Golf can be a tough game to get into. Walking out on a driving range or course with golfers hitting balls as far as the eye can see can be a very intimidating feeling.
This past week the River Course at Keystone Golf Club provided a remedy to this fear with its annual Betty’s Golf Clinics. The clinics focused on getting women passionate about the game of golf.
“I feel that there are so many benefits of playing the game of golf. We just want people to come out and experience the game, and become core golfers,” River Course PGA professional Phil Tobias said.
The clinics were free of charge, and rental clubs were provided.
There was a specific focus for each day of week. For instance, Thursday was chipping; instructors had the women practice a variety of chipping scenarios, such as hitting out of the sand and short-distance approaches from the range.
“It’s pretty scary being in the sand, but you’ve got to learn how to play from it if you want your ball to get out of there,” said Nina Jannetti of Breckenridge.
A demonstration was given for each situation by the four instructing professionals.
“It’s all about providing a good visual,” Tobias said. “We find that when we demonstrate something, it really speeds up the process up to that ‘aha’ moment.”
Teaching the mental aspect of the game was a strong focus for the week because if conquered, it can make a big difference in a player’s score. To harness the mental side, instructors brought out unusual items such as a broom, basketball and a padded duffle bag.
“If you can use an aid, it takes the mind off technique and what they’re doing at the time. They can also refer back to that aid when they play in the future,” Tobias said.
Women of all skills and ages showed up for the clinics, but over half were self-described beginners. Brittany Craig was about as green as it comes when the clinics started.
“I would literally miss the ball almost every time I swung. I would get so frustrated, but I only miss once in a while now, which has helped me build confidence,” Craig said.
Cici Karl is a more experienced golfer who wanted to bring her skills to a level where she can play competitively with her husband.
“He’s really passionate about golf,” Karl said. “I’m not so passionate, but I just want to be able to play with him.”
Karl’s focus for the week was using a looser grip on the club.
“My mentality has been: I see the hole so far away and I just want to hit the heck out of it,” she said.
A looser grip with a more controlled swing makes for improved accuracy and better contact.
Others, like Nicole Guidi, focused on more basic principles, such as stance and posture.
“All I want to be able to do is make good contact with the ball and have good posture while doing it,” Guidi said between swings.
Just like in any sport, being in better shape will help you play better golf. Following Thursday’s clinic, representatives from Howard Head Sports Medicine provided demonstrations of golf-focused fitness workouts. Various strength and flexibility exercises were performed including windmills, dead lifts and squats.
“There’s a direct correlation between what your body is capable of doing and understanding your mechanics,” Howard Head’s Will Krueger said. “When you have a good rotational posture, it makes it a lot easier to have a consistent, strong swing and if you have a good swing you’ll probably have a better time.”
Above all, the purpose of the week was to create enjoyment for the game.
“As instructors our passion is getting people excited about golf. On Wednesday some of our instructors spent an extra hour teaching these women on the range because that’s just what we love to do,” Tobias said.
By Friday, things were really starting to click. Throughout the week, the clinic built incrementally from putting on Monday to full-swing practice on Friday. By developing their swings from the ground up, the golfers were given a fundamentally sound form to work with on the last day.
“I’ve definitely improved since Monday,” Craig said. “Now I can actually go and have a good time golfing instead of getting mad.”
Golf may appear scary at times, but the women in this year’s clinic are proof that intimidation can be overcome with the proper instruction and setting.
“I think a lot of women are intimated by golf because it’s a male-dominated sport, but playing with all these women provides a new outlook,” Guidi said.
Howard Head will be giving another free demonstration July 2, in Studio K at the Keystone Village.
Here in late May it’s not uncommon to see snow on the ground, making it easy to forget that summer is right around the corner. In just a few weeks hiking season officially begins, as local trails closed for elk calving and wildlife protection start opening back up on June 15, with all trails open by July 1. Maybe it’s been awhile since you broke in your hiking boots, or just put a long backpacking expedition on your summer must-do list. As we try to think warm thoughts during mud season, we asked some local hiking experts to share their favorite backpacking trails, and give some tips and tricks they’ve had to learn the hard way, so we don’t have to.
HIKES THAT AREN’T TOO HARD
Longtime local hiker Mary Ellen Gilliland, author of both “The Vail Hiker” and the “The Summit Hiker,” has blazed the trail for backpackers in the area for decades, literally. Fun fact: It was Gilliland who found and named the popular Shrine Mountain Trail in 1987. For beginners, Gilliland recommends the Cross Creek Trail, which starts 5 miles past Minturn along Highway 24 along Tigiwon Road #707. At 14 miles, the hike takes two to three days depending on your pace. Cross Creek doesn’t have much altitude gain, which makes it easier to carry your pack, and the shade of the forest keeps you cool. Gilliland said the trail has unusual terrain for the area, with a “canyon atmosphere” filled with “gem-like” lakes and giant rocks covered with moss, ending at Missouri Lakes.
For more of a challenge, Gilliland also recommends Red Buffalo Pass, which begins at the Gore Creek Trailhead in East Vail, or could be accessed from Silverthorne. On the roughly 11- to 12-mile hike, you’ll see wildflowers galore and come across a bevy of babbling streams. Gilliland said on the trail you can also decide to camp and hike the additional 3 miles to the remote Gore Lake.
Here are some other multi-day hikes local backpackers suggested for both beginners and those a bit more experienced:
Four Pass Loop: Located in the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness area near Aspen, this 26-mile loop can be hiked in two to four days and crosses four mountain ranges with peaks of over 12,000 feet. Sights along the way include Snowmass Lake, West Maroon Pass, Buckskin Pass and Fravert Basin.
Flat Tops Wilderness: Once you get up to the Flat Tops, this area is hiker-friendly and provides a change of scenery from the jagged peaks we’re used to. Try the Island Lake Loop, which traverses over a mountain pass to view the three Island Lakes, with an option to hike farther north to Deer Lake. Accessed off of the Colorado River Road (take I-70 West to the Dostero exit).
PACKING THE ESSENTIALS
Considered the basic checklist for what to bring on both day treks and longer hikes, the Ten Essentials was compiled in the 1930s by a group of backpackers known as The Mountaineers. Updated in 2003, the list is now broken down into a “systems” approach: navigation (map and compass), sun protection, insulation (extra clothing), illumination (headlamp/flashlight), first-aid supplies, fire (waterproof matches/lighter/candles), repair kit and tools, nutrition, hydration and emergency shelter.
Will Elliott, head guide at Paragon Guides in Edwards, joked that his most essential backpacking item is “my llama, because then I can bring everything,” he said.
Elliott said the biggest mistake people make is carrying a pack that is too heavy. One way to lighten your load is by buying a new backpack if yours is outdated, which can shave off up to 5 pounds. Elliott said in the summertime one could skip the tent and just sleep under the stars.
“Luckily in Colorado, we don’t have a lot of predators,” Elliott said. “Sleeping out under the tarp can be wonderful. A tent is a lot of weight. Shaving weight by sleeping under a tarp can be a good way to lessen the load in (your) pack.”
EXTRAS WORTH THE WEIGHT
If you have the room, Elliott also suggests bringing an umbrella, which can keep both you and your pack dry while hiking in the rain, and can be easier than putting on rain gear.
Gilliland suggests bringing sturdy black garbage bags, which have multiple uses: you can cut a hole in it to make a rain poncho, use it as a tarp if the ground is wet, and if you set up camp, you can fill it with water, hang it up and let it sit in the sun. At the end of the day you’ll have a hot wash to scrub away all the sweat and mud.
Dan Brewster, owner of Haute Route Gear & Apparel in Avon, said one thing people often neglect are trekking poles, which are much more common in Europe.
“I would say (poles) are an overlooked equipment accessory,” Brewster said. “(They) do take some of the load off your knees and ankles.”
Gilliland said a “backpacker’s biggest woe is blisters,” but there are ways to prevent your feet from killing you after only a few hours on the trail.
She suggests slathering your feet with Vaseline before you slip on your shoes and socks, and wear two sock layers, one thin and one thicker. Also put Vaseline on your skin right above your hip, or make sure to tuck your t-shirt into your pants. Doing this keeps your backpack and its straps from rubbing up against your skin the entire time, which is one of “the things that drive people crazy,” Gilliland said.
Elliott said even though Colorado is dry, there are so many streams that run during the summer you really don’t need to worry too about much your water supply, but make sure to bring some sort of purification system.
“Unless you’re doing a high ridge hike or one of the Fourteeners, those are the places you have to worry about water a little bit more,” Elliott said. “For the most part in the High Country, there’s quite a bit of water for the whole hiking season.”
SAFETY IN NUMBERS
In addition to the right gear, Brewster said one thing people don’t think about before embarking on a challenging backpacking trip is carrying the right mindset.
“The attitude you bring is almost as important as the equipment,” Brewster said. “If you’re not with the right person it can sometimes be pretty tough, if they’re not into it like you are. You want to make sure that everybody in the party knows what to expect in terms of their physical abilities.”
It’s not unheard of to hear stories of hikers who go missing in Colorado, reminding us that there are dangers to backpacking. Elliott said these incidents are more likely to happen with solo backpackers, so be wary of hiking alone and tell someone your route before you head out. Gilliland said especially during the early hiking season, if you come across a stream or creek with heavy runoff and need to go across, take off your pack.
“If you were to slip on an algae-covered rock, and the water’s running high, that pack could submerge you into the water,” Gilliland said.
NOT A BAD CAMERA ANGLE FOR MILES
Vail and Beaver Creek may be synonymous with great skiing, but those who only see the valley as a map of ski runs are missing out on experiencing the mountains by traversing trails that wind, curve and take you to sights no gondola ride can match. Local hiking experts agree that with hundreds of acres of wilderness surrounding us, we really do live in a backpacker’s paradise.
“(We have all) these splendid mountain ranges that are almost a stone’s throw from us,” Gilliland said. “Their proximity to one another is so great. No matter what trail you’re on, you’re going to have beautiful mountain views.”
For maps, directions and guides to backpacking hikes in and around the area, visit www.fs.usda.gov.
May has been a godsend for skiers who refuse to let winter die.
Thanks to nearly 50 inches of snow this month — easily one of the snowiest on record — Arapahoe Basin announced it will extend Colorado’s ski season by at least a few days, with limited lift service during the bonus weekend of June 12 to June 14. Officials could add even more bonus weekends if the weather stays cool and cloudy.
A-Basin is now one of four ski areas still open in the states, along with slopes in Oregon, Wyoming and Washington.
Regular daily operations at A-Basin will continue through June 7. That was the ski area’s original closing date for most of a dismal season, but then winter finally arrived in late spring and brought nearly 84 inches between April 16 and Memorial Day weekend. The Basin even broke all-time skier records on May 10.
After June 7, ski lifts and skier services will be closed Monday through Thursday. The ski area will reopen for lift-served skiing on June 12 and remain open through June 14, with limited skier services.
During the bonus weekend, the Black Mountain Express and Lenawee Mountain lifts will run from 8:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Terrain availability will depend on conditions. Before heading out, be sure to check the A-Basin terrain status page orFacebook page.
“With our snowy and cool spring weather, the skiing conditions are better than we have seen for years at this time in May,” said Alan Henceroth, A-Basin’s vice president and chief operating officer. “We will be re-opening for at least one more long weekend.”
This isn’t the first time A-Basin has extended its season thanks to random late-spring snow, and if history is proof, it won’t be the last. In 2014, a similar round of late storms kept the season going until June 22, and skiers have celebrated the Fourth of July five times, the last time during the record-breaking season of 2011. The latest it ever closed was Aug. 10 in 1995.
During the bonus weekend — and any future bonus weekends — skiers and boarders get access with a 2014-15 or 2015-16 A-Basin season pass, the A-Basin Spring ‘15 Pass and all 2014-15 Vail Resorts season passes.
Individual lift tickets for June 12-14 will be $54 for adults (ages 19 to 69), $44 for youth (ages 15 to 18) and $32 for children (ages 6 to 14). Children ages 5 years old and younger ski free. Seniors ages 70 and older ski for $25 per day. Discounted single-day tickets for the bonus weekend can be purchased in advance at tickets.arapahoebasin.com.
If you want to ski more than one day, special two-day tickets are $79 for adults and $52 for children. Three-day tickets are $108 for adults and $64 for children. These special tickets are valid during the bonus weekend only.
For nearly 15 years, the McCain property has been Breckenridge’s ace in the hole.
The property, a 128-acre parcel along State Highway 9, sits between Coyne Valley Road and the Fairview Boulevard roundabout. The town purchased it from a private owner for $1 million in 2000, but it’s gone largely untouched since 2012, when the town approved a development-master plan that outlined must-haves on the property, including trails and open space on 38 acres and a mix of governmental uses on nearly 90 acres. Planning was derailed in late 2012 whenresidents spoke out against a slew of proposed industrial-commercial units on the property.
Yet, planning and potential construction is in limbo until town officials and property stakeholders decide on one major addition: a 16-acre water reservoir.
“The reservoir affects every other land use on this property,” said Mark Truckey, the town’s assistant director of community development who has been heavily involved with the property since the master plan process began. “Once we have that in place, we’ll have a much better idea about what can go there and where it can go.”
The property is currently home to a defunct gravel pit, the town’s solar garden and that’s about it. But it’s ripe for development. The reservoir would be a major boon for the town’s water system, which is already at 90 percent capacity and could easily reach peak levels in the next 5 to 10 years, town officials say.
“Some of these uses aren’t the sexy projects, but they have to go somewhere. This has been identified as the logical location, because frankly, we’re running out of land everywhere else. It’s one of the last place we can house a lot of these uses.”Mark Truckeyassistant director of community development
The reservoir, tentatively dubbed Blue River Lake, will be an auxiliary reservoir for emergencies, such as a natural disaster. It could also kick in during peak visitor times around the summer and winter holidays. It would be connected directly to the Blue River and, depending on final plans, could also be home to the town’s second water plant, a $30-million investment the town wants to tackle in the next five years.
“We have the water rights, we just don’t have the capacity to store all the water the town owns,” Truckey said. “Right now, we’re just going through the process to determine if we’re allowed to build the second water-treatment plant there.”
But before the reservoir can be approved, the town needs to sit down with the Colorado Water Conservation Board, Summit County officials and the Upper Blue Sanitation District. All four stakeholders must first agree on the reservoir and any potential plant, then dig into the specifics: size, location and how it fits into Breckenridge’s water system.
BEYOND THE RESERVOIR
While the reservoir hangs in the balance, the Breckenridge Town Council is still weighing potential uses at McCain. Not only is the property largely untouched, but officials also believe it could set the tone for growth over the next 15 to 20 years.
“This is kind of a clean slate,” Truckey said. “This property was mined extensively over the last 20 or 30 years for gravel and other resources, so we’ll have to do a fair amount of regarding out there to accommodate these uses. But, we have a lot of potential to start over.”
With 38 acres of open space, McCain is ripe for creative, low-impact planning, Truckey said. The master plan calls for extensive river restoration before more involved construction can begin. Again, after three decades of digging and dredging along the river banks, the town wants to revive the natural landscape first, beginning with trails and parks. One option is to extend the riverside Breckenridge bike path past the Fairview roundabout.
From there, the town is looking at municipal uses, such as snow storage on the far south end of the property near the Satellite Lot. Other proposed uses include space for overflow parking — yet another issue the town is tackling with a permanent parking structure on F Lot downtown — and a solar-garden expansion.
The industrial-commercial units are still on the table — think contractor yards and landscaping storage — but again, Truckey said, planning can’t move forward until the reservoir moves forward.
“Some of these uses aren’t the sexy projects, but they have to go somewhere,” Truckey said. “This has been identified as the logical location because, frankly, we’re running out of land everywhere else. It’s one of the last place we can house a lot of these uses.”
Over Memorial Day weekend, Denver Water increased the outflow from Dillon Reservoir to the lower Blue River.
The utility raised outflows below Dillon Dam from about 900 cubic feet per second on Friday, May 22, to roughly 1,500 cfs by Monday in hopes of creating more space in the reservoir ahead of this year’s peak runoff.
Denver Water spokesman Travis Thompson said the utility is not legally allowed to take more water under the Continental Divide through the Roberts Tunnel than is needed by Front Range and Eastern Slope customers. Because of high flows in the South Platte River and low customer water use, Denver Water doesn’t expect to take water through the tunnel until mid-July or later.
On Tuesday, Thompson said, Dillon Reservoir is 92-percent full, which is typical for this time of year.
Though the reservoir’s current inflow is much lower than it was in 2014, water managers expect to see a dramatic increase in the coming weeks as snowpack above the reservoir is above-average and has surpassed even last year’s snowpack.
Every spring, Denver Water coordinates with local government officials, and water managers to try to prevent flooding in Silverthorne.
As a rule of thumb, 200 to 550 cfs on the Blue River below the dam is the ideal flow range for fishing, while 400 to 1,300 cfs is ideal for rafting.
At 1,500 cfs, flows start to create safety concerns for rafting, and, by 1,800 cfs, the Blue River’s banks can start to overflow.
6 p.m., Lord of the Mountains Dillon, 56 U.S. 6. Mindfulness Meditation Summit County presents weekly classes on Mindfulness Meditation and its application in everyday life. All levels and drop-ins welcome. Area retreats, videos and downloads are also available. Classes are by donation.
Frisco, May 25
5 p.m., Whole Foods Market, 261 Lusher Court. A hiring fair to learn what’s available and what it’s like to work at one of Fortune Magazine’s Top Companies to Work For. For a head-start, apply online at www.wholefoodsmarket.com/careers,then come and meet the team in person.
Speed Masterminding for Businesses
Frisco, May 25
5:30 p.m., Elevate CoSpace, 711 Granite St. These 60-minute facilitated get-togethers will give you the opportunity to connect with fellow entrepreneurs and professionals, ask for advice with whatever you need in business, receive input on resources, connections and biz practices, share your experience and ideas to help others and bring exposure to yourself and your work. (970) 389-4513.
Memorial Day Ceremony
Dillon, May 25
10-11 a.m., Dillon Cemetery. Family, friends and neighbors gather to pay tribute to those who have served and gave the ultimate sacrifice for freedom. Presented by Dillon’s Cemetery Advisory Committee and the town of Dillon.
Memorial Day Ceremony
Breckenridge, May 25
9 a.m., Valley Brook Cemetery. Interdenominational service, comments by Lieutenant Colonel Kevin Black, US Army Colorado National Guard.
The only springtime traffic you’ll run into in the valley of Green Mountain Falls, 15 minutes west of Colorado Springs and a 100-mile drive (approximately two hours) from Summit County, will be at a stop for the rows of goslings crossing the road. May is a quiet time for this small town, and as the goslings grow to be geese this summer, the crowds will start to come(www.greenmountainfalls.org).
“It’s the lake and the gazebo that make this town special,” said Rachael Warwick, a server at The Pantry breakfast and lunch eatery, near what’s known as Gazebo Lake. “It’s just been around for so long; people get married there, and everybody falls in love with it.”
Warwick lives in Chipita Park, just minutes away, and has worked at The Pantry for going on five years. The restaurant is a local staple, where “everybody comes and everybody meets,” she said. Expect to wait for a table on weekends and throughout the summer, although time seems to stop as soon as you step into the nostalgia-inspired space(www.thepantryingreenmtnfallsco.com).
Once you do settle in with a mug of drip coffee, be sure to try at least one slice of homemade bread with butter or a sugar-glazed cinnamon bun.
The town’s “restaurant row” includes The Pantry and, for afternoon and evening enjoyment, an indoor-outdoor pub, as well a steak and seafood restaurant. There’s a post office and a liquor store in town and a church and historic, fully operating police marshal building. Other than that, the town has residential realms spread out in nooks across the hillside and a few places for visitors to hang their hats.
Built in 1889, The Outlook Lodge has been a mainstay in Green Mountain Falls for years, but in April, the intimate resort welcomed a fully renovated, retro addition to its property (www.outlookgmf.com).The Little Beaver Inn was originally built in 1950 as a motor lodge, and it has been redone with modern amenities that collaborate well with the full kitchen and open-air fire circle available to use at its parent lodge (www.littlebeaverinn.com).
Pick up your key for the little inn at The Outlook’s antique and fully functioning lockbox, as there is no front desk for a formal check-in. This quiet arrival makes for a retreat-style experience, and guests can enjoy their time making s’mores by The Outlook’s fire pit or sitting in Little Beaver’s outdoor hot tub. Miles of hiking trails surround the property for morning or afternoon nature excursions, and a particularly beautiful waterfall hike — Catamount Falls — begins 10 minutes (walking) from the lodging location.
In July, the area hosts the Green Box Arts Festival, which highlights the creative process of art in this idyllic, natural venue (www.greenboxarts.org).
UP AND AROUND THE SPRINGS
Still west of Colorado Springs and a 15-minute drive east of Green Mountain Falls is the adventurous and artsy destination of Manitou Springs (manitousprings.org).
Right at the foot of Pikes Peak, the town is known for its rich history of Native American and early explorer roots, its now modern (but still nostalgic) shops and restaurants, healing mineral springs, the Pikes Peak Cog Railway and many outdoor adventure options, including hiking the Manitou Incline(www.manitouincline.com).
The Incline trail is the remains of a narrow, inclined railway, with a steep grade as vertical at 68 percent in places. The incline gains more than 2,000 feet of elevation in less than one mile. The duration of the activity will generally range between 30 minutes and an hour or more, depending on fitness level and pace. There is paid parking in the lot at the bottom, but this fills up quickly and overflow cars must find nonresidential street parking.
If at all possible, hike it on a weekday to avoid rubbing elbows with droves of ambitious stair-steppers. Aaron Foresythe, 37, of Littleton, completed the Incline for his second time on Thursday, May 14.
“I love it,” he said at the top. “It’s a great workout. When you start at the bottom, you feel like it’s a really big task; when you get halfway up, you just kinda feel like you hit your stride and then you just put one foot in front of the other to make it to the top.”
There is an option for hikers to “bail out” with about a quarter of the hike to go — where the trail connects to the Barr Trail. Once (or if) you do make it to the top, you can come back down the Incline (not recommend on crowded days) or hike 4 miles down the Barr Trail.
“You’re fatigued, definitely, when you get to the top, but it’s well worth it,” Foresythe said. “You get these great views of the valley down below.”
Once you’ve accomplished your butt-burning workout for the day, visit the Manitou Brewing Co. for one or more of their flagship brews, such as the Manitou Common, or any of the many guest taps they populate. The cozy spot opened in March 2014 and offers both indoor and outdoor seating, as well as a food menu with burgers, sandwiches and white queso nachos (www.manitou-brewing.com).
Next, take a drive over to Garden of the Gods, a free nature park with beautiful red-rock formations and views to drive through or hike around. You can take a quick loop, or spend an entire day and pack a picnic (www.gardenofgods.com).
GO TO THE GORGE
The Royal Gorge Bridge and Park in Canon City is a little more than an hour away from Garden of the Gods, and it’s a Colorado sightseeing must. After damage and destruction from a 2013 fire, the bridge and park has now reopened to the public.
The fire destroyed 90 percent of the park, on both sides of the Royal Gorge, taking out 48 of 52 structures and attractions. This will be the first summer that it has been fully operational since June 2013, and Peggy Gair, human resource and public relations manager for the bridge and park, said the motto for the essentially brand new park is “Back, Better than Ever” (royalgorgebridge.com).
There are some new and exciting additions to the experience, including an aerial tramway that crosses the Royal Gorge parallel to the bridge — known as “America’s Bridge,” which was built in 1929. If you’re up for it, check out North America’s highest zip line, which travels 2,400 feet, about 1,200 feet above the Arkansas River. Gair said the high zipline, known as the Royal Rush Skycoaster, is one of the most popular things to do there for thrill seekers.
Opening in June will be the new Children’s Playland, which has a carousel, a 19-foot climbing and play structure, a maze and a wax-hand feature. Silver Rock Railway, a mini-train, will also be in service in June. A film presentation on the historical and modern-day stories of the park shows in the Plaza Theater, and magic shows and aerobatic acts are often featured there.
“Our brand new Visitor Center features Cafe 1230 — which stands for the height over the gorge — and a large deck with a place to eat and enjoy the scenery,” Gair said. “It opened last September, and guests tell us they really love the view, and they like to sit, eat, drink or lounge by the outside fireplace.”
Lodging options in the area include a number of hotels, inns and motels, as well as very accessible campgrounds and RV resorts. If you don’t mind driving, more high-end accommodations can be found in Colorado Springs.
Clean your clubs, find your striped slacks and get ready to hit the links — it’s golf season.
The Breckenridge Golf Club opens this weekendin time for the Memorial Day holiday, with play on 18 of 27 holes at the Jack Nicklaus-designed course. It’s the only such town-owned course in the nation, yet due to nonstop rain, local and visiting golfers are privy to deeply discounted greens fees.
“It has been hard to find dry conditions this May,” says head golf pro Erroll Miller, who’s been at the club since its first season in 1985. “We’re 22 days into the month and we’ve only seen (a few) dry days ... People always expect strange weather this time of year, but this is by far the wettest May I can remember in a long time.”
The weather even managed to delay opening by a day or two — quite the feat for a course that sits at 9,400 vertical feet and is often buttressed by snow long into June. Starting today, the classic Beaver Course and challenging Elk Course are open for play, with tee times available every 10 minutes from 8:30 a.m. to 2:20 p.m., pending rain and — who knows? — maybe even snow.
But first, back to the early-season discount. Walking groups get nine holes on either course for $35 per person, while groups with carts get the same for $53. Prepay through the website to earn a $10 discount per person.
Also available online or through the pro shop are punch cards for Breckenridge and Summit County residents. The Breck card costs $440 upfront for 10 rounds of nine ($44 per round) and the Summit card costs $275 upfront for five rounds of nine ($55 per round).
Breck’s third course, the Bear Course, will open as soon as conditions allow, Miller says. Until then, here’s a rundown on the 18 holes prepped for Memorial Day.
THE ELK AND BEAVER COURSES
Since 1985, the Beaver Course has been home to everything that golf fanatics love (and loathe) about the Breckenridge Golf Club: wooded fairways, tricky ravines, a slew of beaver ponds and stunning vistas of the Tenmile Range.
Hole 8 on the Beaver Course is one of the club’s signature holes, Miller says, a downhill Par 5 with a narrow fairway that doesn’t exactly demand a 300-yard drive. It might be better to play the ball safe and smart, particularly on the tricky green approach.
“You just have to hit the ball straight,” Miller says. “It doesn’t mean you have to take a driver off the tee box, but it demands that you hit it straight to play the course. It sits right along the beaver ponds to the right, so the golfer is always challenged with the final approach to the green. You have to carry the water hazard if you want to make par.”
The Elk Course is the club’s newest addition, finished in 2001 to take full advantage of the natural hills and valleys around Breckenridge. Hole 7 is Elk in a nutshell: At 9,445, this Par 4 is home to the highest tee box in Summit County, then drops some 75 feet to the green. Add a right dogleg with a deceptively long gulley on the approach shot and it can easily skew a scorecard, Miller says. But the views of Tenmile Range are worth it, and thankfully there’s only one bunker.
It’s that time of year when people are beyond antsy to take advantage of Summit County trails, and local officials are encouraging runners, hikers and bikers to keep in mind proper trail etiquette to prevent unnecessary environmental damage.
Most trails are still snow covered, muddy or a mix of snow and mud, said Scott Reid, a planner in the town of Breckenridge’s Open Space and Trails Department. Now is the time to seek lower-elevation trails in Salida, Eagle, Fruita and Moab.
Some Summit trails are dry enough though, Reid said, and the town recommends Betty’s, the River Trail and the Flume trails around Breckenridge; the Oro Grande trail near Dillon; the Frisco Peninsula; and the county recpath.
Breckenridge maintains a list of which of the town’s trails are open and closed atbreckenridgetrails.org, and town staff try to update the list at least once a week.
Last updated on Tuesday, May 19, the only trails open besides the Blue River Recpath were Betty’s Trail, Columbine, Corkscrew, French Creek, Hermit Placer, Jack’s Cruel Joke, Lincoln Trail, Lower Flume, Main Street Junction, Mike’s Trail, Reservoir, Upper Flume and Washington Trail. Those were listed as mostly dry with intermittent mud patches.
“People are getting excited and eager to get on the trails,” Reid said. “Be patient. Summer will arrive.”
MAKE FRIENDS WITH THE MUDDY METER
The town of Breckenridge uses signs called Muddy Meters at many of its trailheads. Each meter has a slide with three settings that trail users can update to show real-time conditions: green indicates a dry trail, yellow for a wet trail where hikers and riders are reminded to stay on the trail to prevent erosion, and red for a trail that’s extremely muddy and should not be used.
Ken Waugh, the Dillon Ranger District’s recreation staff officer, said the biggest problem on trails during mud season is when people step off trails to avoid snowy or wet patches.
“It may not seem like a big deal,” Waugh said, but “look at where it’s wet and see what’s happening.”
Over time, people taking a few steps off the trail creates multiple paths or wider trails that look more like roads than the narrow single-track preferred by most trail users.
People should be prepared to get their shoes muddy as they walk through the occasional wet spot, Waugh said.
Another rule of thumb: don’t step on anything green. Vegetation on both the downhill and uphill sides of a trail support the path’s structure by holding soil in place and preventing erosion.
Reid said people should turn around and look for a dry trail if they encounter mud. Tire tracks and even footprints can harden and create low spots where water pools and damages the trail.
“Water’s the true enemy of any trail,” Reid said, and trails built properly should drain water into nearby vegetation.
However, Waugh said, most local trails were not consciously designed over the years and haven’t yet been fixed so they drain and dry quickly.
If government employees and volunteer groups must spend time and funds repairing damaged trails, he said, that’s labor and money not being used to improve trails or create new ones.
Frozen ground is preferable to muddy paths for foot and bike travel, Reid said, but warm spring nights have made frozen trails hard to find in the morning.
No advice can account for every possible trail condition users will encounter, so he encouraged people to develop their own trail ethic.
RESPECT WILDLIFE CLOSURES
Those who enjoy driving their vehicles, ATVs and motorcycles on national forest roads should also heed gates erected during mud season.
While some gates stay closed to prevent road damage, others are closed primarily to keep people from disturbing wildlife during the critical period when they are giving birth and protecting newborns, said Ashley Nettles, Dillon Ranger District wildlife biologist.
Elk calving season goes from May 15 through June 20, and for the two or three weeks after calves are born, they are highly vulnerable to disturbance by people and dogs, she said. Mothers could abandon babies, and if mothers and calves become separated the young elk are more susceptible to starvation and predation.
Human disturbance during calving season over time could mean a decrease in the local elk population.
Two areas in Summit are closed for elk calving. Frey Gulch near the shooting range west of Keystone is where the Tenderfoot Mountain herd of roughly 400 or 500 elk return every spring to give birth. Then north of Silverthorne, large elk herds gather this time of year on the east side of Highway 9 across from Green Mountain Reservoir.
The Ophir Mountain area below the Tenmile Range between Breckenridge and Frisco is another springtime home to a smaller herd of about 75 to 150 elk, but motorized vehicles are never allowed there.
Waugh encouraged those who enjoy off-road recreation to obtain a free motorized vehicle trail map at the Dillon Ranger District office in Silverthorne. Updated maps arrived Tuesday, he said.
Nettles said the Forest Service can’t enforce road closures to non-motorized trail users without doing a formal analysis that includes public input. For now she said the agency requests that hikers, runners and mountain bikers avoid those elk-calving areas as well.
“Non-motorized use is definitely just as much a disturbance to elk that are calving as motorized use,” she said.
Gates in place for elk calving will likely open June 21 unless the roads are still wet, she said. Some gates will stay closed permanently as the Forest Service decommissions roads based on its local travel management plan.
In Breckenridge, all trails in the Cucumber Gulch Wildlife Preserve are closed until July 6 for moose calving and chick rearing. The preserve contains 77 acres of wetlands and provides vital habitat for moose, elk, deer, mountain lion, beaver, at least 47 species of birds and the endangered boreal toad.