Last chance


— While driving up Rabbit Ears Pass to the Hogan Park Trail, you can see most of the terrain is south-facing and no significant amount of snow is visible from the road as you climb up the route.

It's May and it's 70 degrees and balmy in the valley. Well, maybe not balmy. Either way, those sorts of conditions seem more conducive to floating down runoff water instead of riding on snow.

But for those who still want to get a last ski run of the year in, or do some more snowshoeing, the opportunity is still here.

Once U.S. 40 climbs close to where the Hogan Park Trail begins which is on the south side of the road right before the motorized section of Rabbit Ears Pass the snow appears and the idea of skiing up there makes more sense.

In fact, for those who haven't skied or snowshoed since winter on Rabbit Ears, once you start following the blue diamond that marks the trail away from the road and into the woods, you'll stop looking for the snow and start noticing how much snow there really is.

"We've been skiing up there every day this week and we'll be there every day next week," U.S. Nordic Combined coach Tom Steitz said.

He and the team have hit Hogan Park Trail, skied to the rabbit ears and to Walton Peak through the Harrison Creek drainage.

"This is a good time of the year to do it," he said.

The snow is good, the crowds are minimal and it's late in the season. That means more time in the evening to make trips after work.

Plus, being under the sunny gold and blue spring sky and knowing the snow under your feet will soon be raging in the Yampa River below, the atmosphere of woods that surrounds you creates a realization of a completely unique time to be in the Routt National Forest.

That feeling is strikingly present through the first set of trees on the Hogan Park Trail, right after the first quarter-mile section that runs along the road. From there you get to an open meadow that is covered with deep snow.

"The snow is actually holding up pretty good," Steitz said. "The only thing is that the creeks are pretty high, so you have to pick and choose where you are going to cross."

Steitz said in all the time he has spent in the area this time of year, the creeks may be slightly higher than normal. That means those who have set routes through the woods may have to rethink their situation and plan ahead on how they are going to get across the running water.

The Hogan Park Trail, which is one of the more popular spots to hit this time of the year, is a 7.5-mile trek through the woods and comes out near the top of Wally World at the Steamboat Ski Area.

So the beauty of hitting this trail on skis is that the end is a last-time run down one of the ski resort's trails.

"It is pretty dry right now," said Ken Schomaker, who is a guide from Rocky Mountain Ventures. "You might be walking part of the way down."

As far Rabbit Ears goes, Steitz said the conditions will be good for at least another week.

After next week though, he'll be watching the weather to decide if the snow will be good enough to be on.


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