MP Trailmap Feature
A family-friendly guide to “out our backdoor” cross-country ski trails.
by Stephen Szoradi, Aspen Alpine Guides
Get your cardio fix on the fly
Finding a moment to get out for your cardio fix or some social buddy time for a less than epic adventure is tough. As a parent, and especially as a working parent, sometimes it’s difficult to find that essential moment for a quick workout, or a necessary reset, or simply some balance and perspective. The Aspen Snowmass Nordic Ski Trails are “right out our backdoor” from neighborhoods and even most offices in the upper Valley. If you have not gotten to know these trails yet, here is some help finding your moment.
Mountain Parent Trail Map:
1. Snowmass Club Golf Course Nordic Ski Trails:
From Brush Creek Road, turn South onto Clubhouse Drive to get to the public parking area next to the Snowmass Cross Country Center. The short green loop adjacent to the Center is good for introducing small children to this sport.
2. Aspen Nordic Center:
A perfect place for beginners located at the Aspen Golf Course. Turn North at the Truscott light off of Highway 82 to find a large free public parking area with easy access to an extensive Green course. You’ll find a dog loop, as well as many new connector sections added to the basic loop, so you can make your workout as long or short as you wish. HINT: The retail center operated by Ute Mountaineer rents and sells Chariot ski trailers for pulling small children. Kids ski first, then when they’re whooped, settle them into the buggy for a nap while Mom and Dad check out the surrounding trails.
North Star Preserve Trails:
(Not shown on the map) Drive Hwy 82 East out of Aspen about one mile toward Independence Pass. Look for a small parking lot marked North Star / North Gate. The loop is maintained well with regular grooming and it’s a great spot to practice as it has minimal elevation gain and loss. Perfect for a lunch lap if you’re looking for something close to the business core that typically won’t get you into traffic trouble even during peak season.
3. Snowmass Club Golf Course Nordic Ski Trails
The majority of the trails in this area are rated as Blue because of the undulating terrain ranges in elevation by around 250 feet over the course. You’ll find rolling hills, and a few good climbs followed by downhill.
4. West Buttermilk
This “out and back” starts at a small three-car parking area on West Buttermilk Road. Spillover parking can hike back to the trailhead from the lot at the end of the road, near the West Buttermilk ski lift. The trail runs west to Sinclair Divide. The turn around off the Owl Creek Trail eliminates the steeper and more challenging terrain (see black) that drops down to the Two Creeks area.
5. High School Trails
Rated Blue because of the elevation gain and loss throughout the course loop. For those looking to try flatter terrain, check out the lower section that can be accessed close to AVSC and the high school by using some of the connector sections off of the main loop. Also note that the high school nordic racers utilize the loop and are often on course for training.
6. The Terminator Trail
(shown in red for visibility on the map) This trail can be accessed from Two Creeks in Snowmass Ski Area or from the Tom Blake Trailhead. This section boasts a steep elevation gain and loss within a short distance and should truly be considered advanced, difficult and expert terrain.
Types of Nordic Skiing
The term Nordic Skiing can refer to a large quiver of options when delving into ski terminology, and it sometimes takes a few questions to determine what someone is ultimately looking to do.
Skinny skis with scales on the bottom for traction going uphill. Needs groomed track.
Skinny skis with smooth bottoms. Needs groomed swath. Requires forward-leaning motion which draws more cardio demand than classic skiing.
Both Classic and Skate Skiing are typically done in controlled environments on preferably groomed courses that hold a swath of corduroy (Skate) next to a narrow set of tracks (Classic). The skis are skinny and the boots semi-flexible with free-heal bindings. The terrain for Beginners (Green) to Intermediate (Blue) and finally to Difficult (Black) offers a great training platform for beginning recreational-to-advanced, and also professional athletes.
Back Country (BC)
If balance is an issue, skinny skis might not work for you. You may try using old-school Nordic / Backcountry (BC) skis. They are a bit wider underfoot, have scales for grip and when needed can be used with climbing skins for steeper sections. These skis can go anywhere – groomed or ungroomed trails. Semi-flexible boots with free-heal bindings = occasional downhill grip factor.
Alpine Touring (AT)
Wider skis with scales and/or skins. These ski boots are more rigid than other Nordic styles, providing more stability. Their free-heal can be locked down for a controlled descent.
Trail etiquette requires that the wider BC and AT skis not be used in the track set for Classic Skis, and it’s best to stay to the side of the trail. The BC ski option is a great way to get out on a course with minimal downhill ski experience.
When you hear the following terms – Uphilling, Skinning, Alpine Touring, Telemark, Ski Mountaineering, SkiMo or Rondonnée – you are in principal hearing the same thing. These are variations of Alpine Touring setups that can be used for climbing uphill because they have free heals. These downhill/backcountry setups can, in theory, be used throughout the Nordic system as well as in the backcountry.
- Groomed tracks are designed for specific activities. Please respect the posted uses, which can include (or exclude) dogs, snowshoes, hiking and fat-tire bikes.
- Please, please, please don’t walk on the Classic Track.
- Uphill traffic (skiers, hikers, etc. going uphill) has the right of way.
- Stay to the side when going uphill on a groomed ski run.
- Share the track and yield to those who may need yielding to.
Stephen Szoradi, Aspen Alpine Guides
Stephen began guiding with Aspen Alpine Guides in 2008 after moving from Switzerland where he spent the previous seven years training and working. In the summer, Stephen guides the regional 14,000 ft peaks, as well as day hikes, rock climbs and high-altitude training coupled with trail running. In the winter, he is a backcountry ski and snowshoe guide, avalanche educator, and has worked for five years as a ski instructor. In this edition, he shows us the ins and outs of the Aspen-Snowmass Nordic Trails System.
Cross Country Skiing Lessons:
Aspen Alpine Guides (970) 925-6618
Aspen Cross Country Center (970) 925-2145
Snowmass Cross Country Center (970) 923-5700
Photos: Aspen Skiing Company
Map: Richard Camp
MP Student Essay Contest
WE LOVE OUR SCHOOLS
MP’s Cover Artists: Lily and Elana Royer
Meet the mother-daughter creative team behind Lilybart
MP’s Diversity Booklist
Summer Reading 2020
A summer-long series about loving this place while flattening the curve.
Summer Camp Planner
Find the latest COVID program updates for summer camps and classes. Camps are happening!
Up-cycle an empty pet food bag for this easy project.
Roaring Fork Nature Parks
A “Wild at Heart” map of nearby places to discover (or rediscover) with your child.
Car Camping Lake Powell
You don’t need a houseboat to enjoy a getaway to our closest beaches.
Mothers Day Tribute
Three local women who exemplify Julia Ward Howe’s Proclamation of Peace.
A tragic fact of nature? Or way to find your wings?
Good Sports: Lacrosse
With the ROARING FORK LACROSSE CLUB, everyone is included and “it’s just fun.”
Helping Hands: Lucky Day Animal Rescue
This foster-based rescue group helps connect pets with their forever families.
MP Trail Map: Winter Hut Trips
A family-friendly guide to planning an adventure to one of Colorado’s backcountry huts.
Writing By Hand
What can parents do to help their children learn this life skill?
A mother redefines HEALTHY after her daughter’s Leukodystrophy diagnosis
DIY: Upcycled Owl
Spread your wings to make this cuddly stuffed owl designed by Handmakery’s Ami Maes.
Aspen Snowmass Nordic Trail System
MP Trail Map: A guide to Roaring Fork Valley cross-country ski trails.
Meet local eco-chocolate maker Mark Burrows.
Helping Hands: Roaring Fork Valley Kids Who Care
Act Locally: A student-led effort to save Sea Turtles and Rainforests.
Good Sports: Challenge Aspen
Q&A with Special Olympics and NASTAR ski racer Tanner Jadwin
Nighttime Family Staycation
Wintertime fun after dark with the kids.
DIY: Spa Day
Make your own bath time bliss at home.
The McBride Internship: Kenya
Roaring Fork Valley students visit Kenya’s Lewa Wildlife Conservancy.
Good Sports: Ski Racing
For this mother and her daughters, skiing is among their earliest memories.
Giving the best present of all: Ourselves
Helping Hands: LIFT-UP
Can you feed your family breakfast, lunch, and dinner for $4 per person per day?
Helping Hands: The Farm Collaborative
Farm-to-Table meets Food Insecurity
Q&A: Honeybee Play
Q&A with the teenage creators of a new original musical
Helping Hands: Aspen Santa Fe Ballet Folklórico
An award-winning after school dance program that’s about more than dancing. It’s a cultural bridge.
Getting Into College
Making sense of college admission statistics
Good Sports: BMX Biking
Crown Mountain Park’s bike racing facility has expanded into a world-class race course.
Harvest Road Trip
Drive Highway 133 from Carbondale to Hotchkiss and make new friends at our nearby farms.
Helping Hands: Way of Compassion Bike Project
One man’s trash is, indeed, another man’s treasure.
MP Trail Map: Mount Elbert
Your child’s first fourteener can also be Colorado’s highest peak.
Good Sports: Sailing
Aspen Rec Department’s Don Sheeley Sailing School
Find Yourself in the Lost Forest
Discover Aspen Skiing Company’s Lost Forest adventure park.
DIY: Skateboard Swing
Turn a discarded skateboard into a big backyard hit.
MORE to FIND in the LOST FOREST
Lots to do in the Aspen Snowmass Lost Forest
DIY: Portraits of Your Children
How to capture magical frame-worthy photos
Helping Hands: Colorado Animal Rescue
C.A.R.E. can help you figure out what kind of adoptable pet is right for you and your household.
Good Sports: Baseball
A Glenwood Springs High School graduate and college baseball recruit shares what he learned at the ballpark.
Homelife Recipes: Backyard Burgers
Q&A with Jerilyn Nieslanik about how to avoided the dreaded hockey puck burger
MP Trail Map: Hartman Rocks
High desert mountain biking between Crested Butte and Gunnison
Citizens of the World
Roaring Fork High School students become world travelers through an all-inclusive club
Where to find Wildlife
Learn about the untamed creatures you might encounter in our mountain forests and meadows.
The Art of Being ENOUGH
A Motherhood Manifesto
Yampah Mountain High School’s Teen Parent Program
A campus in Glenwood Springs where each student is met exactly how they are.
LGBTQ+ Inclusion in Roaring Fork Valley Schools
A community-wide PRIDE parade + other other Valley-wide efforts to welcome everyone.
Good Sports: Soccer
Reflections from an Aspen HIgh School midfielder and member of an elite all-valley women’s team.
MP Trail Map: Navajo Rocks
A family-friendly mountain biking destination near Moab, Utah
Helping Hands: Mountain Valley Developmental Services Greenhouse
A nonprofit gardening center where developmentally disabled adults work (and bloom).
Homelife Recipes: Passover Seder
Rabbi Emily Segal of Aspen Jewish Congregation reflects on this sacred meal (and shares her recipe for Matzah crack)
Good Sports: Black Belt
A RFHS student and Rising Crane Training Center Cuong Nhu black belt shares her accomplishment.
DIY: Chinese New Year Dragon Puppet
Step-By-Step instructions for making a fun puppet at home.