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Tag Archives: cross country skiing

After a bitterly cold day on Friday things warmed up a bit so my wife and I drove over to the After Hours Ski Trails for a morning of cross country skiing. Conditions were outstanding.

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Our second stop on our skiing road trip was Calumet, Michigan were we skied the Swedetown Ski Trails. We love Swedetown because of the fantastic snow they receive. As soon as we arrived we headed out onto the Backcountry Trail. This is a trail that winds through the trees. It is packed occasionally but usually not tracked.

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The snow on the trees was something special. It looked like they had wet snow driven into the trees by strong winds creating a winter wonderland of a landscape.

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Along the trail we reached one of my favorite photography locations. This is a stand of pine trees framed in the snow.

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As it turned out we really lucked out because the trails had just been packed for the first time. Warm weather had made it impossible to pack the snow in the swampy areas until earlier in the week.

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Skiing Road Trip

Both by wife and I had been sick. Mine started at Thanksgiving and lasted into the new year. Once we were both better we needed to get out of the house so we scheduled a Ski trip to the U.P. We don’t have snow around our home and Minnesota doesn’t have much snow on the North Shore so the U.P. was the only alternative.

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This was our fourth ski trip to ABR in Ironwood. They have plenty of snow. They had over ten feet of snow by Thanksgiving. We were a little late getting started didn’t arrive until early afternoon. We still had time to get in three hours of skiing before sunset. It was a beautiful day with clear blue skies, something we don’t often see in the U.P..

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On our earlier trips some of the trails were closed because of deer hunting so we made it our goal to try out the closed trails. The trails were in tough shape in a few places. My wife took her first fall of the season and I took my first fall in three years.

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We have been up to the Ironwood area skiing three times already this year. This is by far the earliest we have skied in a number of years. The ABR Ski Trails are already a winter wonderland with over seven feet of snow so far this season.

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It’s been a tough winter for cross country skiing. Things looked promising in December when we received 18 inches of snow. The trails were groomed and it looked like it was going to be a great season. Then the weather turned warm and it rained. If we can’t ski around here we normally go up to the U.P. of Michigan. Things were off to a slow start up there as well. They had some nice snow early in the season but was also followed by warm weather and rain. It wasn’t until mid January that the snow really started falling. We decided that this might be a good time to head to the U.P. for some skiing before it rained again or the winter was over.

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Our first stop was ABR Ski Trails in Ironwood Michigan. ABR has the most extensive trail system in the western U.P. While we were purchasing our tickets I notice all of the grooming equipment parked by the chalet. ABR is known for its grooming and sells and tests equipment as well as offering training for other groomers. They seem to have a little of everything.

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We had skied ABR a few weeks earlier but really noticed the difference in the amount of snow on the ground. I was a mostly overcast day but the snow was probably the best we have seen it since we skied the area after a three foot snowfall.

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The next morning was a beautiful day but looked like it was going to be warm. We headed over to the Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State park to check on conditions. We have skied the Porkies trails several times and usually found them challenging. We typically ski the outer loop and several times have found the trails to be very icy at the lower elevations. Another time there had been strong winds the night before and the trails were littered with debris. As we started out there was a beautiful deep blue ski and not a cloud to be seen.

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A couple of days before the Porkies had received some nice fresh snow and the ranger indicated the groomer was out finishing up grooming the trails. It was starting to get warm and it turned out it reached the mid 30’s by the end of the day.

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The warm weather made for some challenging skiing. Our wax was grabbing even at the start of the day. As we skied the trail we encountered an increasing amount of debris falling from the trees.  Large clumps of heavy wed snow were falling from the trees onto the trail making it difficult to stay in the ski tracks. In addition, large branches were also coming down with the snow. It was a challenge to avoid being hit by falling debris and avoid the large snow clumps on the trail.

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The next day we skied the Swedetown Ski Trails in Calumet, Michigan. Again it was a little warm and the glide was not a good as we would have liked. It was snowing out a bit so there was several inches of fresh snow on the trail. Swedetown always has some of the best snowfall in the U.P.

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Because the winds were supposed to pick up later in the day we decided to ski the trails that were the most open during the morning. After skiing for several hours we took a hot chocolate break at mid day.

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In the afternoon we skied the Back Country Trail. This is our favorite trail to ski. It is packed occasionally and our preference it to ski it with 4-5 inches of fresh snow on it to get more of a back country feel. On this particular day it only had a few inches of fresh snow and another skier had skied part of it. We also encountered an unusual amount of brush at the start of the trail and more debris on the trail than we had on earlier trips.

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While we had some challenging skiing on this trip it was finally great to get out and get some skiing in.

I was rummaging through a drawer the other day and ran across a little packet of materials from the United States Ski Association. Back in the 1970’s the USSA and Kodak established a physical fitness program called Medals for Miles. The essence of the program was that you would record your miles skied, during the winter,  in a logbook and then at the end of the ski season submit the logbook to the USSA and receive an award. The award was a piece of paper and a pin or a patch.

Swedetown Ski Trails

Swedetown Ski Trails

 If you listen to the news these days it seems the only motivating factor in life is greed. I happened to be one of those folks that was always motivated by the challenge whether it be at work or sports. The thought of getting a pin or patch for skiing 150 -1000 miles really excited me.

Miljes Ski Trails

Miljes Ski Trails

 According to Kodak there were about a million cross country skiers in the 1970’s. Unfortunately there were not a lot of established ski trails, at least in our area. I happened to live on a farm so I created my own trail that ran for .7 of a mile out through the fields. Just about every night when I came home I would strap on the skis and ski around my little trail. It was usually dark by the time I made it home from work so I had to use a head lamp. In those days it was connected to a heavy 6 volt battery. I would try and ski about 10 miles every evening. The neighbors probably thought I was nuts.

Swedetown Ski Trails

Swedetown Ski Trails

 On weekends I would ski across fields, on golf courses, snowmobile trails and a few formal trails such as Telemark near Cable, Wisconsin. On each trip I tried to keep track of the miles I skied. It looks like I participated in this activity for about six years. I have several pins for 150 miles, one for 300 and another for 500 miles. There is also a patch for 750 miles and one for 1,000 miles.

Swedetown Ski Trails

Swedetown Ski Trails

 The number of miles skied was dependent upon the winter and the amount of snow we received. About the only year that I remember was the year I skied a 1,000 miles. We had an early snowfall and it stayed most of the winter. That was the year that my girlfriend (later my wife) and I went on an all day ski trip when it was 20 degrees below zero. All I could think of during the day was getting back to Hayward, Wisconsin and having a milk shake. My girlfriend later admitted that she couldn’t feel her feet half way through the day. By mid-march I was near the 1,000 mile mark but most of the snow was gone on the farm. I still had about 20 miles to go. My girlfriend and I drove up to Telemark for one last attempt to complete the 1000 miles. It was really a miserable day. It was warm and I was down to using Klister in order to ski. By the end of the day I was exhausted but had the necessary miles.

Frost - Red Cedar State Trail

Frost – Red Cedar State Trail

 When I mentioned, to my wife, that I had found the metals she reminded me that I had convinced her to participate in the program as well.

ABR Ski Trails

ABR Ski Trails