30 December 2006

Moulton Cross Country Skiing

"The Moulton" is an area about 5 miles north of Walkerville, which is itself on the north side of Butte. I'm not sure of Moulton's elevation, but our home in Walkerville is about 6100 feet elevation and Moulton is considerably higher--say 7000 feet? Moulton has much better snow than Walkerville, in part because of the elevation gain but also because it is well out of the valley.

The parking lot and trailhead for The Moulton is more or less at the end of the road, near the water reservoir. You can drive a little farther up (when the snow is not too deep), but within a half-mile of the parking lot the road is gated where it enters a private land inholding (there are a bunch of cottages on the old dairy farm there).

In the mind of many, the cross country ski trails of Moulton are the best there is. They were laid out by several very knowledgable and experienced skiers at a time before skate-skiing had taken over the land: Paul Sawyer was a senior Olympian and Vermont native, for many years he owned the old dairy farm cottage and he is still the primary groomer; John Mike Downey was an Olympic alternate and Butte native, and he still lives nearby; Rick Appleman is a California transplant who crossed the Sierra once or twice on skis in his youth.
Many cross country ski areas nowadays consist of wide, boring trails. They climb steadily up like logging roads and then descend the same way with few twists and turns. Not The Moulton! Though the trails range from very easy to fairly difficult (green to blue to black diamond), even the easiest trails are not boring. The most challenging trails have steep climbs, equally steep downhills with sharp turns, and gentle flats to double-pole or skate. The trails are narrow enough that you need to pay attention to stay out of the trees on downhill runs. No one is too compulsive about clearing the trails, either, so there is the occasional tree or branch to duck under.
Best of all? The trails are 15-minutes from my front door... Here are a few pics from a morning ski with Emily and RTD.

The ski begins. It's cold out--about 12 deg F. Coat zipped up tight.

Funny how the temperature warms up about 20 degrees in that first half-hour!

Climbing a hill. Nice herringbone technique.

One of several lookouts, and a good place for a quick rest.

Downhill run.

And don't forget to duck!

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