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Champions of Nordic skiing

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Photos by Hank Lohmeyer Scheduled group activities, like the annual Grand Mesa Classic 10k last weekend shown above, are part of wide-ranging programs for Nordic sports enthusiasts offered by the Grand Mesa Nordic Council. Over the past 25 years the organ

The Grand Mesa Nordic Council is marking a 25th year of providing great outdoor recreation experiences for local skiers and other winter sports enthusiasts.

Over the course of those 25 years, the GMNC has also contributed significantly to developing a first-class complex of trails for cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and skijoring that is a tourism draw for the county.

Last weekend the GMNC staged its first organized event of 2016 with the annual Grand Mesa Classic. The group activity is comprised of a 10-kilometer cross-country skiing event at the Skyway area. This year for the first time there was a kids' two-kilometer event offered and organizers are hoping that this new part of the Grand Mesa Classic will grow and become a popular family event in future years.

The Skyway trail system provides an outdoor winter experience at almost 11,000 feet elevation that is free from motorized and mechanized devices -- except for the GMNC's trails grooming equipment. Last weekend's weather was sunny under a partial cover of high, wispy clouds. The wind was still and it was an ideal day for the event.

The GMNC has a membership roster numbering some 500, explained current council president Dave Knutson of Paonia.

The GMNC has worked to develop the Skyway area into a true gem of a recreational experience. It is one of three areas where the GMNC provides a total of more than 30 miles of trail grooming for users. The other two areas that the GMNC grooms are County Line and the Ward Lake/Ward Creek Reservoir area.

Winter sports enthusiasts can really thank the GMNC for the groomed areas because it is not possible for the U.S. Forest Service to provide the service with its budgetary constraints. The U.S. Forest Service has been a partner with the GMNC in developing areas that provide ample parking and restroom facilities.

At Skyway, the GMNC also provides a warming hut during the winter that comes complete with a wood burning stove and a supply of fuel.

Recent improvements to the County Line area include an expanded and safe off-highway parking area, two restroom structures and a changing room. Another feature making the County Line area popular is that users are allowed to bring their dog along on their outings for a romp on the designated dog trail.

There are also several areas on the Grand Mesa that are designated as backcountry skiing and snowshoe areas where trail grooming doesn't take place.

The GMNC has also received support from local governments in its sports development and promotion activities, including support from the county commissioners of Delta and Mesa counties.

The GMNC has recently embarked on a fundraising campaign to purchase a new trail grooming machine. Its current machine gets the job done, but it is some 10 years old and is starting to show its age by demanding various maintenance procedures to keep it working on the mountain, council members explained.

As a part of its considerable efforts to develop and promote Nordic sports on the Grand Mesa and to attract tourists to the area, the GMNC provides complete and informative information on local trailheads. There are also events for kids and adults that are staged throughout the year. But those wanting a more solitary winter sports experience can find that, too, as the groomed and backcountry areas are open to all during the season. It is possible to enjoy the true feeling of a wilderness-like experience on the quite alpine Nordic trails.

In addition to information, events and other services, the GMNC is the organization to contact for beginners in Nordic sports who are looking to take some lessons to get them started.

The contact person for information on adult "learn-to-ski" programs and other information is Callie at

gmnclessons@gmail.com.

For information on kids' programs, the contact is gmgliders@gmail.com.

For information on this winter's Nordic race series, the contact person is Tom Ela at 970-434-9753.

The Grand Mesa Nordic Council website is at gmnc.org.

Ample info is provided by mounted maps and free brochures at trailheads.
The County Line area is “dog friendly” for a winter romp with the family Fido or, as above, for some skijoring.
Beautiful, clear days with no wind are not always what greet Nordic sports enthusiasts atop Grand Mesa. So at Skyway, the GMNC has provided a winter warming shed complete with wood burning stove.
The GMNC keeps over 30 miles of trails groomed for Nordic sports enthusiasts.
The more than 30 miles of beautifully groomed trails on Grand Mesa are open all season for group activities and also for those seeking some healthful exercise and mountain solitude in a nearly wilderness-like setting.
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