Courtesy of the U.S. Forest Service and the Pagosa Nordic Club
The opportunities for snowshoeing, classic cross-country skiing and skate skiing in Pagosa Country are plentiful, no matter your level of experience. Some trails/areas cater to those attempting the sports for the first time, while others will challenge even the most experienced winter enthusiasts. The routes described are a mix of groomed trails and unplowed, ungroomed Forest Service roads closed to most vehicles except snowmobiles.
The U.S. Forest Service, Wolf Creek Trail Blazers Snowmobile Club, Wolf Creek Ski Area and the Pagosa Nordic Club all work in conjunction with each other to groom trails for the public to use for skate skiing, classic cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and snowmobiling.
The Forest Service roads listed below are enjoyed and shared by people on skis, snowshoes and snowmobiles. Check with the Pagosa Ranger District Office in downtown Pagosa Springs or go to PagosaNordic.com to learn more about groomed trail opportunities.
Parking may present a problem and at times may prevent the use of a particular route. Park considerately, taking no more space than needed to avoid blocking other vehicles or impeding access to trails, and without impeding access for emergency vehicles. Leave room for vehicles and trailers to turn around. Colorado Department of Transportation crews clear parking areas along state highways adjacent to trail access, but their first priority is to clear the road. Avoid parking along highway travel lanes.
Cross-country skiers might find all types of winter recreation enthusiasts on trails in the Pagosa Springs area. Please don’t ride fat bikes, walk or snowshoe on groomed trails. Yield the right of way to downhill traffic. Use caution when approaching or overtaking another user. Do not interfere with or harass other users. Do not disturb wildlife. Only friendly dogs under voice control are permitted and all dog defecation should be removed from the ski trail. In addition, pack out everything you pack in.
Before venturing out onto unpacked snow, take the time to learn emergency procedures and backcountry travel and winter camping skills. Weather and snow conditions can change rapidly in Colorado’s mountains. Plan ahead and know what conditions to expect. Your trip will be much more enjoyable if you are physically and mentally prepared for whatever may arise. Be prepared for medical emergencies and leave a detailed description of your trip plans with a responsible person each time you go. Make sure the person you leave your plan with knows to contact the sheriff’s office if you fail to return. In addition, consider purchasing a Colorado Outdoor Recreation Search and Rescue (CORSAR) card to ensure that the county can recover all of your search and rescue costs. Cards cost $3 for one year or $12 for five years and are available at hunting and fishing license vendors.
When planning any backcountry trek, check current and forecasted weather conditions before you leave home and continue to monitor the weather throughout your trip. Dramatic weather changes can occur in minutes throughout Pagosa Country, especially in the mountains. Be informed about avalanche terrain and conditions. The Colorado Avalanche Information Center provides current information on weather and avalanche conditions at http://avalanche.state.co.us.
Stay within limits
Recognize and stay within your limits. Carry the appropriate gear for your trip, including extra clothing, a space blanket, sunscreen, sunglasses or goggles, matches or lighter, extra food and water. If traveling with a dog, carry plastic bags for cleaning up after your pooch. Carry a compass and topographical maps and know how to use them. For backcountry trips, avalanche safety skills and equipment, including a snow shovel, avalanche beacon and probe, are essential. In addition, be prepared to repair equipment and carry a simple field repair kit that includes supplies for common breakdowns.
Visit www.PagosaNordic.com or the Pagosa Ranger District office at 2nd Street and U.S. 160 in downtown Pagosa Springs for up-to-date trail status and conditions.
As a general rule, dress in layers so you can add and subtract layers as you become hot or cold. Remember, it can be quite cold in the morning, warm up considerably during the day, and get cold as soon as the sun moves behind the hills or a cloud. Avoid cotton clothing, especially next to the skin. You can be sure that you will get wet from sweat, from falling down, or from snow falling off trees. You may get cold if you stop for any amount of time. The weather may change dramatically if a front is coming in or if it starts snowing. In a group, some items can be shared.
Equipment and clothing
Skis, boots, poles — no-wax skis, maxiglide or other for sticking; waxable skis — waxes, cork, scraper and snow thermometer; sunglasses or glacier glasses; sunscreen; day pack or fanny pack; Swiss army knife; compass; maps; quart-size canteen or wide-mouth bottle filled with water; long underwear (polypropylene or other synthetic); intermediate layer — sweater (wool or synthetic) or shirt (wool or synthetic); windbreaker layer (nylon, 60/40 cloth, avoid garments that are heavily treated with waterproofing); pants or knickers (wool or synthetic, blue jeans are not recommended); socks (wool or synthetic); liner socks; hat (wool or synthetic) — you must be able to cover your ears; high-energy snacks and lunch, if appropriate; toilet paper and plastic bag for used paper; first aid kit; flashlight; vest (down or synthetic) or warmer jacket (down or synthetic); poncho and/or space blanket; extra hats, extra gloves; balaclava or ski mask; neck gaiter; ear band (knit-wool or synthetic); thin polypropylene or other synthetic gloves to operate equipment such as cameras; matches in a waterproof container; candle; whistle; duct tape; ski tip.
Be prepared for avalanche danger
Carry an avalanche shovel, beacon and probe for each person. Always test equipment and make sure all beacons are compatible and have adequate battery power.
Always check conditions with an avalanche forecasting group before going out. Daily avalanche forecasts can be obtained online at www.avalanche.state.co.us or by calling (970) 247-8187. More educational information, including a listing of available training, can be obtained at: www.avalanche.org and www.avalanche.state.co.us (Colorado Avalanche Information Center).
Maps and trail information are available from the U.S. Forest Service Pagosa Ranger District, 180 Pagosa St. or call (970) 264-2268.
For grooming reports, trail maps and events information, visit PagosaNordic.com.