Mountain climbing wasn’t a planned activity during Yampa River State Park’s Annual Ski and Skate event Saturday, but that didn’t stop Kassie and Tanner Yeager from doing so.
Kassie, 7, and Tanner, 4, finished a round of cross-country skiing with their parents and then spent some time tackling a pile of snow about 10-feet tall near the parking lot of the park’s visitor center.
The best part about their impromptu ascension up the snow, Kassie said, was “climbing and falling off.”
The family-themed fun was a primary reason for area residents to visit the park, located on U.S. Highway 40 between Craig and Hayden.
Also available was a two-mile trail for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing, a pond for ice skating, a small sledding hill, and a fire pit. Visitors were also offered snacks like hot dogs, s’mores and hot chocolate.
“We don’t do a lot during the winter. Most of the stuff we have to offer, as far as day park goes, happens during the summer,” said Matt Schuler, a senior ranger at the park.
“During the winter, we try to find something for (park visitors) to do, so we blow the pond off so they can go out there and play broomball, play hockey or just skate, and then we’ve got about two miles of trail right now.”
By mid-afternoon, the event had drawn around 100 people and was on-pace to keep with the normal annual attendance of 200, Schuler said.
While the morning started off cold, by the afternoon the temperatures had risen just above freezing as the event started.
Even during the week, varying weather conditions kept the park’s staff on their toes leading up to the event.
“We had the trails nice and packed and then we got some snow on it,” Schuler said. “Then it just got warm so we were afraid to groom it because once it gets over 20 to 25 (degrees), it’ll just tear it up.”
The park staff waited until the last moment to groom the trail, which ended up working out nicely, staffers said.
“It’s packed and it’s fast, and people are saying good things about it,” Schuler said.
Olivia Neece, 10, attended the park event last year and enjoyed it enough that she and her parents had been waiting for this year’s event.
“She’d been waiting for this because she had so much fun the last time, so we’d been watching for it,” said her mother, Chris Neece.
The Neeces were there for the skating while simultaneously throwing a rubber Frisbee for their dog, Angel.
Olivia said skating on a pond was different than skating at an ice arena.
“This is a lot harder since it’s really snowy and stuff,” she said.
Gay Albers attended Ski and Skate with her husband and three children.
While she was at the sled hill with two of her children, her husband was cross-country skiing with the third. It was the second year they had been to the event.
“It’s just a fun outing,” Albers said. “Other families come out here. We saw some other people as we pulled up that we know that had their little bitty people. It’s just fun.”