March, 5th, 2019 at 10:52 am
Three years ago, when I first met National Masters Champion and 50-year ski veteran Toby Morse, he was dreaming of grooming world-class Nordic ski trails at an unused section of Powderhorn Mountain. The Grand Mesa, he noted, has the perfect combination of terrain, elevation, and climate to create Nordic skiing gold. His deep blue eyes glowed with possibility as he explained his vision: he’d already secured access with Powderhorn, allowing him to open a Nordic sports center where snow connoisseurs could enjoy challenging trails to prep for ski races and improve their overall fitness. What he needed now was a good snowcat to groom the trails into uniform, corduroy lines.
But that was impossible. A quick internet search showed a new snowcat cost $300,000–the going price of a middle class home–and Toby did not have that much cash in hand. Not one to give up, Toby kept searching and stumbled miraculously on a YouTube video of a snowcat for sale at the Latigo Ranch in Kremmling. She was old, a 1994 Bombardier 400, retired after her tenure at the Breckenridge Ski Resort, but she had been well cared for, and she was cheap. Toby made an offer, and Latigo Ranch accepted.
Now to come up with the money. The sum was far more reasonable, but still significant. Toby created a GoFundMe page to rally his friends and family, and he put some property for sale. It was barely enough, but it was enough, and he contacted Latigo Ranch, excited to bring the old Bombardier to her new home.
Then another roadblock, this one literal: Latigo Ranch was being evacuated due to wildfire, and no one was allowed in except emergency personnel. Toby would have to wait until the fire marshal gave the all-clear. Two agonizing weeks went by, only to have the wind whip up an ember and set the other side of Latigo Ranch ablaze. Toby waited daily for an update, and finally, firefighters were able to secure the entire ranch.
Toby could pick up the Bombardier any time he liked, but what he hadn’t
counted on was the shipping. With a top speed of 3 miles an hour, Toby couldn’t just drive her 200 miles home. She would need to be towed, and due
to her girth she had to be labeled “wide load” and escorted by pilot car. That added an extra $1500 to the price, and there was no other way to cover that in a timely manner except for Toby, who believed in his Nordic ski center with his whole being, to take it from his personal savings account.
Three years later, the spunky Bombardier 400 is hard at work on the world’s longest flat-topped mountain, and she even has a name. When you come up to the Odin Sports Center at Powderhorn, you’ll see Jennifer proudly parked out front after a day of grooming world-class Nordic trails. Jennifer makes beautiful, clean lines in the snow, enticing snow connoisseurs to don
skis, glide the trails, and breath deeply of the breathtaking views–just as Toby envisioned when I first met him. Jennifer is part of the magic of the Odin
Sports Center, a winter paradise where you can unplug and recharge.
Why the name Jennifer? It’s one of the most frequently asked questions of the young skiers who are all fascinated with Jennifer’s impressive height and treads. Toby awarded the highest GoFundMe donor–his loving sister–with the honorable namesake, spray-painting it yellow in stenciled letters along the cab. -Leah Kenyon
You are warmly invited to come visit Jennifer and the amazing trails she creates. This week, Jennifer needed $500 in repairs, and Toby needs a bit of help in keeping Jennifer in tip top shape. Will you make a donation? Donations over $50 receive a personalized thank-you certificate in Jennifer’s “handwriting” and a free day pass. Donations of $100 or more receive a before-and-after photo shoot of trail grooming in honor or memory of you or a loved one and a 2019-2020 season pass. Donate here.