A trail runner in the snow.

Dawn patrol. 

Good morning!

Just in case it is not obvious, trail running is my #1. I live in the mountains though, it’s winter, and I want to spend time in the mountains all year. So, I am learning new things.

Cross country skiing has come easy for me. It’s pretty straightforward. Downhill is another story though. Trying to ski in my 30’s for the first time has proven more difficult then I would like it to be. 

I didn’t buy a pass, which would be the ideal way to learn, so I have to skin up to get my turns in. I have chosen this route because in the long run, I am hoping to backcountry ski. Going uphill is great. I love the workout, and again, it’s straighforward. Going downhill is a little different. I am fine at it, I am just scared. Of what? 

Adventures of Frank going up.

For now I am just scared of speed and falling awkwardly while going fast. I’m not into getting potentially very badly injured.

I am still trying to think of it is a fun way to spend time in the mountains and I am fortunate enough to have the ski hills at my doorstep. I have no excuse to not practice and get a workout in at the same time. 

Despite the convenience of the mountains, the hours to skin up the resort are before the mountain opens and closes. I am getting up around 4a or 5a to get it done or waiting until after 5p. I am pretty much useless later in the day, (and sometimes a few beers deep) and although I consider myself a morning person, 4a on a dark and cold winter morning can sometimes be brutal. 

So as I am already setting myself up for excuses as to why I shouldn’t do it – I am going to push past those thoughts as often as I can and get on the mountain. It is the only way I am going to learn and getting out there is always better then staying in. Always.

The views are always worth the work!

Today we managed two laps. At the bottom of the the first one I contemplated not doing a second because my legs were burning from squatting the whole way down. My form was terrible and I still don’t trust the idea of “leaning forward” while going downhill.

I am glad I changed my mind and we went up again because on that second lap I found some confidence and had a less rigid ride down. I did embrace leaning forward and started to communicate with my skis. 

Had I bailed on the second lap only because I didn’t feel like doing another one, I wouldn’t have experienced how much more I learned just in that second lap. One lap shakes off the cobwebs and the second gives me time to play and get the feel of how my body has to move. 

Frank starts the downhill.

This sport is so different from running! The challenge of learning my body in a new way has been the most fun. If I am consistent with it, I am looking forward to see the physical changes and take notes on whether it affects my running and in what way. 

I will post every time I get out on the hill to skin for accountability on my end and inspiration on yours. The posts will not be as long as this one – just a recap of how it went, how I was feeling etc.

Stay tuned and Happy Trails!

Nichole 

P.S. 20-45 min. of yoga post-ski will help you stay loose the rest of the day!

Just a few of my favorite poses:
Classic Sun Salutations to start and open the back of the legs.
Down Dog – every practice should include this. 
Crescent low lunge – open the psoas and hip flexors which get very tight when skinning.
Balasana (Child’s) – open those inner thighs
Pigeon – hips
Toes pose – opens the bottom of the foot, stretches PF.
Eagle Arms – you can do this one just standing in tadasana, in eagle or even in Warrior 2. Great way to open up the upper back which can get very tight when working with poles with skiing. 

This is just scratching the surface of all the healthy poses you can do post workout. I will add a few of my fav’s after every post and eventually start posting short videos for you to practice after one of your workouts. Yoga has been fundamental in my staying healthy and strong enough to do long days in the mountains.

Tenderfoot Trails. Salida, CO.

Xena takes in the view.
Tenderfoot Hills Trails
Trail: Mostly single track with a little road up to Tenderfoot Hill.
Trailhead: Established TH. Free, but limited parking. No bathrooms and nowhere “discreet” to go. Always remember the “Leave No Trace” principals.
Trail Use: Light, but definitely too heavy in the summer.
Ideal Season: November – March 
Conditions: 50F. Partially cloudy with winds from the storm in the high country. 
Route: Lollipop loop. My Route. 
Miles: 12. But multiple options for more or less.
Elevation Gain: 2,336ft. *According to Strava.
Water: No. Never.
Dogs: Yes. But please don’t be an irresponsible dog owner. Pick up the shit (and don’t leave the bag on the trail), and only off leash if your dog is trained. Like, actually voice trained. 
AllTrails:
AprèsRun: SoulCraft Brewing. Only a mile from Historic Salida. Dogs are allowed on patio. Two years old, a brewery with great beer and a quality atmosphere. 
Special Notes: Salida is a crazy cute town with the Arkansas River running through it. I would plan on a morning run and and afternoon eat and drink in town.

To each is own, but I love running technical single track and these trails have it. You start from the TH with dirt road, but very quickly it turns into high desert single track and is a ton of fun. I would consider it a “blue” in skiing terms, but much more then I was expecting from the desert. This will be a staple in my winter routine. As a runner, I would not suggest these trails in the summer. The high country is open, and this area caters to mountain bikers. It’s a shit show. Appreciate the high country for the short few months it is open and leave this area for winter.                                         

Tenderfoot Hill is accessed by a road that spirals up to the top. There is a shelter, and a great view of Salida.

Christmas decorations from the top of Tenderfoot Hill.
Xena wins the staircase race down Tenderfoot Hill.
We found a cave.

We found a cave. You should search for it if you travel these trails. 

High desert beauty.
Storm is comin’. Sawatch Range.
View of Salida and the South end of the Sawatch in a storm.

That storm in the distance is unlikely to travel over the town of Salida that you see below. It is always fascinating to see the “imaginary line” that the earth creates between the weather.

Xena cools down on the Arkansas, post-run. 

Happy Trails,

Nichole

Lenhardy Cutoff

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A double track trail off of the Lenhardy Cutoff.

Lenhardy Cutoff
Trail: 4×4 road, double track
Conditions: 40F, clear and sunny. Trail was mix of sand and packed dirt. Small snow patches. Mostly smooth trail with rolling hills. Lightly trafficked but probably not during high season.
AllTrails Route: Point to Point road with multiple loop options
My Route:  
Miles: Any distance, mine was 10.4
Elevation Gain: 1,890ft.
Water: Yes, but definitely not all year
Bathroom: No
Dogs: On leash or strict voice control.
Special Notes: Dispersed camping with views. Options for multiple trails a lot of miles. View of Collegiate Peaks entire time. 

With so many good trails and beautiful camping, I assume this place is very busy with vehicles for the on season and not so fun for runners. These winter months will be best. I didn’t see another person out there that day.

Toy on Lenhardy Cutoff
Dispersed Camping off the Lenhardy Cutoff Trail.

While it’s slow season, you can park for free in any of the dispersed camping.

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Happy legs!

Shorts in November? I’ll take it.

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Xena, the snow princess was grateful for her patches of white
One of the loops off the Cutoff.

A good chunk of the loops that I took were not on the map I had downloaded from AllTrails. I was out exploring and it was nice to have the comfort of knowing I had a GPS on me that could get me back to the road. As much as you can depend on paper maps, having apps like AllTrails has changed the game for me. Although I was running trails that were not on the map, the waypoint on the map still knew exactly where I was and it was able to guide me back to the road. Always carry a map with you. If it’s on your phone, make sure your phone is charged and you have downloaded the map before you lose service at the trailhead. 

Un-named creek crossing the Cutoff.
Views alll day.

This area has a lot of fun running and is a great destination to get a break from the snow. I will be coming back here before winter is over and update. 

High desert beauty!

S

Happy Trails,

Nichole