cold mountain mornings (and afternoons and evenings), and cooking everything from scratch.
What I’ve noticed over the past two months is the amount of signage in national forest and wilderness areas. National Forest signage balances delicately between a sturdy and rural aesthetic. The signage at the abandoned ski area we’ve lived next to these recent weeks is less wayfinding, more boundary markers.
A ski area that has not experienced mechanized uploading in twenty years is bound to fall into disarray. Snowmaking equipment rusts into holes, fiberglass signs fade and degrade, chair lifts stand proudly still. As we zigzaggged our way up, across, and down ski trails, we spied signs of all kinds.
Seeing decayed, broken ski trail signs brings out a sadness I usually do not feel when frolicking about. After all, what’s a ski area but wilderness cut up? Ski trail signs remind me that this used to be a place where families and couples bonded as they rode up together and shushed down. Sometimes when we’re happy hour hiking we’ll duck into the trees under the lifts and I look down to spot the line I would have taken. It’s at those moments that I think about how the ski area was closed more than it was open in the past 40 years. I’m heartened by the progress of the “Up the Hill” Project to reopen the bottom 50 acres to lift-served skiing in what was formerly Cuchara Mountain Resort.
In the meantime, there area dozens of miles of trails in the area and earning turns. I’ll miss the signs of the San Isabel National Forest and the wilderness areas of West and East Spanish Peak.
Snow days for educators mean work a little, sleep a little, watch something brainless, shovel, drink hot chocolate, and if you can, get out into your neighborhood for some kick-and-glide with a good friend. Three miles around Sloan’s Lake for some bonding, meditation, exercise, and quiet beauty.
A little bit of snow in Vermont and the Pacific Northwest means the rest of us are suffering with 2-3 foot bases at our local ski hill, hardly enough to justify a $50+ lift ticket. Or in the cases of the chic resorts here in Colorado, $100+ (really, Aspen? really, Vail?) Vail is sporting 19 inches at the time of this posting, which means each inch of crusted-over snow costs about $5. That’s expensive.
But temperate temperatures means that the tough start looking beyond the ski resorts for winter fun. No, I’m not talking about quick getaways to Mexico. I’m talking about making the most out of winter, right there in your own backyard.
Some of the more hardcore among us are up for adventures like mountain biking on snow (done right here at Rabbit Mountain a few years ago). But for the rest of us mortals, having sports we can out (almost) out our front door will keep us healthy and happy until the snow dances kick in.
It’s November 1, which means it’s the height of cyclocross season. I had a chance this past week, in my stint as a the Cycling/Mountain Biking editor at TrailsEdge, to catch up with hot-shot cyclist and queen of the dirt and mud, Georgia Gould.
Neat lady! All the humility of a sage but with the fierceness of the champ she is.
There’s still a gritty side left to Leadville, Colorado. I return to this old mining town at least once a season to soak in the high altitude air and get my sport on. This time it was cross-country skiing along Turquoise Lake. Although the snow was soft, the skies were blue until the storm moved in the last three songs of my 75-minute jaunt.
Twas peaceful, just me and the ice-fishermen. Photo essay tells the story.