By Mandy Cluck, Director of Grand Lake Nordic Center

A gentle snow was falling over the Grand Lake Nordic Center this past Sunday morning as racers began arriving for the comeback of the Grand Lake Classic Race.  This race was once a popular event in the race circuit, but was discontinued for a few years.  But now it’s back and better than ever!

This year’s race boasted approximately 50 people of all ages.  Races included a beginner / kid’s 1.5 Km or 3 Km and an intermediate or advanced 8 Km or 16 Km loop.  The Grand Lake Nordic Center is focused on family-friendly events, and this Classic-style race did not disappoint.  A number of kiddos came out to race, ranging from ages 6 to some of the local high school students.  Also taking 2nd place in the 3 Km was Joy Rondeau, a local gal who is currently training for the Paralympics in PyeongChang in March.  Good luck Joy!

The trails at the Grand Lake Nordic Center cover a wide variety of terrain and difficulty levels, winding through forests of lodgepole pine, spruce and fir, loops that traverse around ponds and wetlands, and other trails that meaner along the Colorado River.  The race course followed a fun course, designed by local skier extraordinaire Shawn Scholl and several other volunteers, including volunteers from the Grand Nordic Club and the National Sports Center for the Disabled.  Racers could either follow a 8 Km loop, which included some fun Black Diamond hills, or loop around again for a 16 Km.

Following the race, the party moved indoors into the ski lodge and Sly Fox Restaurant for a delicious lunch, which was included in the entry fee, of a baked potato bar with all the fixings and a bowl of red or green chili.  The food for lunch was donated by the Grand Lake Nordic Center and Sly Fox Restaurant.  Other sponsors included a keg donated by Coors Light, beef jerky by Sweetwood Smokehouse, Clif Bars from Grand Lake Chamber of Commerce, dessert from Drowsy Water Ranch and Big Shooter Coffee, and energy drinks from Mountain Ops.

An awards ceremony followed the lunch, as everyone piled in the cozy lodge, complete with a wood fire in the fireplace, watching a light snow continue to fall outside.  The following individuals were awarded places in the race.  The Men’s 8 Km winners were: Jeff Stahl 1st, Gary Lacy 2nd, Will Kuhns 3rd.  The Women’s 8 Km: Maggie Barker 1st, Katlyn Cimino 2nd, Valerie Eipper 3rd.  The Men’s 16 Km: Tyler Scholl 1st, Dan Weinberger 2nd, Eric Meyer 3rd.  The Women’s 16 Km: Maria Wik 1st, Lillian Miller 2nd, Kira Peterson, 3rd.  

Many racers and spectators were locals, however we were pleased to see a number of folks who travelled from the front range to attend this event.  We hope to continue this event into the future as a place for families to come for a fun and intimate time and escape the pressure of the more serious and competitive race series.  Thanks to everyone involved for making this a super fun and successful event!  Plan ahead for next year, and we hope to offer this event again towards the end of January.

The Grand Lake Nordic Center is a fun place throughout the winter where people can enjoy cross country skiing, skate skiing, snowshoeing and our FREE tubing hill.  Stop in the lodge for a hot chocolate or bowl of house-made soup by the fire.  Upcoming events include the Grand Nordic Lessons next Sunday Feb. 4 (classes are filling up), the Annual Romp and Stomp Fundraiser for the Grand County Pet Pals and local animal shelter on Sunday Feb. 11, and a Special 2-for-1 Trail Pass on Feb. 14 for Valentine’s Day.

Despite the drought and low-snow year we have experienced so far this winter, our ski trails have good coverage and are groomed nightly to provide one of the best ski experiences in Colorado!  Come on over and gaze out at the mountains of Rocky Mountain National Park, have a chance encounter with a moose or fox, or simply renew your spirit in the beautiful paradise that is Grand County Colorado.