Monday, January 31, 2011

The easiest ski trail in Duluth

The good folks at Boulder Lake have done it again. They've added a new trail and a new parking lot to that wonderful network of trails just north of Duluth. And this time, they've created the Easiest Trail in Duluth.

Duluth doesn't have truly easy ski trails. The city is built on a steep rocky hillside that is riddled with creeks. What isn't steep here is deep. To build a soccer field, both dynamite and landfill are required. So a flat and easy ski trail is as rare as a palm tree here. 

Boulder Lake is far enough away from Lake Superior that it's all on relatively flat terrain. And the new trails off the new East Parking Lot take full advantage of that flatness.

The new parking area is right off of County Road 4 (Rice Lake Road). Take Highway 4 18 miles north of Duluth and cross Island Lake on the causeway. Just past the Island Lake Inn, turn left on Boulder Dam Road. Then, after just a few hundred yards, turn right on Boulder Lake Road. The new parking area is ahead on the left. 

The area's WIDEST ski trail runs from the parking lot to the north and west to connect with the existing trail system, right at the intersection of the Nine Pine loop and the Lonesome Grouse loop. They call it the Superhighway, and it's built wide enough for skate-skiers to go in both directions and pass without so much as touching a ski tip. There are even two classic ski tracks going in both directions.

The new campground loop runs through the Island Lake Campground, which was built by the folks who own the Island Lake Inn. The ski trail runs 1.5 completely flat kilometers through the campground. If you're looking for a ski adventure, this is not the place. But if you're looking to take a skittish adult on their first ski outing or a toddler for their second outing, this is the place. It's amazing how steep even the slightest downhill can look to a beginning skier; there is no such hill on this loop.

There is only one problem with this new campground loop. There is a short but steep climb up from the Superhighway to the loop. I imagine all the real beginners flailing on the hill, spread out on the snow like tacklers who missed their tackles on a kickoff return. With your beginner, just take off your skis and walk up this short challenge.

The one true easy ski trail in the Duluth area is the Red Trail in the Superior Municipal Forest. But that's in Wisconsin, and you'd have to wear your Green Bay Packers Lycra to ski there.

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