Aski chal­lenge with brews – and cos­tumes

The Denver Post - - TRAVEL - By Jon Mur­ray

FRISCO » The joy in es­cap­ing to the moun­tains in the win­ter— or re­ally, any­time— is dis­cov­er­ing some­thing un­ex­pected.

My re­cent les­son: Draft mules ab­so­lutely won’t budge when con­fronted on a snow-packed road with hu­man-sized M&Ms.

Two friends sported the rounded red and green forms im­me­di­ately fa­mil­iar to hu­mans, but not mules, while a larger group of us ex­plored the Frisco Nordic Cen­ter last­week­end. We’d snapped into rented clas­sic-style skis for “Brew Ski,” an af­ter­noon hap­py­hour tour of the ex­pan­sive cross coun­try trails at the Nordic Cen­ter. Cos­tumes were en­cour­aged.

Since this is Colorado, beer was vi­tal. At two stops along the way, New Bel­gium Brew­ing of­fered sam­ples, with full bot­tles wait­ing at the end.

And again, since this is Colorado, most of our group of five started the day at Cop­per Moun­tain, 10 min­utes up In­ter­state 70, for a typ­i­cal few hours of down­hill turns on skis or snow­boards.

We signed up for the af­ter­noon Brew Ski in search of some­thing new and less pre­dictable. I in­vited friends to join and slapped to­gether reg­is­tra­tion team names with win­try puns—“Nordic Avengers” and “Guardians of the Galaxski.” I’ll pause for ap­plause. The guys in our group ap­prox­i­mated slap­dash su­per­heroes with our Bat­man, Su­per­man and Amer­i­can flag shirts and shorts. The women donned the M&M cos­tumes, kept in­flated by bat­tery-pow­ered fans.

More im­pres­sive were a trio of women from the Dil­lon area who formed a card­board horse— with a Bron­cos blue-and-or­ange mane— and nav­i­gated the trails on a sin­gle pair of skis rigged with three sets of bind­ings. They won the prize for most dif­fi­cult

cos­tume to ski in.

Early on in our 5-mile trek, we fo­cused more on ex­plor­ing the cen­ter’s ex­panse of trails than on beer stops. We lost track of time.

“Oh, this is kind of like NordicTrack,” Heather said as she and Farnoosh— the M&Ms and the group’s cross coun­try new­bies— found their bear­ings. Lee, Richard and I had more ex­pe­ri­ence and dropped point­ers. It was my third time on nordic skis, af­ter nearly a life­time of down­hill ski­ing, which meant I could nav­i­gate steep de­scents on the nonedg­ing skis with­out cross­ing fin­gers and hop­ing for the best.

As we headed back to the cen­ter, the sun set­ting be­hind a peak in the dis­tance, sev­eral sleigh­fuls of vis­i­tors out on a ride ap­proached us. The mules pulling them hardly no­ticed me and the other guys, since our less-flashy shirts and shorts didn’t ob­scure the hu­man form.

Not so for the candy-col­ored duo bring­ing up our group’s rear.

The stand­off ended when a worker asked Heather and Farnoosh to move out of the way— not just to stand to the side, but en­tirely off the well-groomed and packed trail, where they sank into deep pow­der.

Soon­wewere on our­way, worn out and bat­tered from the in­evitable spills but ready for our beer.

It was a good prac­tice day for those of us head­ing to Crested Butte for the Al­ley Loop nordic marathon. Last year, I learned cross coun­try ski­ing un­der fire there in the 5K, with a friend shout­ing “Re­verse pizza!” at me re­peat­edly as I strug­gled to climb hills. This year, we’re up­grad­ing to the 10K event.

Of course, race eve fea­tures a “pub ski” be­tween down­town Crested Butte’s bars, and therewill be beer­wait­ing at the race’s end.

It’s a nice perk, but as with BrewSki, the ex­pe­ri­ence is the real re­ward.

Lee Cor­dova, left, Heather Con­ley and Farnoosh Farahi ex­plore the Frisco Nordic Cen­ter’s trails dur­ing its BrewSki event Jan. 23 as part of the au­thor’s group. Jon Mur­ray, The Den­ver Post

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