Nordic Council shifts focus

Goal is a valley-wide cross country ski pass

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The Steamboat Springs Nordic Council envisions a day when one ticket will allow cross country skiers to enjoy any of a half-dozen touring centers in the valley.

The operators of six touring centers, some public and some private, will be invited Wednesday to Vista Verde Guest Ranch in North Routt to discuss the idea.

"We just want to get more people out there skiing," Vista Verde's Stephanie Wilson said.

Vista Verde, a private guest ranch, is one of five operators in Routt County that regularly groom Nordic skiing trails for public use. The others are Catamount Ranch and Club, the Steamboat Ski Touring Center, Howelsen Hill (a city park), and Steamboat Lake State Park. A sixth, The Home Ranch, also a private guest ranch, will be invited to next week's meeting.

The Nordic Council's Dan Smilkstein said his organization would like to create a "community valley pass" for use by local skiers as well as an all-area pass that local lodging properties could market to winter guests.

Getting each of the touring centers to agree on the terms of a universal pass will pose some difficulties, Smilkstein said.

"Each of the areas has its own challenges as far as its price structure," he said.

Regular grooming of ski trails in an area with frequent heavy snows is costly.

Jeff Nelson, who manages the city's ski area and a member of the council, said the cost of grooming Howelsen last year was close to $10,000, although the city's cost was between $6,000 and $8,000. The North Routt Snow Club funds grooming of 100 miles of combined snowmobile/Nordic trails that encompass the Steamboat Lake area.

Smilkstein said the effort marks a change in the Nordic Council's main emphasis. For most of its existence, it has advocated the development of the groomed ski trails at Howelsen Hill.

Nelson said the timing was right for a change.

"The council feels that they've got that job complete," Nelson said. "Now we've created more of an umbrella" organization to promote the growth of cross country skiing and snowshoeing.

The Nordic Council's formal goal is to promote a healthy lifestyle in the community while preserving the heritage of Nordic skiing in Routt County.

The organization took a major step in that direction last winter by promoting a series of low-key races at the different touring centers. The council will host those races again this year.

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