Skinny Skis and Snowshoes, by Nate Porter and Nathan Ward

Review by Columbine Quillen

Recreation – February 2006 – Colorado Central Magazine

Skinny Skis and Snowshoes: Guide to Winter Trails in Colorado’s Upper Arkansas Valley
by Nate Porter and Nathan Ward
Published in 2005
ISBN 0- 9748814- 1- 4

SKINNY SKIS AND SNOWSHOES highlights 27 cross- country ski and snowshoe trips in the Upper Arkansas Valley. Anyone familiar with the area will know where most of these places are and will probably have been to a few, although it includes some places that you might not have known, or more likely, never thought about skiing or snowshoeing.

If you are from out of the area, the directions from Salida, Buena Vista, and Leadville are easy to understand and accurate. But if you are completely ignorant of the region, you probably should buy a map to familiarize yourself with the towns, roads, and place names.

The trips in this book are organized according to proximity to Leadville, Buena Vista, or Salida. Each trip is then identified with one of nine areas, most frequently the mountain pass where the trail is. Every trip has a very easy to understand information box at the beginning of its description which includes round- trip distance, approximate travel time, the type of trail (usually a road, railroad bed, or hiking trail), aerobic level, technical difficulty, avalanche danger, elevation rise, what map to use, and other information such as if dogs are allowed. Splitting up the technical difficulty from the aerobic level is great, because you just might want a long strenuous workout without having to think too much about your skiing.

Each trail has a good description that gives you directions to the trailhead, an elevation profile, and a description of the trail according to mileage. All of the trips take about two to four hours, which is a fabulous time- frame in the winter, considering it gets dark early during cross- country skiing and snowshoeing season.

Skinny Skis and Snowshoes is very well organized and easy to use, and many descriptions offer you the option of making your trip longer or more difficult. My only complaint about the book is that sometimes there is a fairly large gap in the description. Usually, Porter and Ward only leave gaps where the route is on a road or there are blue diamond trail markers, but there are a few directions which may leave you on your own for a mile or more — which can take up to an hour to ski after a big storm.

When there is deep snow, skiing can be a very slow mode of transportation and sometimes people over- estimate how fast they’re going. In such conditions, a more comprehensive description of the trail might prove beneficial. But one great thing about cross- country skiing and snowshoeing is that you can always follow your tracks back to the car (unless you are stuck in a huge storm — at which point only a compass, GPS, or search and rescue team is truly helpful).

The beginning of the book covers winter outdoor basics without being trite or overbearing. And the authors also cover trail etiquette, which is especially nice because they mention that snowshoers should refrain from tromping on ski trails — which is a good reminder. Porter and Ward also remind readers to pack out dirty toilet paper, because come spring no one cares to see it along with the wildflowers.

The book also includes a good list of essentials, which will only take a minute to read before any trip and could save you a lot of headache and maybe even a finger or toe. The authors also write about avalanche danger, although most of the trails in their book are not prone to avalanches. However, when accessing the Colorado mountains in the winter — one can never be too careful.

The book also has many beautiful photographs taken by Ward. Most of them are of his girlfriend Andrea and their dog Bucket, but other Salida locals also make a debut in Skinny Skis and Snowshoes.

Overall, this is a very easy to use guidebook that offers a different ski adventure for every weekend of the winter. For a mere fifteen bucks, you really can’t go wrong. Furthermore, there is no other guidebook which presents as many ski trails in our area. Last of all, it never hurts to support the locals — and even though Nathan is in Bhutan right now, he is all Salidan at heart.