The Uncompahgre Nordic Association debuted a new network of cross-country skiing trails on the night of Jan. 6, welcoming about 60 people from the greater Montrose area to inaugurate the freshly-groomed tracks beneath the light of a full moon. Well, at least, until the weather set in.
“The full moon didn’t come out because we had a pretty good snowstorm up there,” said Gary Shellhorn, president of the newly formed association.
So instead, volunteers placed tiki torches along the trails, located in the Uncompahgre National Forest, and wrapped trees with battery-powered lights to supplement attendees’ headlamps. After completing their laps, the locals huddled around a bonfire pit and in a warming tent with a cup of hot cocoa or a bowl of chili to cap off the evening of night skiing.
While the concept of nighttime Nordic skiing is hardly new – Shellhorn recalls his first time going in Lake Tahoe in the 1980s – Colorado groups are increasingly hosting formal events to make the sport more accessible and raise awareness about their organizations, many of which are funded by donations.
Unlike nighttime downhill skiing, which is available at several resorts in Colorado, few cross-country areas have floodlights to illuminate the terrain. That’s why many organizations wait until a full moon when the moonlight reflects off the white snow and offers skiers a different way to enjoy familiar landscapes, said Christie Aschwanden, executive director of the Grand Mesa Nordic Council.
“Full moon skiing is just a magical experience. There’s nothing else like it,” Aschwanden said. “We encourage people to bring headlamps for safety purposes, but on a full moon night, you don’t need that. The landscape is transformed.”
Grand Mesa Nordic Council hosted full moon skis in December and January, and plans to do one more on Feb. 4 from 6 to 8 p.m. complete with a bonfire, hot chocolate and candles lighting some of the trails. These events are free to attend, but require skiers bring their own gear, including a headlamp. Bring the kids, too, Aschwanden said.
“We have a lot of people bring kids up,” she said. “We have s’mores we provide. It’s fun thing, especially for kids.”
Similarly, the Uncompaghre Nordic Association hopes to schedule another free, full moon ski in February. (Details TBD.) Shellhorn’s biggest piece of advice to newbies is to dress in warm, waterproof or water-resistant layers.
“As you start skiing more you get warmer, and as the night goes on it gets colder. You have to balance the temperature with your physical exertion,” he said. “And like the other night when we were up there and it was snowing, it’s always good to have water-repellant stuff so snow doesn’t soak your outer garments.”
Ready to grab your gear? Here’s where you can find nighttime skiing events this winter that coincide with the full moon, from the Western Slope to the Front Range, plus one area that organizes fat biking and snowshoeing tours with the lunar cycle.
The Grand Mesa Nordic Council regularly hosts skiing events that coincide with the full moon, inviting locals to bring their cross-country skis and enjoy trails under the lunar light. (Provided by Grand Mesa Nordic Council)
When Grand Mesa Nordic Council hosts full moon skiing, it also sets up a bonfire, serves hot chocolate and provides s'mores fixins for kids. (Provided by Grand Mesa Nordic Council)
The Grand Mesa Nordic Council lights skiing trails with candles when it hosts full moon skiing events, but attendees are also asked to bring a headlamp to help light their way. (Provided by Grand Mesa Nordic Council)
The Grand Mesa Nordic Council hosts its last full moon night ski of the 2023 season on Feb. from 6 to 8 p.m. The event is free to attend, but skiers are required to bring their own gear. (Provided by Grand Mesa Nordic Council)
The Uncompahgre Nordic Association celebrated the debut of a new network of trails in the Uncompahgre National Forest near Montrose on Jan. 6 with a full moon night ski. The moon, however, was not visible thanks to a snowstorm that rolled through. Instead, volunteers set up tiki torches and wrapped several trees with battery-powered lights to illuminate the trails. (Provided by the Uncompahgre Nordic Association)
Where to cross-country ski on a full moon in Colorado
Breckenridge: While not skiing specific, the Gold Run Nordic Center offers guided fat biking and snowshoeing tours on both full moon and new moon nights. Tours run from 5 to 7 p.m. and cost $65 per person. The next available dates are Feb. 17 and 18 (new moon), March 10 and 11 (full moon), and March 24 and 25 (new moon). Tickets include the price of equipment rental. Find more information at breckenridgerecreation.com/rates/locations/gold-run-nordic-center/gold-run-nordic-special-events.
Cedaredge: Grand Mesa Nordic Council hosts its final full moon ski of the season on Feb. 4 from 6 to 8 p.m. This event, which is free to attend, takes off from the County Line Trailhead in the Grand Mesa National Forest. Skiers must bring their own gear. Find more information at gmnc.org/event/full-moon-ski-bonfire-party-3/.
Frisco: While the Frisco Nordic Center does not organize full moon skiing events, a spokesperson said locals can create their own on the Winter Recreation Path, an eight-mile stretch of trails between Frisco and Breckenridge, which is free to access. Find more information at townoffrisco.com/things-to-do/frisco-nordic-center/winter-rec-path-uses/
Grand Lake: The Grand Lake Nordic Center is hosting a nighttime ski on March 18 from 5 to 9 p.m. to celebrate the end of the season. Technically, the party will be on the brink of a new moon, but the center will still have free hot chocolate and adult beverages for sale, as well as chili available in the lodge until 8 p.m. Admission costs $20 and gear is available to rent for $10. Find more information at grandlakerecreation.com/nordiccenter/nordic-center-events.
Gunnison: The Gunnison Nordic Club is planning a full moon skiing event for Feb. 4, but details are yet to be released. We’ll update this story when we receive them or keep an eye on the group’s Facebook page (facebook.com/GunnisonNordic) for announcements.
Leadville: The Nordic center at Tennessee Pass is preparing to host three, open-to-the-public ski events that coincide with the full moons on Feb. 5, March 7 and April 5. Each one runs 5 to 10 p.m. and costs $10 to attend. The center does not accept reservations and availability is on a first-come, first-served basis. Those who want to rent gear can do so for $10. Find more information on Tennessee Pass’ Facebook and Instagram pages.
Montrose: The Uncompahgre Nordic Association is planning a full moon skiing event for Feb. 4 or 5, but details are yet to be released. We’ll update this story when we receive them or keep an eye on the group’s Facebook page (facebook.com/MontroseNordic) for announcements.
Tabernash: Guests who book a stay at Devil’s Thumb Ranch near Winter Park can take full moon ski tours on Feb. 4 and March 4 from 6 to 7:30 p.m. each night. The tours are free to attend but limited to lodging guests only. Bring your own equipment or rent skis for $25. Find more information at devilsthumbranch.com/event/full-moon-ski-tour-2-2-2/all.
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