Trees put skiing on hold at Bruce's Trail

Forest Service removing dead lodgepole pines

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— The snow visible on Storm Peak combined with an overnight forecast that included a chance of snow showers could encourage Nordic skiers to scrape the summer wax off their skis this morning. However, anyone hoping to make the annual pilgrimage to Bruce's Trail will be disappointed.

Birgitta Lindgren, of the Steamboat Ski Touring Center, said Friday that it's not time yet. Regardless of snow conditions, fallen trees must be removed before the 10 kilometers of trails on Bruce's can be machine groomed. That won't happen until after next week.

"We're headed up there this afternoon to look at it," Lindgren said Friday. "We still have a lot of trail work to do."

Bruce's Trail was built in cooperation with the Routt National Forest to provide early season cross-country skiing. The trail was designed and constructed with Forest Service expertise and volunteer labor more than a dozen years ago as a memorial to Bruce Ablin. An avid skier, he died in a bicycle accident here in 1992.

The trails are groomed by the Touring Center and volunteers such as Dave Miller, of the Steamboat Springs Nordic Council, under a long-standing guiding permit held by the Touring Center.

Often, Bruce's Trail offers good Nordic skate skiing in October. Other years, the first day of skiing on Bruce's doesn't arrive until early November.

On Oct. 24, 2006, the temperature in downtown Steamboat was 60 degrees, but members of the U.S. Nordic Combined Ski Team were training on Bruce's thanks to twin storms that dumped 20 inches of snow on Rabbit Ears the week before. There were 30 cars in the parking lot that weekend.

In 2005, a series of storms dropped 21.5 inches of white stuff on Steamboat Ski Area during the last week in October, but there wasn't nearly as much snow in the valley. That situation translated into good coverage on Bruce's Trail on Nov. 1 and some of the only groomed cross-country skiing in the state.

Lodgepole pine trees have historically shaded the trails at Bruce's, a factor that helps conserve early snow when the weather returns to autumn. Now, those trees are dying as a result of the pine beetle infestation.

Lindgren said the Forest Service has been removing standing dead trees along the trail to help minimize the danger they represent and reduce the work needed annually to ready the trails.

Skiers can monitor the Web site at www.steamboatxcski.org/grooming.php for any updates on changes in the status of Bruce's Trail.

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