Plenty of good skiing to be had in the Blues
by Rhett Sifford
San Juan County nordic skiers are lucky according to Jason Johnson, who brought his love of the sport to Monticello all the way from Vermont. He grew up skiing with his family there and has made it his ambition to share that joy with San Juan County residents.
To that end, Johnson started the Blue Mountain Ski and Snowshoe Club in 2014 with the help of other local outdoor enthusiasts. He said the City of Monticello and the US Forest Service have always been very supportive of the venture. The city provided the club’s original roller, built by Chris Baird, that is still in use today.
Johnson said, “The goal of the ski and snowshoe club is to give people the opportunity to get outside in the winter, get some fresh air and exercise, and enjoy the mountains.” He added that the club exists to, “make that easier and a little more pleasant.”
In 2016 the club and the city partnered on a recreational trails grant proposal that provided a heavy-load-capable snowmobile and a trail groomer/tracksetter to go along with Baird’s roller.
Johnson said, “When there’s enough snow, we’ll roll, pack, and groom the main road up to 70s Flat and up to Buckboard Campground. If things are good enough, we’ll go as far as Monticello Lake and make a nice track.”
There are also some trails in the meadows near the Dalton Springs trailhead that the club packs but can’t groom and lay track due to their “technical trickiness,” according to Johnson.
Johnson said San Juan County residents are very lucky to have mountains so close to home that are relatively easy to reach.
“There’s a lot of great skiing up there,” Johnson boasted. “And it’s not slammed with skiers the way the Wasatch Front area is where it’s a race to get to the untracked snow after a storm.”
“One of the things I’m excited about is that when conditions are good, we get people from out of town to ski on our mountain,” Johsnon said. “When we get folks from Blanding, Moab, or even Colorado, that gives some value to the investment and time.”
Johnson has plans to continue expanding the Blue Mountain trails with the cooperation of the Forest Service, but it’s slow-going with only volunteer labor available. He expressed that he’d also like to begin youth group clinics that would provide ski instruction.
Johnson said the Blues have seen some good snow years and bad snow years since the club began, including the “worst year last year.” But he pointed out, “We’re off to a better start this year. Just another six to ten inches of snow will put us in the sweet spot with a solid base.”
Johnson said there’s a core group of around 20 locals who belong to the club, and there’s plenty of room for more. “The trails are not just for skiers,” he added. “I like to see people on snowshoes out enjoying them too.”
Find out when the Blue Mountain Ski and Snowshoe Club is grooming trails and get special event info on their Facebook page.