Free Winter-Time Family Fun
Want to have fun on skis with your family without buying lift tickets? Cross country skiing is a great option because it's free, and generally free of crowds. It's also great low impact exercise that allows you to break your own trail through a beautiful landscape transformed by a winter storm.
This weekend's storm brought about 4 inches of light powder to the Pagosa Springs area, and dumped 23 inches of much needed snow at the Wolf Creek Ski Area. During a normal winter, we can usually cross country ski from our back door (7700 feet). This weekend's storm left just enough snow to warrant dusting off our skis. Since the normal low elevation Nordic areas don't have enough snow to groom, we headed to the northwest-facing Lake Hatcher Water Tank Service Road. The road is fairly steep for cross country skis, but our kids (9, 7, and 6) enjoy the thrill of speed as opposed to cruising the flats. They have all been on cross country skis since they were 3 or 4 (more tips on sking with young children later).
Since cross country skis are narrow and generally lack metal edges, turning is difficult and good balance is essential. The good news is you don't have to go to the very top of the road. My 6-year-old daughter progressively climbed higher up each run until she gained enough confidence to ski from the top. The run drops 80 feet in elevation over about 800 feet (10% grade).
It's important to ski powder in the morning before the temperature climbs or the snow is exposed to direct sunlight. Otherwise the snow will clump on your skis and prevent you from gliding. Alternatively, you can add wax to waxable skis to prevent clumping based on the snow temperature. The new snow will melt by the end of the week, but at least we enjoyed one ski day for the season!