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April trail fun not easily accessed from valley

Shauna Farnell
Shauna Farnell
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It might be time to put away some winter equipment. I tried to go snowshoeing Monday morning and couldn’t find any snow.

So many people are saying we won’t be able to go mountain biking around here until July because of the phenomenal snow base that’s going to take that long to melt.But it seems you have to go up to around 12,000 feet to find it, because the snow is disappearing rapidly outside our doors.Of course, the downhill skiing and riding options are still magical at Vail, Beaver Creek and the surrounding areas.

But, until the next substantial snowfall, you might get more exercise than you bargained for if you set off on a snowshoe or cross country skiing excursion from any of your favorite winter trailheads. Last weekend, I attempted to ski the Peaks Trail from Breckenridge to Frisco. I thought the thin layer of ice that was the trail would become softer and thicker as it wove into the trees, but instead, it spit me directly into a running creek and continued happily up the other side, waiting for another hapless, back-sliding victim. I wasn’t going to be the one. I switched to a less-frequented trail in Breckenridge. The snow was decent there – crunchy but skiable. Upon reaching the top, I decided on an adventurous, off-trail descent through the woods. It started off OK. The scales on the base of my skis made a comforting whirring sound as they glided over the crusty surface of untouched snow. Then the sound disappeared and I looked down to realize my skis had taken on minds of their own and were burrowing independently into the snowpack as if searching for acorns. I cut close to a tree where the snow was rotten and it collapsed instantaneously underneath me. It was if I’d fallen through a trap door. Had I been on a steep slope, I would have been in real trouble. Instead, I was using my poles as paddles to swim back to the surface, scooting and rolling gracelessly to a place where the slope angle was obvious enough to lay my skis sideways and hoist myself back to a standing position.I went back to my tracks the next day and found dinosaur-like craters about every 20 yards. My body hurt. Nothing helps one discover new muscles like falling through and wriggling out of deep, wet snow and dislodging skis for an entire afternoon.So, on Monday, a friend and I decided snowshoes were the way to go. We went up to Cordillera and searched far and wide for an area without grass sprouting from it. One trail system in the woods looked promising. We took a few solid steps before plunging through to our hips. A few hundred yards later, the trail gave way to mud. In the shadows, the walking on crust-post holing pattern began again.



Thus, the snowshoes and Nordic skis have probably had their last days in the sun for a while. The mountain bike might have to end its hibernation in the desert until mid-summer.Thank goodness we still have the ski areas to turn to for a few more weeks.Staff Writer Shauna Farnell can be reached at 949-0555, ext.14632, or sfarnell@vaildaily.com.Vail, Colorado


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