Volks Ski Fest kicked off this weekend up in Cook County, the gravitational center of North Shore skiing. While some folks were snowshoeing up the Kadunce River or adding up the K in their special passbooks, a small group of us did an interpretive ski trip on the Sugarbush trail system. And I'll tell you, we went to 'Ell and back!
Actually, it was a very nice group of intermediate skiers, including a Greek/German book publisher from Minneapolis and a medical couple (doctor and nurse) from Winona. It's amazing how slow you can go on a speedy ski trail, when you're enjoying the conversation and looking for patterns in the woods. But the real adventure started on the little cross trail at the top of the 3K loop.
If you ski up the Onion River Road, which is relatively flat as most roads are, then connect back on a little part of the famed Picnic Loop, your whole route is marked in green ink or with a comforting "easy" green circle. The trail designers that put in this hill and junction at the top of the loop had other ideas, possibly nefarious.
The downhill runs pretty easy for a few hundred meters, then BANG! At the same time, the trail gets way steeper and hits a "T" junction...the wrong way. Fortunately, our group knew about the danger zone. Above is Carin, the guide from Lutsen Resort, showing her best snowplow and racing technique.
Everyone made it down the hill and past the junction, though the book publisher took her time and took her skis off. It wasn't the only time that day I would recall the saying, "Discretion is the better part of valor."
Not all skiers that day were forewarned, and even in the day's fresh snow you could see tracks of people who missed the turn and headed into the woods.
But the trail designers weren't done yet. Having made it down the hill, a simple blue diamond tells you off: