Grooming operations to begin December 17 — snow conditions permitting


In case you’re wond’rin …

Why are so many ski resorts opening early but grooming operations on the West Elk trails have not yet begun?

In a word – snowmaking. The ski resorts have it – the West Elk trails don’t.

Up on the Flat Tops we rely on Mother Nature to provide the snowpack that creates a base for our grooming operations. The West Elk trail system’s rolling meadows and meandering gullies require several feet – not inches – of snow for good coverage. Not to mention we need plenty of snow to fill in those deep ruts on Hwy 819. Our groomers have miles of fencing and acres of wetlands to contend with as they consider the readiness of the snow for grooming.

Early season snow settles, soaks in, and melts easily. We need three major snowstorms that dump at least 8 inches and more. And most of that snow has to stay on the ground in order to provide enough snow for grooming.

Running snowmobiles on the trails covered by less than two feet of snow can be dangerous because of fencing and other trail hazards that get covered up by deeper snow. Running snowmobiles on thin snowpack damages the machines, the environment, and disturbs the wildlife. During this time, elk, deer and other critters are settling into their winter habitat.

Snow conditions permitting, the current plan is to assemble volunteers and begin grooming operations on December 17. Watch this blog for updates and/or changes in schedule.

In the meantime, remember that the West Elk trails are always open. You are welcome to head on up anytime and enjoy early season back country skiing and snowshoeing before grooming operations begin. If you do go, snap a photo and send it over. We like to know what conditions are like up there. Email photos or trail reports to:

This month West Elk Trails Inc received a grant for trail maintenance from the Rifle Community Foundation. We thank them for their support!

Please donate today!

West Elk Trails Inc is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization.
Your donations are tax deductible.

Click here to print West Elk Trails Inc Membership Form



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