Monday, March 18, 2013

Bonus season: Take another lap

Are we near the "Finnish" of the North Shore ski season?
It's been an amazing month for skiing on the North Shore. Just when you think the big thaw is around the corner, another 5-6 inches of snow comes out of nowhere, the temps drop below zero, and the groomers carve out another perfect ski trail. The snow pack is still building up. The snow is like January, the sunshine and long days are like March. 

Sally and I have been out skiing every chance we get. On Saturday, we skied at Piedmont here in Duluth. Sunday we drove north to Boulder Lake. Both days we decided to ski one more lap, one more bit of trail that on any other day we would have skipped.

The ski season will end. Even with today's snow, the season could end next week. For now, it's carpe diem and take another lap. 

Where to go for the snow
Where is there still good skiing on the North Shore? The short answer is "everywhere." But as temps rise and the crowds thin, you'll want to head to trails that are committed to grooming. Here's where you'll find the best late-season North Shore skiing this year:

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Choose Korkki Nordic for your best ski of the year

One of my favorite all-time North Shore ski trails is Korkki Nordic, up in the ridgeline above the shore between Duluth and Two Harbors. Sally and I played hooky today and took a few laps on this terrific woodland trail. That was the first good choice of the day.

Korkki is a truly classic trail. It's narrow and winding and is groomed for classic skiing only. Because so much of the trail is in deep forest, more snow is required to open it safely. Last year, the trail might have been open only two weekends. This year, it's been open for two months already and going strong. I had to get out there before the snow all melts.

To reach Korkki, drive north on Homestead Road from the Highway 61 expressway (about halfway between Duluth and Two Harbors). After 2.5 miles, turn left on Korkki Road. About 0.5 miles later, watch for the small entrance sign on the right. You'll find ample parking around the terrific chalet. Bring a few bucks to add to the donation box at the trailhead, too. 

The trail is one big narrow counter-clockwise 10 kilometer loop, with cut off points all along. The signage has changed a bit in the last few years...what was the "6K cut-off" is now the "5K cutoff." The trail isn't any shorter, but maybe someone got out there with a GPS.

Today I chose the 7.5K cutoff and climbed to the top of the Iso Maki Big Hill. Looking through the maple trees on the hilltop I could see the open blue waters of Lake Superior and the distant Wisconsin shore. 

Then I fell on my ass, before I even headed down the big scary hill. 

And then I got my skis pointed the right way and took on the hill itself. I flew by a sign so fast I couldn't read it...I think it said "Caution, hill ahead." Right about there, I had a small religious conversion, calling out "Jesus!" just as the trail got steeper yet and narrowed in between two large trees. 

And I made it all the way down without falling again.

That's Korkki for you: choose your path, get a thrill, and it all works out. 

On the long run back down to the chalet, I felt like a skiing god. With just a few kicks or pole pushes, I glided through the forest.

It was all so much fun, we chose to do it again. 


Monday, March 4, 2013

Tour Duluth, an urban ski challenge this weekend

You know how in a Broadway musical, they start with an overture that includes snippets of all the great songs to come? What if they did the same thing at the end of the musical as well? An “outro”?...the grand finale?

That’s just what’s happening on Duluth’s cross country ski trails this Saturday, March 9. Thanks to Duluth XC Ski Club for sponsoring a great event.

Hans Slade, Tour Duluth 2012
It's all about Duluth
Tour Duluth is a year-end celebration of cross country skiing in Duluth. Skiers are encouraged to ski as many of Duluth’s ski trails as they can in one day. There are six trails and over sixty kilometers of trail here in town.

I challenged myself last year to ski at least 2 km at every trail in Duluth. Toward the afternoon, temps were in the 40s and my son was skiing in shorts. and some people actually ski every last bit of trail.

This year: Better, not bigger
The Tour is a bit easier this year because the ski trail at Chester Park is closed and they’ve consolidated some of the long trails at Spirit Mountain. Last year, there were eight area and about seventy kilometers of trail

Conditions are looking really good this year, plenty of snow with more on the way. Organizers are asking that you download a kilometer tracking sheet.

There are suggested starting times for each of the ski trails. The fun starts at 8:00 AM at the Spirit Mountain Nordic Center, off of Skyline Drive. They will have hot cocoa and refreshment there from 8-11. From there it moves to Piedmont trails, then to Snowflake Nordic (Free skiing for Tour participants), then to Lester. There will be more refreshments at Lester from 2-4. The tour ends at UMD’s Bagley and finally Hartley Nature Center.

Late afternoon on the Hartley Park cross country ski trail
The day wraps up with a big taco dinner at Hartley, 5:30-7:00. Preregistration is requested for the taco dinner.

See you out on the trail!