Opening day November 13
[ By Katherine Nettles ]
It’s almost time to heat up the glide wax and sharpen the edges of those skinny skis. The Crested Butte Nordic Center will open November 13, and if the weather cooperates there will be joyous early season jaunts up at Lily Lake available sometime around Thanksgiving. Meanwhile, the Nordic Center is preparing to bring back community gatherings this year, to allow the public back inside its building (in limited numbers) and to add new and expanded events to continue spreading the love of all things Nordic throughout the season. That includes more citizen races, more community outreach days and definitely more parties.
For the first time since 2020, the public will be able to enter the Nordic Center, albeit in smaller numbers in keeping with the Town of Crested Butte’ town building policy. CB Nordic’s director of marketing and development Laura Puckett Daniels advises that making online rental reservations will be the best practice, and given the restriction on people inside, be patient if you plan to use the bathrooms or changing rooms.
“We are letting the public in, masks mandatory, 15 people at a time. There will still be online rental/day pass reservations and outside lines when things get busy. Bathrooms, changing rooms, etc. will be available so long as we’re sticking to that 15 person number,” she says.
As the seasons change from fall to early winter, many people are thinking about Lily Lake for access to skiing near Irwin town site where there is generally more snow. According to Daniels, the plan is to groom for Thanksgiving Camp when there is enough snow up there. The U.S. Forest Service has to determine what is enough snow, she says, but typically it requires between 12-18 inches. “We won’t be grooming until much closer to Thanksgiving, and only if there’s enough snow.”
The time between now and then could be spent planning out a winter schedule for all the events in the works. Backcountry Bistro will be back on Sundays (dates TBD). Yurt dinners are back and reservations are filling up, but quite a few do still have space if that is on your bucket list. Then there are the races.
Events galore and more programming
“We are returning to events as they were pre-pandemic,” says Daniels of most outdoor gatherings. Large, indoor gatherings have yet to be determined. “For Thanksgiving Camp, we are not hosting lunches or parties,” she says. “We are just focusing on the outdoor, skiing portion of the camp.”
The Alley Loop is returning to its previous format and courses. Daniels says the organization still has to meet with the town to work out all the details, “But we are planning on a one-day format with a return to the full alleys. We are not planning on wave starts or virtual events, but we may end up doing the awards ceremonies virtually. We are still working out the finer details on that.”
The Community Race Series is getting a revamp, with more activities and a new sponsor/name: The Pinnacle Orthopedics Community Race Series. “We’re adding more races and a FunSki series,” says Daniels. “We’ve also added some unique races like a Skiathlon and Obstacle Race Format. Each race will have an after-party with snacks and beverages (and a beer garden for adults). The goal is to make racing more fun and inviting—more like the Alley Loop-so that people have more reasons to get outside and stay active.”
The word is clearly out on the fun and accessibility of cross-country skiing, and CB Nordic has seen a major increase in numbers recently. Season passes are already up 17 percent for the 2021/2022 season from last year (1,523 total, including dog passes), and most youth programs in Crested Butte sold out within 15 minutes of registration opening. 2020/2021 set some big records for the non-profit organization, in which day pass sales were up 80 percent; rentals were up 218 percent; lessons were up 93 percent and tours were up 138 percent.
CB Nordic is also expanding its programming. There will be more after school offerings in Gunnison after a successful inaugural season there last year. It will maintain its partnership with Immigrantes Unidos to host ski days in both CB and Gunnison, and is working with Travel CB to host a group of Latinos Outdoors participants for a winter sports weekend in 2021/2022. CB Nordic hosted an Outdoor Afro weekend last year, and is partnering with new nonprofits this winter to host ski days for their staff, members, clients and associates. “Our goal is to host 10 outreach ski days in addition to our regular Learn-to-Ski-Free and Immigrantes Unidos programs,” says Daniels.
Even with the increasing participation and growing programs, 50 kilometers of trails around the North Valley means there’s still a lot of corduroy to be found for everyone. The next step is to find more elbow room for the indoor aspect of the operations.
The Outpost addition
The Nordic Center has plans to double its square footage with an addition to the former cat barn, now called the Outpost. This 2,880 square foot expansion on the back of the existing building would accommodate the junior team (downstairs) and the administrative offices (upstairs) while opening up more space in the main building for rentals, retail, gatherings and waxing. With a budget of $1.1 million, says Daniels, “We have kept the building quite simple and utilitarian in the hopes of keeping costs low and expediting the building process.”
The plan is to break ground in the spring of 2023 and be open in the fall of the same year.
CB Nordic has been nominated to USA Today’s 10 Best list of cross-country ski areas in in North America for the second year in a row, which it announced to the community at the end of October.
“This is a huge accomplishment! Last year’s nomination and resulting sixth place ranking was the very first in our history. We are so proud that our little community Nordic ski area is receiving national attention,” wrote the Nordic Center in a news release. People can vote online once per day until November 22, and results will be posted Friday, December 3.
“This kind of ranking/recognition helps us attract Nordic ski visitors and high-level competitors to our races, which in turn helps us keep our program and pass fees low for locals. This also helps us get more grants, by showing that we are a national leader in our industry,” according to the Nordic Center.
As of press time CB was ranked 11 out of 20 nominees. Online voting can be done at www.10best.com/awards/travel/best-cross-country-ski-resort.
Daniels emphasized that people can support the cause of having the best season possible ahead by using online reservation systems, wearing masks and getting involved with programs if possible.
“We strongly ask people to use the online rental reservation system, particularly if you have a big party you’re renting equipment for. It is way more efficient and will allow more people to use the Nordic Center more effectively. Please bring a mask to the Nordic Center and respect the mask policy so that we can keep the Center open and all continue to work together copacetically.”
As they staff up for the winter, there might be a few spots left for kid program volunteers and night shift staff at the front desk. “We are getting close to set on instructors, but it’s always great to have people apply and see if we have a spot that will be a good fit for them.”
Here’s to kicking, gliding, and the unmistakable scent of hot wax on a snowy day.