What’s Up With Leadville’s Winter Events?
Virtually Alone, Yet All-in-It-Together
Self-timed. Race-from-Home. Backyard Trails. Virtual.
These words might seem like carry-overs from the 2020 event scene, but they remain central to Leadville’s winter schedule in the new year as well. In fact, for the events that are even going to take place during the colder months, most have new organizational models in place to adjust to COVID-19 health restrictions and public safety concerns. It’s a bit of a good-news, not-so-good-news, and bad-news scenario as organizers join with community leaders to try to figure it out. Here’s what Leadville Today (LT) knows so far about having some fun in the snow in the coming months.
But first, it’s worth noting that Lake County is open for outdoor recreation. Ski the Mineral Belt Trail, ice fish at Twin Lakes (stop in the Village!) or take your fat bike on some of the new trails the Cloud City Wheelers built out at Turquoise Lake last year. And LT encourages visitors to rent equipment or buy some new gear from the more than five local shops that rely on your business to keep their doors open! Get out there and enjoy the outdoors safely, and support the hard-working entrepreneurs in Leadville Today!
Leadville Winter Mountain Bike Series
“The Leadville Winter Mountain Bike Series has been changed to a self-timed series of rides (run, ski) to protect the health and safety of our community while encouraging trail users to get out and enjoy Leadville’s amazing winter trails,” said Sterling Mudge, Executive Director of The Cloud City Wheelers, Leadville’s local bike club.
Shifting to this style of event will allow participants to time themselves over the course of two weekends thus eliminating the typical mass start that the series enjoys during normal years. This change will also allow snowshoers and skiers to participate in their own categories in an effort to increase participation. The Leadville Winter Mountain Bike Series is typically the Cloud City Wheelers largest fundraising event with 100% of the proceeds being put directly back into the Lake County trails community. So please support them through this virtual season. All the details and registration HERE.
“The Pandemic might have changed things around a bit, but not enough to stop us from doing what we love,” concluded Mudge.
www.cloudcitywheelers.com Thanks to the @cloudcitywheelers for keeping ‘em spinning thru the snow – and pandemic.
Leadville Loppet Raises Funds for MBT
If February is considered the month of love then it’s the perfect time to show your LOVE for the Mineral Belt Trail by participating in its major fundraiser: The Leadville Loppet.
“I love the Mineral Belt!”
“I’m out on the MBT every day when I’m in Leadville.”
“SA-weet, I was the only one out there. You’re lucky to have that in your backyard.”
First held back in 2003, this skinny ski race has grown to not only raise funds for trail work and maintenance but also attract top Nordic competitors from across the region. That was apparent in last year’s Loppet with record participation. Read the 2020 Leadville Loppet report.
The Leadville Loppet 2020
However, this year’s Leadville Loppet will look a little different. After the organizer’s Zoom meeting earlier this week, it was announced on the Leadville Loppet website that “In the interest of the health and safety of our community, we are going virtual this year.”
And the good news is that you’ll have all month to do it! From February 1 through February 28, 2021, Leadville Loppet competitors will log their skied (classic and skate) kilometers in RunSignUp from wherever you are racing. Once a milestone distance is reached, you will receive a fun Leadville-themed digital badge via email. Register to participate and donate an additional $25 to receive a Melanzana Leadville Loppet hat.
While the favorite awards ceremony and soup-fest will not take place this year, please note that 100% of the proceeds will go towards winter grooming of the Mineral Belt Trail.
“We hope that you’ll join us in celebrating the beauty of Leadville and cross-country skiing from wherever you are in the world!” the group stated. DONATE HERE.
Leadville Ski Joring
Colorado is known around the world for its outdoor winter recreation: skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing, ice skating, hockey, ice fishing. But when it comes to the boisterous sport of skijoring, Leadville sits tall in the saddle at 10,152 feet with a race course that is surrounded by some of the state’s most notable historic buildings, not to mention Colorado’s two highest peaks.
If ever there was a Wild West show, this is it. In fact, last year’s rodeo of skier and horse racing on historic Harrison Avenue was the last hurray before the world shutdown from the Coronavirus. So, what’s in store this year for the first weekend in March 2021?
“What I know for sure,” Leadville Ski Joring (LSJ) organizer Duffy Counsell told Leadville Today, ”is that we’re NOT going to have the event on the Avenue. What I know for sure, is that there’s NOT going to be any spectators allowed at the event. And that’s all we know for sure, for right now.”
With a no-go on the avenue and a no-go for fans, the LSJ crew is looking into options for holding the competition on private land with options for possibly live-streaming the event. Stay tuned to Leadville Today for the latest when it comes to news about your favorite winter sporting events!
“We’re trudging through the mud right now, but hope to have the event this year,” concluded Counsel. If you’ve got any bright ideas or good horse sense, contact the crew at email@example.com or call Duffy directly at 970-471-5535.
UPDATE Jan. 24: Leadville Ski Joring organizer Duffy Counsell updated LT on where things stand for this year’s LSJ competition. Earlier this month it was reported that the event will NOT be held on Harrison Avenue and there will NOT be any spectators allowed at the event, per local public health restriction. Since then, a plan is being considered to slide the racecourse down to McWethy Drive at W. 6th Street by the Rodeo Grounds and Community Park. McWethy would be closed with limited access from County Road 4 (road to Turquoise Lake) – and the racecourse could possibly “run-out” along McWethy as it curves towards the Evergreen Cemetery. No spectators would be allowed to watch the Granddaddy of ‘Em All of ski joing, but there are discussions about live streaming. Follow the conversation on the LT Facebook Page.
Twin Lakes Ice Fishing Derby
The Leadville Rod and Gun Club announced earlier this month that they have canceled the 2021 Ice Fishing Derby at Twin Lakes.
“After long and stressful consideration we have decided to cancel the derby this year. We have been out on the ice the last couple of weeks seeing how we could make it work. We could definitely do the social distancing on the lake. But to get the fish properly weighed in we wouldn’t be able to social distance. At this time we don’t have the ability to have a virtual ceremony on Sunday. We are definitely heartbroken over our decision.” – Rod & Gun Facebook Page.
It would have been year #23 for the event that brings hundreds of ice fishing enthusiasts into southern Lake County from all around the state and across the region every February. While the derby did have a gap year in 2016 as the event transitioned to new organizers, it came back with a vengeance in 2017 and has grown in popularity each year since with over 300 competitors in 2019.
“That really sucks,” posted Andy Wald after reading the announcement on social media. Wald is General Manager for the Twin Lakes Inn and a big proponent of the annual winter event both personally and professionally. “I thought that could be a safe event.”
While others echoed similar sentiments, in the end, organizers had to weigh the cost-benefit when it comes to a variety of issues. As the longest continuous ice fishing tournament in the state, the derby begins early Saturday and runs through noon on Sunday. Planning for the event can be time-consuming for the all-volunteer team under the best of circumstances. The added restrictions and monitoring that would be necessary under the Lake County Public Health Department’s guidelines were determined to be enough of a deterrent to cancel the 2021 event. Organizers hope to have a big comeback in 2022.
Of course, the area and Twin Lakes are open to the public. In fact, during a recent trip to the saloon at the Twin Lakes Inn, Wald reported that the Inn has had an okay time of it, working their way through the pandemic challenges, especially for the dining and lodging industry.
“We’re doing okay, all things considered,” he said, explaining that their restaurant delivery service has been strong. Additionally, more and more people are becoming aware of their pantry items, a big convenience in the remote village of Twin Lakes that sits at the end of the line on Highway 82. This time of year Independence Pass is closed for the winter season, not to re-open until Memorial Day Weekend and supplies can be scarce.
However, the Twin Lakes Inn and Saloon is the only business in the Village that remains open during the winter months. And with COVID-19 public health restrictions still in place, Wald and his crew have re-modeled their set-up to meet the limited in-person options and expand their pick-up and delivery services in the area. Wald concluded that the increase in the number of short-term vacation rentals in the areas has definitely helped them navigate the Coronavirus challenges.
There have already been a robust number of ice fishing shacks spotted on Twin Lakes as the ice set up. Be sure to stop into the Twin Lakes Inn – located in the heart of the village – if you’re in the area for skiing, snowmobiling and yes, even ice fishing – it just won’t be for the derby this year!
That’s a wrap for the Leadville Today Winter Events 2021 round-up report. If you have anything to add reach out at firstname.lastname@example.org. Otherwise, get ut there have some winter fun, and support Lake County’s upcoming events virtually – and financially!