Within the confines of groomed trails and resort boundaries, most skiers feel perfectly safe—but we can sometimes forget how wild and unforgiving the Colorado winter landscape can be.
Even the most seasoned athletes have a story (or two) about skiing out further than they’d planned, getting caught after dark, or being hit by a sudden squall—innocent oversights that can turn dangerous if you’re unprepared and underdressed (and let’s face it, most of us are dressed for a workout, not a blizzard).
So yeah, we know, you know—but it’s often the most experienced outdoors folks who can get a little too comfortable and run into trouble in the high country—here are some safety hacks and advice that bear repeating.
Check conditions where you plan to visit.
This list of Colorado Nordic resorts and destinations helps connect with resort sites and get up-to-date info on weather, grooming, and more—which means you’ll be heading out with the right gear, waxing, layers, and itinerary.
There’s less oxygen at altitude, making you breathe shallower and faster, which contributes to water loss. Add to that a brisk workout, and you really need to refuel. Carry a reusable bottle or hydration pack at all times. Every time. Even on a short ski.
Sure, you know these trails like the back of your hand, but stepping off the trail can lead to a cascade of nasty outcomes—ending up hip-deep in snow, losing a ski or a pole, or even getting lost. Sticking to the trails also protects plants and wildlife by keeping wild corridors undisturbed and natural areas natural.
Watch for moose.
Moose are considered the most dangerous animal in North America (their kicks are lethal) and are infamous for using Nordic trails for easier winter travel. If you come across moose, keep your distance. Stay calm. And wait them out—they’ll eventually move on, so you can safely pass. Avoid skiing with your dog in moose territory, and if a moose attacks, get behind a tree or, as a last resort, curl up into a non-threatening ball and play dead.
Let someone know your plans.
When you go out for a ski, don’t forget to tell a friend, family member, or Nordic center or resort staff member where you’re headed and roughly when you expect to be back. That way, if you get injured, lost, or don’t show, folks know where to search and ensure you get back safely.
As an athletic undertaking, Nordic skiing is safe, and one of the best things you can do for your body (and soul)—but the elements and geography that come with the territory can humble even the most experienced outdoor person. Stay safe out there!