OURAY – Tired of the rigors of downhill? Try cross-country skiing on some of Ouray’s miles of groomed trails.
The Ouray County Nordic Council, a division of the Ouray Trail Group, grooms about two miles of trails at Ironton Park, located nine miles south of Ouray and 15 miles north of Silverton, and occasionally grooms two miles of a looped trail along the Uncompahgre River, just north of town.
Trail grooming was handled by volunteers in the past, said Nordic Council spokeswoman Lyn Meinart, but now a seasonal employee maintains the trails, paid at a rate of $100 per week. The Nordic Council bought its own grooming equipment a few years ago, Meinart said, but people are too busy to volunteer this year, so Kevin Koprek was hired to groom both Ironton and the trail north of town.
The Ouray City Council turned down a request by the organization of $800 to help offset the wages of a groomer, said Meinart, who made the request with fellow member Dee Williams.
The trail along the river, with a bridge at each end, is a draw for tourists, Meinart said, but she understands why the city had to say no.
“The council was sympathetic but they had budget constraints,” she said. “It doesn’t really surprise me, but at least we went on record as having requested this. It’s a service to the city, and OCRA (Ouray County Resort Association) is trying to attract more visitors.”
Ouray City Manager Patrick Rondinelli said the Nordic Council has the city council’s “full support” and encouraged them to make another request in next year’s budget. City Councilmember Robert Stouffer pledged $50 from his business and suggested the Nordic Council ask for donations from other businesses. City Councilmember Betty Wolfe also pledged $50.
Many people use the riverside track for cross-country skiing instead of driving all the way to Ironton, and Meinert said the river trail will continue to be groomed occasionally, but since getting the equipment to town is difficult, most of the grooming will continue to be at Ironton Park. There, clearly marked “green” trails trace the contours of the valley in moderate terrain and go through the historic ghost town of Ironton, where several buildings still stand. Ungroomed or “blue” trails at Ironton Park cover about four miles and follow old roads and trails to mining claims on the mountainsides.
And while the Nordic Council no longer sponsors car pools to Ironton Park or “ski and soak” on full moon nights, many people continue the practice on their own, she said.
Membership dues of $15 for individuals and $25 for families help the Nordic Council maintain the cross-country trails, but the main fundraiser is an annual dinner in November, Meinert said.
To learn more, call 325-0480 or visit www.ouraytrails.org/nordic.htm. Donations can be sent to P.O. Box 50, Ouray CO 81427.