Excursion

Nordic skiing is a longtime hot sport in Grand Teton National Park. The JHNordic.com website has become a resource for finding trail descriptions and has led to the creation of an alliance of organizations and individuals working on Nordic programs, events and grooming.

Nordic skiing is my least favorite winter sport. That is mostly because I am very bad at it and my coccyx always comes out of it badly. Once, after barely managing to shuffle my way out to Huckleberry Hot Springs, just south of Yellowstone, I couldn’t sit for a week, my coccyx was so bruised.

Because there is enough backcountry skiing in the area to keep anyone willing to get off the beaten path busy for a lifetime, I saw no reason to work on my relationship with Nordic skiing. But then I moved to far east Jackson. May Park, where the Teton County/Jackson Parks and Recreation Department grooms a 1-kilometer track, was a snowball’s throw from my yard. I thought it silly to have such a lovely resource so close to me but be unable and unwilling to use it. It’d be nice to do something other than skin up Snow King on my lunch hour.

So three winters ago I headed out to the newly opened (at the time) Turpin Meadow Ranch for a weekend. Every day but Monday the ranch — where cabins start at $149 this winter in case you’re looking for a staycation — grooms about 20 kilometers of trails for skate and classic skiing. There are trails for all levels, including flat trails for total beginners like me. Full disclosure: I didn’t go to Turpin only to try Nordic skiing. The cabins are cozy, the food is delicious, and the owners allow fat biking on trails, conditions permitting.

It was at Turpin Meadow that for the first time in my life I managed a Nordic outing without falling. And the outing was a real one: 4 miles. I actually enjoyed myself and, by the end of it, was able to multitask — take in the views while skiing. It was a huge victory. Still, that was the first and last time I Nordic skied that winter.

I had high hopes for the following winter, 2014-15, but instead I was diagnosed with breast cancer and spent the season getting chemo. That put a bruised coccyx in perspective.

Last winter I was so excited to feel strong on alpine skis again that Nordic skiing wasn’t even on my radar.

While I was struggling to build a relationship with Nordic skiing, various players in the valley’s Nordic community — from Parks and Rec to Skinny Skis, Turpin Meadow Ranch, Grand Targhee Resort and Grand Teton National Park — were building relationships with one another.

In late 2013 valley resident Nancy Leon started JHNordic.com, which went on to become a founding member of the Jackson Hole Nordic Alliance.

JHNordic.com has info on 80-plus Nordic ski, snowshoe and fat-bike-friendly trails, including 165 miles of groomed trails and over 350 miles of wilderness trails. Leon got the idea for a Nordic ski website when, new to the valley, she couldn’t find advice on where to go cross-country skiing.

“There was no comprehensive guide,” she said.

Leon started exploring on her own, taking GPS tracks of where she went and writing up descriptions. Calling herself “only a recreational Nordic skier,” she assembled an advisory board, “with so much more experience in the sport,” she said. Today that board, the Jackson Hole Nordic Alliance, includes over 100 organizations and individuals. The group works on local Nordic programs, events and grooming.

I went onto JHNordic.com this past week to see what sorts of stuff I might learn. Would the 1-kilometer track in May Park be there again this winter?

Before I got to the grooming schedule I was sucked into trail descriptions. There are just so many, all with photos, descriptions and tracks. And there are so many ways to search for them: distance, location, difficulty, whether they’re dog-friendly, groomed or suitable for fat biking, among other things. It’s a pretty amazing resource and shows that Jackson Hole can be as varied for Nordic skiers as for backcountry skiers.

I finally made it to the grooming schedule page.

May Park will be groomed Wednesdays and Fridays this winter.

I also read that a partnership between Grand Teton National Park, the park foundation, Skinny Skis, Dornan’s, JH Nordic Alliance and several other community businesses ensures that this winter the Inner Park Loop Road in Grand Teton will be groomed twice weekly between Taggart Lake and Signal Mountain. That is 14.4 miles. There will be tracks for classic and skate skiing.

Go to JHNordic.com to see when Cache Creek, Emily’s Pond Levee, Game Creek, the School Loop Trail, the Stilson Loop and Wilson Centennial Trail, among others, will be groomed throughout the winter.

The JH Nordic Alliance will host the first JHNordic Ski, Fat Bike and Snowshoe Day from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Jan. 8 at Turpin Meadow Ranch. The event is open to everyone, and Turpin Meadow will waive its usual $15 fee to access its groomed trails. There will be skate and classic ski demos, as well as fat bike demos and snowshoe tours.

Through Dec. 11 Nordic skiers living outside the valley have the opportunity to win the “Jackson Hole Nordic Ski Trip of a Lifetime.” It’s free to enter the contest (visit JHNordic.com to enter). The winner gets a four-day, three-night cross-country ski trip for two that includes domestic airfare to Jackson Hole, three nights of lodging at Spring Creek Ranch, four days of equipment rental from Skinny Skis, a day of lessons at Teton Pines Nordic Center, dinners at valley restaurants and two days of guided cross-country tours in Grand Teton.

Dina promises she really will do more Nordic skiing this year. Contact her via columnists@jhnewsandguide.com.

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