Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Planning to ski the shore? Connections are down

Thanks to a broken steampipe in Duluth, long-distance telephone and internet service has been out most of today on the North Shore.

Funny, I noticed just last week that's not the only connection that's missing.

Here's what used to be the ski trail from Oberg Mountain east to Lutsen. Deadfalls cross the trail and raspberry canes have filled it in.

Here's the trail connecting Lutsen Sea Villas with the rest of the North Shore Mountains XC system. Actual trees are growing where skiers once glided back down to the Sea Villas swimming pool.

In both the ski trails and the communications cabling, lack of ongoing maintenance has led to the loss of connections.

The North Shore ski trails were once a interconnected network of 200 kilometers of trails. Lately, major hubs like the Sugarbush trails and the Cascade trails have been very well taken care of by community groups and resort owners. But the interconnections have broken down. Who grooms the Lutsen connector trails?

If you're planning a North Shore ski trip and hoping for a big point-to-point adventure from say Tofte to Lutsen, inquire before heading out. Those connector trails may not be groomed or even cleared.

If you want to make a phone call...well, those connections should be fixed a lot sooner than the ski trails.


Bryan Hansel said...

They haven't been groomed for years. The golf course to Oberg was cleared several years ago, but only groomed once that winter. It's my understanding that it has lots of wet areas, etc... When the LTTA moved offices from the golf course/winter center back to the Fishing Museum all interest in grooming ended.

I believe that the LTTA and Sugarbush were jointly responsible for grooming, but I'm not sure.

I always thought is was a shame that the Sea Villa connector was lost, and the Oberg to the golf course would have been fantastic for Lutsen Resort guests.

The other connector that was in rough shape last year was the Bally Creek to Cascade River State Park. I haven't skied it this year yet, hopefulyly,, it got cleared after March's ice storm.

Andrew Slade said...

Thanks, Bryan!

I noticed the ski trail east of the Ski Hill Road at Lutsen wasn't groomed when I came through last January. I need to ask Sally N. about who's doing what in that area now.

Adam Harju said...

First I will address the ski trail East of Ski Hill road. That is maintained and groomed by Michael at Cascade Lodge. Chances are you caught that at a funny time because Michael is pretty good about keeping that trail open.
Secondly, just as Bryan said, a good deal of effort was put forth by Lutsen Resort, LTTA, and the Northstar ski touring club to keep the connector to the Golf Course open, about 4 years ago. That winter, we had enough snow to groom the trail once, marginally. The following fall, 2007, there were record rainfalls on the north shore. Without twenty to thirty thousand dollars of trail repair, this connector trail will continue to be closed. That coupled with the fact that because the trail is so close to the lake, the snowfall has been very light the past 5-8 years, making grooming impossible. The connector to the Sea Villas has not had the trail damage that the other one has, but has still been a victim of low snow falls. With 65k of trail to maintain, the Sugarbush Trail Association has focused it's limited funds on the trails which consistently get adequate snow and provide great skiing for larger numbers of people.
Sugarbush, as well as the rest of the public trail systems on the North Shore (and probably the rest of the state) are always on a shoestring budget. These trail systems receive Grant-in-aid money from the sale of the Great Minnesota Ski Pass, which helps to offset the cost of grooming, about 25%. But that alone cannot cover the costs of maintaining these trail systems. Donations from businesses,private parties, and the U.S. Forest Service make up a good chunk of the difference. Help these trail systems out by throwing a few extra bucks in the donation boxes when you ski, and become a member of these trail systems. When you are giving money, it really helps the quality, and quantity, of the trails. Also feel free to direct comments to the trail systems, feedback is appreciated and helps the trail systems provide the best possible experience for the trail users.

Andrew Slade said...

Adam, THANKS SO MUCH for the update. I really appreciate the information. I don't know how you guys do it, year after year, keeping those trails open.