Cross-country skiers enjoy the trails of Northwest Colorado, where snow sports give thousands a wintry outdoor experience.

Janele Husband

Cross-country skiers enjoy the trails of Northwest Colorado, where snow sports give thousands a wintry outdoor experience.

Winter outdoor activities show off different Craig scenery

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With snow covering the ground of the parks and trails throughout Moffat County, much of the typical spring and summer recreation opportunities are unavailable. With temperatures approaching and dropping below zero for much of Northwest Colorado’s winter, outdoor recreation becomes undesirable for many as well.

But there are still good opportunities to get outside and enjoy the beauty of the area while its blanketed in white, as well as chances to get a decent workout in. There may not be the mountains to ski down, like further east in Colorado, but traversing snowy ground on skis or snowshoes is a popular activity at a variety of locations in Craig.

For the more rugged adventurer, snowshoeing on Cedar Mountain or the Freeman Reservoir trails, before they are closed to snowmobiles only, are good spots.

But the most popular areas to enjoy the beauty Craig has to offer in the wintertime are also the hot spots to be in Craig in the spring and summer.

Loudy-Simpson Park, the host site for the Whittle the Wood Rendezvous, Hot Air Balloon Festival and other crowd-drawing attractions during the summer months, is a popular destination for snowshoeing in the winter.

While it is not the off-the-beaten path adventure area some would seek for snowshoeing, Loudy attracts a loyal following. At any given time during the week, a handful of individuals or couples can be found there enjoying the three-mile groomed trail around the park.

“We used to get our exercise walking around the block,” said Steve Ghirardelli, who visits Loudy several days a week with wife Dee Dee and their dogs. “This is much better because the dogs have a place to run. They love it. You see all kinds of people out here too, doing the same thing.”

Loudy-Simpson offers a different kind of beauty during the winter, Dee Dee said, and gives them a good opportunity, with their canine companions, to get outdoor exercise during the winter.

The Moffat County facilities crews groom the trail around Loudy-Simpson typically after there has been a significant snow, to make life a little bit easier on those using the park, Facilities Manager Lenny Gillam said.

“We usually do it when there’s enough snow that it won’t tear up people’s skis,” Gillam said. “We didn’t do it last year or the year before because there wasn’t a ton of snow. This year’s been good though.”

The Ghirardelli’s were both longtime employees with the school district but are now retired, so they get out to Loudy most mornings when the temperature is reasonable. They have considered moving, but say they would be hard-pressed to find something similar elsewhere.

“When we talk about moving but this is one thing that makes us reluctant,” Dee Dee said. “I think this is a really special place to have.”

The other popular spot, especially for cross-country skiing, is Yampa Valley Golf Course. The large area offers skiers a lengthy trail around the course and plenty of exploring to do while the greens and fairways of Craig are covered in snow.

The county grooms those trails as well, with cutoff points for those not yet up to taking on the full perimeter of the course.

“We used to ski at the golf course,” Steve said. “That’s a great spot too. Back when we were younger we would come out at zero degrees. The great part about (both locations) is it never gets too crowded.”

Whether trekking through the deep snow or gliding across it, the locations to the east and west of Highway 394 that attract big crowds during the summer are still the places to be during winter.

“People like to use them,” Gillam said. “We groom them enough where it makes it easier, but you still have to put some work in. I think that’s pretty popular.”

Contact Nate Waggenspack at 970-875-1795 or nwaggenspack@craigdailypress.com.

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