Strong turn-out where there was snow — except in Colorado
The 19th annual Winter Trails Day on January 11 experienced a strong turnout at recurring locations with good snow, especially in the Midwest with attendance up 20 to 30 percent at some venues, according to administrator Reese Brown, who noted that snowsports newcomers were “very excited” for this year’s event. It’s a free intro, which might enhance the excitement. However, other events were canceled in the Pacific Northwest and California due to low or no snow and driving, then freezing rain in the Mid-Atlantic and New England region.
Colorado’s two big Winter Trails Days that focused on snowshoeing were canceled, but not because of weather. REI’s Denver flagship store, which traditionally provided loaner equipment and personnel for the event at Echo Lake in the foothills west of Denver, has had major changes in personnel and is “not ready” for this year. The Estes Park/Rocky Mountain National Park event generally held a week later was canceled because the park’s and the town’s were severely strained by wildfire, the federal government shutdown and catastrophic September floods.
Free park entry for all — plus Winter Trails Day in Rocky Mountain National Park on Saturday
I bought my first annual National Parks pass shortly after moving to Colorado in 1988, and I have not bee pass-less (pass-free?) since then. The two east entrances to Rocky Mountain National Park are less than an hour from my door, and it is a favorite year-round excursion for me, my husband, various various and visitors. We go there to hike, to ski-tour, to snowshoe, to see wildlife, to sightsee and very occasionally to backpack.
We won’t need our pass this weekend, because all 394 units administered by the National Park Service, of which 5b (including RMNP) are designated National Parks. That means you can grab your snowshoes, if you are in the north country (or even some parts of the South, given recent weather patterns), and “test-drive” the nearest park, gratis.
Coloradans have a special bonus, with Winter Trails Day with its opportunity to try out snowshoes for free and join snowshoe walks without paying the normal entry fee. Most other Winter Trails Days around the country took place last weekend, but the Estes Park/RMNP day is Saturday, January 15, 10:00 a.m.-3:00 p.m. again, based at the summer shuttle Bear Lake shuttle parking lot along the Bear Lake Road. Snowshoe makers are lending equipment, the Estes Park Chamber of Commerce is sponsoring the event and REI staffers are adding their expertise.