Can you cross-country ski on Denver’s golf courses?

Here’s why it’s not allowed and some ideas of where you can ski in town.

The argument for cross-country skiing on Denver golf courses might go something like this: It’s not like anyone is playing golf when there’s snow on the ground. The land might as well be good for something. Why not ski? You can save a trip to the mountains, get some quality exercise, and enjoy the view without having to pay to play.

But skiing on the city’s public golf courses is currently not permitted. Denver Parks and Recreation Deputy Executive Director Scott Gilmore told Denverite he’s not necessarily against the idea, should it be approved by the Parks and Recreation Board and the Denver Golf Board. But for now, a rule is a rule. And it’s there for a reason, he says.

While there are plenty of places to ski golf courses make sense, Gilmore explained why his agency decided Denver wasn’t one.

Many golf courses in the Rocky Mountains currently allow cross-country skiing. The snow is thick and sticky and the golf courses are closed for months.

“When you have a snowpack in the mountains, you know, say Beaver Creek or wherever, that snowpack is there for the whole winter,” Gilmore explained. “And so, there is no problem for skiers and others to go out and ski and snowshoe on the golf course, because they are not opening their golf course. And if it settles down a bit, it’s fine.

But here in Denver, it’s a different story.

Golf courses are open 365 days a year, weather permitting. Unlike parks, funding for golf courses comes from a corporate fund. This means that the course management activity pays for the operation – not the general taxpayers’ money.

“We have to prioritize golf first. So when you have people wanting to go out and ski the course, they pack the snow. And then it makes it harder for the snow to melt,” Gilmore explained. “So when you actually put it away and it doesn’t melt and you can’t open the course, you’re actually taking away the revenue needed to operate the golf courses.”

If you ski on a golf course, you probably won’t be ticketed or arrested.

When golf pros catch people skiing on city golf courses, they often offer a verbal warning. If that doesn’t work, or if they can’t catch up with the skier, they will call a park ranger to come to the golf course and tell the person to leave.

“Our rangers can come out and let people know that this activity is not allowed on golf courses at this time,” Gilmore said. “And they could suggest, you know, a local park that they could go to do this activity. We have many parks in the city. So there are other places where you can go and do these activities.

So yes, you’re hoping to strap on your skis or snowshoes, you’re more than welcome at almost any public park. Almost all.

Take the newly renovated City Park Golf Course. You can’t ski there, but “you have over 200 acres right across the street at the park. That’s good,” Gilmore said. “We don’t have a problem with that, because it’s open and you can recreate anything you want there.”

The same goes for Washington Park, Sloan’s Lake or any other park with enough land.

At the Rail Yark at Ruby Hill Park, Parks and Recreation is even blowing snow, preparing it for winter sports enthusiasts to test their skills. Steep sections of the park are also popular with skiers and sledders after a heavy snowfall.

For those who can afford to venture into the mountains, Denver Parks and Rec also operates 14,000 acres in its Mountain park systemwhere there is ample space to ski.

“We try to do our best to allow winter recreational activities in the parks,” Gilmore explained. “But we have to manage multiple uses. On golf courses, golf will become a priority.

Michael C. Ford