Royal Gorge Ski-O, Sunday 2-Feb-03

Tony Pinkham

The Royal Gorge ski-orienteering courses are fully planned, the maps are printed, and we're all set to place the controls and have a ski-orienteering event. All you need to do is show up and join in the fun. We expect to have plenty of maps for everyone.

This event will have white, yellow, orange, green, and blue courses designed again by Matthias Kohler on the elaborate network of groomed ski trails at Royal Gorge (supposedly the largest cross country ski resort in North America). To make things even more interesting, we're adding 13 flagged/mapped bushwacked shortcut trails in key areas between the groomed trails. Each course is made to challenge the expected navigation and skiing skills of the people doing it. All courses will use electronic punching. Rope tows (on a few steep hills) are legal to use.

Courses (subject to change)

Course Length (optimal route) Length (direct shot) Climb Controls Description
White3.7km2.8km50m (1.3%)8 Easy trails and navigation that is ideal for beginners after taking a beginner's clinic.
Yellow5.8km4.6km110m (1.9%)10 Relatively easy trails with some moderate climbs and a steep trail with rope tow. Some interesting route choices.
Orange10.5km7.75km148m (1.4%)10 Intermediate trails used with lots of interesting route choices.
Green11.4km9.35km295m (2.1%)10 Intermediate and some expert trails with lots of route choices. There are hills, some with rope tows. Lots of interesting routes.
Blue18.35km12.0km406m (2.2%)13 Designed to differentiate expert ski orienteers from all others. Expect anything.


The Royal Gorge maps were originally field checked by Tom Jahn and drawn by Bob Cooley. Tom plotted the trails on a USGS base map and included other features that he found. We have not yet used GPS to check the map. Maybe we can get one of our GPS users to do this one of these days. In the meantime, the directors and course setters have updated the map each year while they set courses. Matthias and I did a fair amount of that this year, especially to account for new twists and turns found in trails and to better represent the hilly terrain. Check the scale used--we often use non standard scales for the longer courses so the maps can fit onto the ski-O map holders used by some competitors. Contour interval is 40'.


You must stay on the groomed or marked bushwacked trails (mapped bushwacked trails are marked with red and orange pin flags where they intersect with groomed trails). Stay off the trails marked as maintenance roads (they don't have ski tracks and your presence on them requires us to automatically disqualify you). Forbidden areas, including the maintenance trails are marked on the map with violet cross hatching.

The use of bushwacked trails is done at your own risk--use them with care. The quality of the bushwacked trails depends on the snow conditions. Icy conditions can mean fast downhills (potentially dangerous) and difficult climbs, especially when using skating skis. Fresh snow is slower but safer. Slush can be slow but wet. Be sure to check the maps to see if the bushwacked trails cross any contour lines (a sure sign that they are uphill or downhill). Most are short (often 10'-100' on level snow). The longer ones have elevation changes. See a map at the start for where the bushwacked trails are located.

Steep Hills

The advanced (green and blue) courses include skiing conditions that test expert skiers. These conditions include steep uphills and steep downhills. If you want to do those courses but feel uneasy about these slopes, remember that you can remove your skis and walk/climb those hills (this is allowed in the ski-O rules so long as you are carrying your skis). If you remove your skis, please stay out of any groomed tracks and go to the side of the trail. Also, be very careful because there might be some fast skiers on those slopes.

Rope Tows

There are rope tows on some of the steeper slopes in the areas where you will be skiing. Feel free to use them but we cannot guarantee their continued functioning--they often stop momentarily when skiers have difficulty using them. We will accept no complaints about the rope tows--use them at your risk. The faster competitors will probably prefer to climb the hills themselves.

Electronic Punching

All courses will use electronic punching (E-punching). This provides each participant with split times to each control, and it provides the organizers very quick information about who is still out on the courses. It also makes event management much easier, which usually means requiring fewer volunteers. It does mean that each participant needs to use a finger stick to record their arrival at each control. The control units will also record your arrival, and we can download that data in case you lose your finger stick.

When you arrive at a control,

  1. Verify that you are at the correct control by checking its number on the E-punch unit attached to the control flag.
  2. Place the finger stick in the hole in the E-punch unit and wait for a red light to flash and a beep to sound.

    If the control does not flash or beep, find the hand punch attached to the control and punch your map so that we can verify that you were at the control.

Water and Food

There will be no water on the course except at the start and finish area. We strongly recommend that you bring water, perhaps in a camelback or water bottle, while you do your course, especially if it is a long course. You might find water at the Wilderness Lodge (visited by the orange, green, and blue courses, but you will lose time getting at their water. You can find food and drinks for sale in the Summit Station by the start and finish area.


We will have e-punch sticks to rent for $2--you must use a finger stick to complete a course. We recommend using a string around the neck to hold the punch unless you have a very secure way of attaching the punch by some other means (many people cannot feel the punch on their gloved fingers). Replacing a lost E-stick can cost $28-$30. If you like, ask for such a string.

We will have map holders and string to tie them to your bodies if necessary. We recommend ski-O map holders for the more competitive people because some key placings were lost at Burton Creek when people had to untangle or retie maps that were on strings. If nothing else, you can tie the map to your waist and stuff it partly in your jacket or pants.

You can use touring or skating cross country skis. Royal Gorge has ski rentals (they usually rent the short "Revolution" skis which I think are slow and useless for competitive skiers--I recommend full length skis if you know how to use skis).


The schedule will be the standard ski-orienteering schedule. Registration (includes trail passes) begins at 9 AM, beginner clinics begin at 9:30 AM, and starts are between 10 AM and 12:30 PM. You must finish by 2:30 PM to enable our crew to pick up all the controls before the resort closes.


Orienteering & trail passOrienteering & season pass Orienteering & two or three day pass (purchased separately)
Adult (17+ yrs)$32$15$6
Adult with ski rental$50$33.50$24.50
Junior (13-16 yrs)$17$12$3
Junior with ski rental$27.50$22.50$13.50
Child (8-12 )$3$3$3
Child with ski rental$13.50$13.50$13.50
E-punch finger stick$2$2$2

Training on Saturday

Need some practice the day before the event? Go to Burton Creek (Tahoe XC) where we last had a ski-orienteering event and see Nancy Lindeman for course maps ($2 each). She'll be able to distribute maps between 9:30 and 10:30 AM or by arrangement with you at the Tahoe XC lodge. Burton Creek is a terrific place to train, but don't wear yourself out. You can contact her at


To a weather forecast for the Royal Gorge area (Norden, CA), see the WeatherChannel Web site.

Cancellation of this event is extremely unlikely, even in a snow storm, unless the resort closes or closes significant trail sections because of bad weather or excessive melting of snow. Neither case is anticipated to even be considered for this event. If in doubt, call Royal Gorge at 1-530-426-3871.

2003 California Ski-Orienteering Championships

Don't forget, this is the second event in the three-event 2003 California Ski-Orienteering Championship. If you go to this event, it will probably be one of the two events used to determine your final placing. If you've forgotten how the championship works, we add up points for your top two ski-orienteering placings on the same color course (we measure only the first course you do in any event) and divide by two. The male and female with the lowest score for each course win the championships. Ties are broken by comparing times at the same events and weighing the events in the reverse order of their occurrence (Bear Valley counts most, Royal Gorge counts second).


Have you been wondering what Royal Gorge looks like? You can go to their photo site to see photos taken the past few days.

Will you be taking photos of the event with a digital camera? If so, please send the more interesting event photos that you take so we can include them with our results. Action shots are great.


  1. From Sacramento, go 70 miles east on Highway 80.
    >From Truckee, go 15 miles west on Highway 80.
  2. Exit at the Norden/Sugar Bowl exit.
  3. Go 0.9 miles through Norden village (E or SE of the highway) until you reach a stop.
  4. Turn right and go 0.9 miles to the second right turn.
  5. Turn right and follow the road about 0.5 miles until it ends in the Royal Gorge Summit Station parking area.


There are lots of choices for lodging.