One line kept going through my head over and over again as my skis dipped and slid between the trees.
“Over the river and through the woods, to grandmother’s house we go!”
During the summertime, Brainard Lake is one of the most popular hiking destinations near the Front Range. But the fun doesn’t stop just because the temperatures dip and the snow falls. In fact, some would argue, it becomes even more of an adventure, guaranteed to bring delight.
“Whee, wooo! Wow, that was super exciting!?
Bryon pulled up next to me after a zippy downhill that undulated like a snake sliding through the snowy woods. Such is the feeling sliding between the pines and firs on two skinny skis.
Many winter enthusiasts are very purist in their pursuits — only downhill skiing, only snowboarding, or snowshoeing. But not me. I just love the experience of sliding on snow, whether it’s on skinny skis on a little hiking trail, or fat skis on a big wide open slope.
Plus, the advantage of cross-country skiing are many. Instead of suffering the rigors of traffic and a long drive on I-70, you can reach your favorite winter trail head in 15-20 minutes (that is if you live in Nederland). Even a drive from Boulder is a mere 30-35 minutes.
Purchase of equipment is far less costly. I got a package deal with boots and skis for less than $200. And cross-country ski boots feel like a snug, hiking boot rather than leaden blocks of concrete on your feet.
What I love most is that same sense of one with nature, peace and quiet. The only sound i hear is the soft “swoosh, swoosh” of my skis going back and forth. Getting out in winter offers a special bonus — the ability to track the wildlife in the area by the tracks they leave in the snow. Large oblong that leaves a deep indentation — moose. Small sets of four shallow prints even spaced — rabbits.
One of the nicest ski trails that make a great 6-mile loop is the Little Raven-CMC ski trails. To get on the Little Raven, follow the Lefthand Reservoir road left out of the Brainard Winter Parking Area. After less than a mile, you’ll see the sign for Little Raven. After some rolling trail, get ready for some fun and an adrenaline rush as you schuss down the hill and wind through the trees.
Eventually, you’ll see Brainard Lake off in the distance — look for the sign for the CMC trail heading off to the right. The CMC trail has a few more ups and downs as you cross back and forth over a stream. You’ll need to stay focused, as there are some abrupt turns.
What makes this loop particularly enjoyable is its designation for skiers only. No snowshoers to obliterate the ski tracks. The scene is straight out of winter holiday commercial — evergreens decked in snow, deep snow in the woods, and an occasional bird.
So what are you waiting for? Get that blood pumping and enjoy some cold mountain air while you go over the hills and through the woods.