The Cottonwood Pass Mailbag Trek on Feb. 11 is the kickoff to the Grand Winter Carnival closing ceremony. Since we have wandered through the fields trying to find snow, the trail got a bit longer so we have modified the beginning. The Trek will now start at Linke's Road about 2 miles in on the Cottonwood Pass Road, avoiding windblown and snowless patches, a sharp downhill through sage and several bare road crossings. The shuttle bus from Hot Sulphur will bring you to this point. The revised trail goes behind the hogbacks through the hay meadows and joins the road much closer to the top. This section is beautiful.
Logging at the top of Cottonwood Pass has totally messed up the first three-eighths mile of that beautiful corridor through the Aspens. We suggest that this section should be walked. We did have several inches of new snow this week from the Pass into Hot Sulphur. Coming down the Pass we are staying high above Monte Linke's house and above the sage fields and entering the hay meadows up high. Big improvement - much better skiing.
The Trek official start is 10 a.m. and goes about eight miles from Linke's Road on Cottonwood Pass Road, over Cottonwood Pass, through beautiful hay meadows, aspen groves and some sagebrush fields, ending at the Hot Sulphur Springs Fire House. Snow in this section is much better than earlier in the season and the views are gorgeous. Since parking is limited, park your car in Hot Sulphur Springs at the Museum and catch the free Lift Shuttle back to the Cottonwood Pass Road at 8:30 a.m. or 9:15 a.m. Start right after you register and weigh in if you want - light touring skis recommended. Snowshoes and dogs are welcome, but allow more time. Aid station and medic will be at the top of the Pass and the Fire House or the Byran Mountain Nordic Patrol enroute. Women are required to carry some form of backpack of at least 10 pounds and men 15 pounds to represent the mail. Again, this trek is all through private property, so please respect these landowners and use this opportunity to see some of the backcountry. Call 970-887-0547 for more information.
Sign up for a $20 donation to Grand Nordic at www.granddddnordic.org or $30 at registration 9-10 a.m, at the Trailer on the Linke Road turnoff. Old-time costumes and equipment are encouraged. March in the parade in Hot Sulphur at 1:30 p.m. and win prizes. Check out the various events and festivities scheduled at www.grandwintercarnival.com.
The Panther Nordic teams easily had their best meet of the season Saturday at Gold Run Nordic, near Breckenridge. The race, hosted by Summit High School, was a 5K mass start skate, with enough bright sunshine to inspire a few skiers to compete in short sleeves. The snow conditions were excellent, even though Friday's snowstorm skipped the mountains and made it a challenge for the team from Nederland to get to the race.
The women went off first, and skied to a team 4th-place finish, with Sera Smith in 8th, Linnea Zink 11th, followed by Elly Zietz and Amelia Clancy coming across the line together in 25th and 26th, respectively. Kaylene Loo and Jenna Curran were also in sight of each other at the finish in 32nd and 33rd place. Another pair, Sydney Markle and Sophie Larson, continued the theme just seconds apart at 49th and 51st, and Carley Frick finished 66th.
For the first time in longer than three years, the men finished ahead of the women as a team, tied with Eagle Valley, for third place out of 13 teams competing. Captain Taber Miyauchi led the Panthers in 11th, with Colby Zink and Steve Simmons at 17th and 18th, respectively. Freshman Daniel Kopp proved that the team has both potential and depth by making a strong statement in 20th place. Cole Conger came across the line in 25th place, followed by Joe Rupp (39th) and Marcus Curran (46th). First year skier Scott Crawford had a huge jump in performance in 48th, with Jason Tarr and Remi Olsson rounding it out for the Panthers in 63rd and 64th places.
"A couple of our more experienced guys, Cole Conger and Marcus Curren, have been under the weather lately and made a great effort, but had a tough time today," said Assistant Coach Karl Smith. "But the younger guys like Simmons and Kopp are showing that they can step up and score points when we really need them. We've got one more meet in Aspen before we head to the State Championships, so this is a great time for things to come together."
The Panthers head to Aspen next Saturday, and then point the bus to Minturn for the State Meet on Thursday and Friday, Feb. 16 and 17.