My Mesa mini-camp |

My Mesa mini-camp

Grand Mesa Nordic Council provides cross-country ski grooming until the end of April

The grooming situation on Grand Mesa in late-April could easily be confused with mid-January.
Ryan Sederquist/Vail Daily

If you tune into this column on a regular basis, you may recall my recent plea to prolong the 2022 ski season by enjoying off-trail crust skiing adventures from Vail Pass to Leadville.

That’s all fine and dandy, but if you’re like me and you’ve been scraping along over nature’s grooming for the last few weeks, you’re probably getting antsy for a concrete classic track or Pisten Bully-branded skate deck again. Fortunately, you don’t need to fly out to Mt. Bachelor Nordic Center (the sight of the U.S. Ski Team’s May camp) to find perfect corduroy.

Grand Mesa Nordic Council provides grooming up until the final day of April, and at the end of the season, the enthusiastic club’s trails make for a great place to hold your own “mini-camp,” to get fired up for next season.

Secluded from civilization, Grand Mesa attracts the hardcore sprinter van skiers who need all the amenities necessary to maximize time on snow.
Ryan Sederquist/Vail Daily

GMNC’s permit runs through April 30, meaning that date is also Coloradans last chance to ski on groomed trails. Of course, if Polis made me State Ski Superintendent (or Czar if that comes with more autonomy) we would groom until the last blanket of snow evaporated from the 10,000 foot plateau sometime around mid-June.

Even though the smell of Palisade peaches wafting into your vehicle as you drive through 70-degree sunshine will surely have you doubting the possibility that this trip could, at any point, feasibly involve skiing and a jacket … the trip all the way to the Mesa is worth it.

Few community-supported, nonprofit cross-country ski organizations are as well-run as GMNC. Governed by a volunteer board of directors “dedicated to promoting fun and safe cross country skiing experiences on Grand Mesa for skiers of all ages and abilities,” GMNC regularly grooms its 50-kilometers of trails on the Skyway, County Line and Ward trail systems.

They also offer lessons and put on a citizens race series that celebrate the sport with high quality, easy access competitive experiences. Certain races occasionally attract the Western University and Colorado Mesa college teams.

GMNC members test out next year’s product lines on the Grand Mesa for Cross Country Skier Magazine.
GMNC Facebook page

On April 16, Cross Country Skier Magazine’s editor-in-chief, Cindy Hirschfeld even paid a visit to test next year’s gear. The following week an Easter dump of fresh snow that would have made January envious was packed down by Dave the Groomer so an eager multitude of skiers waiting in the Skyway Trailhead parking lot could enjoy the rarity of pristine kick-and-glide conditions under a spring sun.

Grand Mesa Nordic Council even has a dog-friendly loop for skiers.
Ryan Sederquist/Vail Daily

Unfortunately, I will not be making my annual pilgrimage to the Mesa this year, but for the sake of all that is right in this world, here are my ingredients for a perfect trip (maybe someone can put in a few K’s for Team Seder-Skier, too):

  • Mingling with the sprinter van folks (and trying not to be too jealous of Winter Park’s Odd Bevsvendsen’s custom 170“ wheelbase dream).
  • Early-morning skate ski session — minimum 2.5 hours — and an afternoon shakeout (with whatever you have left), with the feet up and a good book in-between. The snow is the fastest in the morning, so don’t wait until you are sinking down and making ruts in the trail!
  • Water, oatmeal, pickles and your running shoes are a must. You don’t want to be schlepping groceries from Grand Junction every day, but, if you do make a trip down, enjoy the a morning ski/afternoon run double only Coloradans can savor. Don’t forget pickles — you need to replace those electrolytes.
  • Eating a lot of $1 French bread from Walmart. This isn’t the time to cut back on carbs, people. It’s training camp.
  • A trip along the Vista Ridge trail to the Summit overlook — the view is spectacular — should be scheduled.
In-between training sessions, I like to put my feet up in the van and find a good book to read while I rehydrate.
Ryan Sederquist/Vail Daily

The Grand Mesa is one of Colorado’s gems. I know I’m a bit biased, but I don’t think there is a better way to take it in than on skinny skis.

Ok, I’m really biased.

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