Pinos Creek road was on the bucket list for me to attempt to rollerski after I drove it last summer on the way to the gravel roads and hiking trails that are beyond it. The first 11.5 miles or so are paved, after which a precarious gravel road continues on for many more miles, peaking out at over 10,000 feet of elevation. That area has become my own private “altitude training” for people who live at altitude. It is challenging, but not contains routes with rolling hills – not just up on the way out and down on the way back like many hiking trails. The views are incredible, and the vastness of the wilderness is overwhelming – it is pretty rare to see any people up there. I did find out from the assistant cross country and track coach that this area is used by Adams State for the mid-week medium long runs for the same reason I use it (it is a noticeable difference when you come back down to the valley, especially after maybe staying overnight in a tent and running again the next morning).
The purpose of this training day, however, was to see what skiing the road was like. I knew it was pretty much uphill on the way out, with a few rollers in the middle, and downhill on the way back. I was more curious to see if the amount of downhill would be unsafe for skis.
It turned out to be a little bit disappointing, actually. The pavement looks great, and there aren’t any cracks, but it isn’t very smooth. It would be fine for road biking, most definitely, but you feel it in your feet on rollerskis. If you were rocking the V2 aero off road skate skis, it would be wonderful, but I’ve moved on to my trusty pursuit rollerskis and the wheels aren’t as good at handling rougher roads. It didn’t prevent me from doing 2 hours of skiing, but it definitely was noticeable.
The route itself was about 22 miles and contained 1,200 feet of climbing. There were no points in the route where I was even concerned at all about speed on the descent. In fact, likely due to the rough nature of the roads, I actually had to double pole on the way down to maintain speed. Going up, I was able to V2 the whole way if I so desired, and I didn’t switch to a V1. I feel like my V1 technique on snow is pretty good and I don’t really want to mess it up on rollerskis, so if I can, I just always V2, even when it requires more effort….it’s probably good training, right?
Another concern, as far as safety goes, is the presence of traffic. I think I had a total of 4 or 5 cars go by me the whole time, and at least one of them was a farmer who saw me twice. No one is driving over 45mph at any place on this road, and most people were more in the 25-35mph range, due to the curves. There are curves in the road, but none of them, except for the last mile, are blind – you can see cars coming from a long ways away and move over to the other lane if you want.
The route has gorgeous views, rivers, trees, sweet ranch houses and private little cabins, and a few …interesting….architectural features…we will just leave it at that (the most interesting one – a sort of space age house with what look like shark teeth the size of a go kart sticking out of the roof, is within the first couple of miles, so you don’t have to go far to take that in.)
Overall, this is a pretty good route if you are looking for some climbing that doesn’t include any traffic and with which you can safely descend (so if you are training by yourself and can’t get picked up at the top). It would also be a great bike ride for people trying to get their “climbing legs” underneath them before they hit up nearby wolf creek pass, where cars are much more present.