Cross-country skiers welcome 'real winter'
With in excess of a foot of snow on the ground, cross-country skiers are finally able to enjoy the trails. "When fully decked out in a blanket of snow, Minnesota's cross-country ski trails offer more miles of skiing than a trek from St. Paul to L...
With in excess of a foot of snow on the ground, cross-country skiers are finally able to enjoy the trails.
"When fully decked out in a blanket of snow, Minnesota's cross-country ski trails offer more miles of skiing than a trek from St. Paul to Los Angeles," said Minnesota tourism media relations agent Curt Johnson.
Itascatur Ski, Bike and Run Club members and Department of Natural Resources employees worked throughout the week to open classical and skate ski trails at Soaring Eagle and Itasca State Park.
Itascatur president Neil King said the club puts in six hours each day after a snowfall to groom the seven miles of ski trails at the ski trail area, 8.5 miles north of Park Rapids on Highway 71, across from Eagle View Golf Course.
"It's a lot of effort for the club, but we're pretty inspired right now," said King.
King added the classical cross-country ski trails on Lily, Lake and Eagle are available for use. As of Thursday, the Troll trail was not yet groomed.
Members also opened the warming house for the season. Water is typically available inside for post-ski hydration.
In Itasca State Park, the North Entrance, North Ozawindib, Deer Park, Red Pine, East Wilderness Drive, Alton Heights, Myrtle Lake Crossover, Deer Park, Eagle Scout and bike trails have been packed.
Most trails at the park run over hiking paths and accommodate skill levels from beginner to advanced.
Itasca State Park naturalist Connie Cox said the park rangers will post daily updates on trail conditions in the lobby of the Jacob V. Brower Visitor Center and periodically on the DNR Web site: www.mndnr.gov/ski ing.
Itasca State Park also has snowshoes for rent and opportunities to snowshoe, said Cox.
Cox said she is excited about the recent snowfall, and the chance to get out on the trails.
"After last year's icy winter, it's nice to have an old-fashioned winter again," said Cox.
Cox added DNR employees will keep access to the Mississippi headwaters available all winter.
Both Itasca State Park staff and the Itascatur Club have instructed novices in the past, although Cox said park staff have not planned any lessons for 2007. December lessons the past few years were cancelled for lack of snow.
Cox added staff have lessons scheduled in January, and are willing to schedule instruction for sizable groups.
King said Itascatur gives lessons for its members on Sundays at 2 p.m. after the 1 p.m. club ski.
The lighter, softer snow makes the trails a little slower, but use and temperature will help pack the trails, said King.
According to King, the week's snowfall should ensure enough snow to last throughout the season.
"I think we're looking at a great year of skiing," King said. "It's going to be fantastic."
Cross-country skiers 16 years old or older need a ski pass to ski on public trails. A $5 daily pass, $15 seasonal pass or $40 three-season pass can be purchased at any state park, electronic licensing location or on the DNR Web site.