I never tire of the view out Mike’s Mile. When I arrive at that place where the trail crosses the first bridge and the valley suddenly widens, I am stopped in my tracks by the beauty. In snow or sun, during prosperity or crisis, it catches me breathless—every time.
So this spring, when COVID-19 arrived, I kept finding myself standing right there, gazing out at Paradise Divide and the Slate River Valley.
When everything else was upended, that view was steadfast.
Skiing was when everything felt normal. It offered a pinpoint of peace amid a whirlwind of uncertainty.
I hope that many of you had that experience of peace, too—or some variation on it. While I was out there I saw so many of you: skiing alone, with kids, with dogs; skiing for the first time or maybe for the umpteenth time. It filled my heart with joy.
I hope that CB Nordic was able to make things a little better for you this spring.
But while some of us were here “quaranskiing”, I know not all of you were able to be here.
Wherever you are, we value you as members of our community. It is the wide spectrum of our membership—from the young to the young-at-heart, from racers to first-timers, from full-time residents to part-time residents—that makes us special.
It is the profound generosity of time, money, and spirit from all of you that enables us to be your community nordic center.
But who am I? I am Laura Puckett Daniels, and last July I started as the Marketing and Development Director. Some of you may remember me from my first stint at the Nordic Center (circa 2009 - 2013) when I taught lessons, managed the front desk, served at yurt dinners, etc. On a personal note, I want to say thank you to this community for welcoming me back with open arms. While this letter will tell the story of the past year in the life of CB Nordic, it is also my story.
Last summer, I came back to CB Nordic with excitement and some trepidation. So much had changed since 2013! How did things work now, with so many more skiers, programs, and events? What was my place in it all? Would I find my seat on this moving train?
While those questions lingered in the air, I hopped on board. Yes, indeed, some things had changed! Not only did I have to meet a whole new team of co-workers, but I also had to market and help prepare for a whole new event:
The Grand Traverse Mountain Run & Bike.
While I figured out how to run Facebook ads, Andrew Arell, our Events Director, calmly dialed in thousands of details and hundreds of volunteers in two towns. We had 263 runners and 133 bikers for the biggest races yet. Watching everyone finish exhausted and elated, I was proud to be a part of a team that created these kinds of monumental experiences for others. If this is how this job is going to go, I thought, I might just be okay.
October: Snow and snow cats
But, that was before reality set in. As summer rolled into fall, I realized the bulk of marketing had to happen before the nordic season began. I had to get moving! Thankfully, everyone else was there to make sure our season came together. Christie, Brittany, Andrew, Molly, Kim, and our two Kevins were managing registrations, booking venues, hiring staff, repairing equipment, and dialing in all the infinite details it takes to make the Nordic Center run.
(Right, check out our brand new snow cat all dolled up for the Annual Potluck!)
We got a sneak peak at winter when snow fell early in October. One day Brittany walked in with her skis and announced, “we’re going skiing!” Quickly Christie, Molly, and I rallied to join her, grabbing clothes from the lost-and-found and scraping storage wax off skis to head up to Splain's Gulch.
November: Thanksgiving Camp
While skiing began at Lily Lake, winter dragged her feet in town, arriving just in time for the Thanksgiving Camp. 87 families participated in clinics over the course of three days (317 sessions total!), all skiing right from the Nordic Center.
(Left, Board Member and Instructor Jenn Vona leads the masses to better skiing at the 2019 Thanksgiving Camp.)
December: Junior National Qualifier races, Holidays, and more
We then ramped up for the Junior National Qualifier on December 21, the start of nightly yurt dinners, and the holiday rush at the same time. We were all a little panicked about the timing, but Front Desk Managers Kelsey, Monica, and Benn kept the Center on track, while our yurt hosts managed the dinners. Meanwhile, Molly and her incredible volunteers pulled off the JNQ for 300 athletes and their families without a hitch. CBNT had 19 competitive skiers this year, the biggest team in a long time!
January: Masters and Youth Programs in Full-Swing
Personally, the ample snowfall meant that for the first time in years I was skiing regularly. I decided to jump into the Masters Community. What a good call. I, like many of you, benefited hugely from the expert instruction. It was also wonderful getting to know other skiers through the weekly clinics. I was floored by the fitness of the—how do I say this?—”senior” skiers in our community, but even more by their warmth and kindness.
Being a part of this group made me feel like I was part of something bigger than myself.
(Right, Ski School Director Kevin Koval demonstrates excellent technique to Masters Level 1 skiers.)
While I was chasing adults around on the trails, dozens of adults were chasing the 153 kids in our youth programs. We could never have managed such big numbers without the many volunteers that jumped in.
A special thank you goes to Murray Banks for sharing his expertise, experience, and joy with us again this season. He and his wife Jane were deservedly honored with a Ski-Meister Bench at the end of the season.
This gorgeous bench was designed and funded by you all: yet another testament to the amazing community we have around us.
February: The Alley Loop
Soon the Alley Loop was upon us on February 1.
With almost 1000 registrations (987, so close!), it was the biggest Alley Loop yet.
For my part, all that Masters training paid off and I was able to skate the 42K race. It was so cool to see the race from the participants’ side. I loved intermingling with the other distances so I got to see all your amazing costumes!
It’s moments like these that make the Alley Loop so fun and such a true, community based event.
At this point in the winter, there are a thousand things happening every day around the Nordic Center. Kids, Gray Hares, Masters, locals, and visitors bustle in and out. Folks are waxing their skis or picking up rental gear. Tours and lessons are on constant rotation. And somewhere out on the trails, you are doing your thing. Maybe you were tentatively staring down Mordor, or picnicking on a bench by the river, or chasing your dogs around Town Ranch.
There’s no fanfare or finish line, but with 149 days of the season—these totally normal days are the core of why we’re here.
Just three weeks after the Alley Loop, Andrew pulled off the Gothic Mountain Tour with the help of our hosting partner, the Crested Butte Avalanche Center. For the first time in GMT history, we maxed out our Forest Service permit! We were shocked to see all 150 registrations and another 26 on the wait-list. A fresh dose of snow and the leadership of the CBAC made for a safe, fun day in the backcountry.
And then . . . you know what happens next.
March arrived. We prepped for the spring break masses. And . . . . We cancelled all programs and The Grand Traverse on March 13. We closed the Center to the public on March 15. On March 12, Junior Nationals was cancelled and our two qualifiers, Sarah Bivens and Oliver White, were sent home with races un-raced, podiums un-celebrated.
This is the part of the story that’s become so familiar. Everything changed. The ground dropped out from beneath us and we found ourselves uncertain of even our next minute, let alone tomorrow, or next week.
But, this is also the part of the story that I hope is familiar to you, too:
CB Nordic did not crumble.
While we all navigated these turbulent times, the staff and board of CB Nordic rallied to respond.
What could we do? What could we offer? Who were we, and what was our role in this scary time?
We turned to our mission:
“To provide opportunities for people of all ages and abilities to learn, enjoy, and improve in the sports of cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. ”
That is what we could do.
We could continue to provide you with access to safe outdoor recreation that sustains our community’s physical and mental health.
With the snow still falling and CBMR closed and everyone stuck at home, our groomed trails and rental equipment became essential.
Only now, when so much had been taken, we were in the privileged position of being able to give.
So we gave.
We opened up trails and equipment to everyone.
We made all trail passes and rental equipment "pay what you can," so no matter what your circumstances, you could get outside. We couldn’t give lessons or serve you dinner or steward your safe passage over the Elk Mountains to Aspen, but we could make it just a bit easier for you to breathe fresh air, connect with the mountains, and feel that tiny bit of normal.
And boy, how you responded!
We issued 145 new season passes (in addition to the 1400 that were already out there) and sent out over 400 rentals.
Our rental fleet worked overtime, and even those broken-zippered boots found a way to go the extra kilometer when we needed them to (so sorry about that . . . we’re working with Fischer to find a better product for next year).
We certainly couldn’t have done it alone.
We are deeply grateful to the donors who stepped up in the final weeks of the season to help us pay for grooming.
With the loss of spring break revenue and Grand Traverse proceeds diminished, our finances were left somewhat precarious. But you, our supporters, rose to the occasion and made it so we could enter this off-season feeling safe, solid, and grateful.
We also couldn’t have done it without all of you that kept skiing and snowshoeing. Seriously. Who wants to groom trails that sit empty? Not us. We are here to serve our community, to provide the services that are valuable to you.
So this spring, when you skied (and skied and skied and skied), it affirmed for us that, amid a crisis, we could provide experiences that mattered.
We are grateful to the Tourism and Prosperity Partnership (TAPP) and the Town of Mt. Crested Butte for the generous funding to spread our message; to the Gunnison County Metropolitan Recreation District for ensuring the Town Ranch Trails stayed free and open to the public; and to the EpicPromise Foundation and the Community Foundation of the Gunnison Valley for supporting our youth ski programs. We couldn't have any trails without the gracious partnerships of the Town of Crested Butte and the Crested Butte Land Trust, as well as all our other landowners and land managers.
Our innumerable volunteers the glue that holds this little train together. Whether you served soup, high-fived racers, wrote down finish times, handed out bibs, cleaned up trash, directed traffic, put in bridges, or any of our many, many, many other tasks: