Monday, January 7, 2013

Duluth cross country ski trails: 2013 winter update

When you think of skiing and precipitation, most people think about snow. But it's been rain that has affected our trails the most. The great Duluth flood of June 2012 has impacted cross country skiing in Duluth at least as much as this winter's snow. Here is your guide to Duluth's city ski trails in this post-flood winter, working from west to east.

Magney Ski Trail
At the far western end of Duluth is a large and wild 13 kilometers of ski trails that wind through the old-growth forests of a city scientific and natural area. Sadly, the June floods wiped out the stone bridge where Skyline Drive crosses over Stewart Creek, so there is no direct access to the Magney trailhead this year. Some very hearty skiers are skiing all the way into the Magney trails via the Spirit Mountain nordic ski trails, but that adds at least four kilometers just to get there. While the Duluth city groomers are maintaining the Magney trail, it's really open only for the most committed skiers. Read recent reports from here.

Piedmont Trail
Perched above West Duluth along the city's scenic ridgeline is this family-friendly 6 kilometers of trail, mostly double-tracked and well-suited for advanced beginner skiers. The flood did not affect the Piedmont trail long-term at all (a few small bridges were replaced this fall). Skiing has been decent so far this winter, with just enough snow for skiers to make their own tracks. Bonus for this year: thanks to the extra funding provided by Duluth's new parks fund, there's a porta-potty in the parking lot. Read recent reports from here

Chester Bowl
Wrapped around Duluth's urban family downhill ski run is a 3 kilometer advanced loop. Sadly, the June floods wiped out a critical bridge on the loop as well as parts of the trail. The city will groom a small loop in the open field area near the trailhead, but the Chester trails are closed for the winter. Read recent reports from here

Hartley Field
Tucked into the middle of eastern Duluth is the 660-acre wild area known as Hartley Field, with a nested set of ski loops totaling 5 kilometers. While these trails have not been groomed this year, skiers are still enjoying them. There was no damage from the floods, so really nothing is changed here...yet. Ski planners are considering a major reroute of the trail system. Red recent reports from here

Lester Park
On the city's eastern edge is this giant system with 18 kilometers of trails for all ages and abilities, including the city's only trails that are lit at night. The trail itself sustained moderate damage from the June floods, but those have all been fixed. The major impact of the flood is the closure of Seven Bridges Road, the most common access to the Lester system. If you drive up Seven Bridges Road (a.k.a. Occidental Boulevard) from Superior Street, you'll find the road completely closed just past the first of the seven bridges. As at Piedmont, there's a bonus porta-potty here for your comfort. From this new parking area, it's a short walk up a seldom-used snowmobile trail to the trails. Most skiers will start at Point A on the system now. The snow is shallower on the lower parts of the trail and gets deeper the further you ski up the hill and away from Lake Superior. Read recent reports from here

Remember, you can call the city's grooming hotline at (218) 730-4321 for current conditions.

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