NORDIC SKIING/WINTER SPORTS
Christina Roberts, 30, St. Louis Park
Day job: Catastrophe modeling analyst, Validus Reinsurance
I spend most of my summer training for and racing in triathlons, but once the snow falls, I switch gears to whatever winter activity is available — last year it was cross-country skiing and some fat tire biking. Cross-country skiing is the perfect cross training for me, and I have found that while I can still be competitive while racing, I also get just as much thrill out of being outside and playing around in the snow with friends. Also, watching the sunrise during a morning ski on the freshly groomed trails at Hyland Lake Park Reserve is the best way to start the day.
My favorite ski trails are Hyland Lake and Theodore Wirth Park. Both offer different challenges and terrain for the full spectrum of skiing abilities. We are incredibly lucky that they make snow to give us a head start on the season. When we do get natural snow, the number of places to ski grows exponentially, and I can find great trails at many local golf courses and parks (Battle Creek in east metro, Lake Rebecca and Carver in west metro, etc.). As soon as the first snowflake falls, I’m scanning the trail reports on skinnyski.com to check out which trails are groomed and ready to go.
What keeps me motivated to get outside to enjoy the winter is the camaraderie of others who share that passion, and racing. I always reserve my weekends to race in the City of Lakes Loppet Ski Festival in Minneapolis and the American Birkebeiner in Hayward, Wis. Loppet weekend offers something for everyone and is one of my favorites of the year in Minneapolis. Birkie fever is a real thing, and it is hard to describe the incredible atmosphere of skiers and spectators that make this a world-class event. Finishing the race on Main Street in front of a roaring crowd and celebrating with friends, new and old, keeps a smile on my face the entire weekend. I borrowed a fat tire bike last year to race in the St. Paul Winter Carnival’s winter triathlon and the Fat Bike Birkie and had a blast. I will definitely be going back next year for more adventure.
Compiled by Bob Timmons
Eric Swenson, 54, St. Michael (member of Minnesota United Snowmobilers Association and three local clubs)
Day job: Media production manager, General Mills
I look forward to the snowfall and winter every year to enjoy the sport of snowmobiling. I begin the season by putting up trail signs with snowmobile club volunteers and by assisting with youth safety training certifications for snowmobiling. I feel it’s important to promote safe and responsible snowmobiling. I belong to three local clubs and am a member of Minnesota United Snowmobilers Association. The clubs manage and maintain the trails in the area, working with landowners, setting trail signs and grooming trails. (My local clubs maintain more than 70 miles of trails.) Become a member of a club if you own a snowmobile whether or not you have the time to be an active member. Clubs offer snowmobile and community activities and raise money for grants and scholarships.
There are more than 22,000 miles of trails in Minnesota. So, whether I just want to take a short trip from my home and enjoy the trails around St. Michael, or take a weekend trip on any of the other fine trails throughout Minnesota, there are plenty for the choosing. I find myself traveling Up North most often to ride the Arrowhead and North Shore state trails. I’m able to ride from my house to the trails in Albertville, Otsego, St. Michael and Hanover when we have good snow on the ground. The trails in the area are heavily used because they’re so convenient, but there are more roads to cross and hazards to watch for vs. riding in rural areas. I can go anywhere in the state from our local system by using what are called corridor trails. They are a network of trails that connect the state snowmobile trail system, which was established by the Minnesota United Snowmobilers Association.
Anyone who would like to enjoy the beauty of the backwoods of Minnesota should try snowmobiling, which is the easiest way to get into the woods and see the snowy scenery. Today’s snowmobiles are designed for efficiency. They are quieter, get better gas mileage, and don’t have the oil smell that they used to. There are several motor sports retailers in northern Minnesota that rent snowmobiles. Clothing also is a lot lighter and warmer. If you go, be sure to plan your day to include a stop for lunch at one of the local restaurants on the trail.
Compiled by Bob Timmons
Mike Dunker, 43, Center City
Day job: Interpretive naturalist at Wild River State Park, Center City, Minn.
Winter provides such a great opportunity to get outside and experience nature in a pristine state. My favorite activity is throwing on a pair of snowshoes and heading out into the woods. I especially like getting out just after a fresh snowfall. It gets to be like a whole new world out there. The great thing about snowshoes is getting off the trail. Walking on top of fresh powder definitely provides that sense of adventure.
I prefer the old-fashioned wooden snowshoes for hikes when I intend to do some wildlife watching. They are much quieter and provide a better opportunity to see and hear wildlife. The lightweight, modern, aluminum snowshoes are my choice of footwear for longer treks where just getting outside is my main purpose.
My camera accompanies me on my treks. Capturing the spirit of winter in photos of ice, frost and snow close-ups bring me into the moment. Winter waterfalls are some of my favorite photos targets. Anywhere you go in the state has beauty, and state parks provide some of the best opportunities to experience it. I have had to occasionally hit the North Shore to find enough snow to make it worthwhile. I definitely suggest one of the candlelight ski and snowshoe events offered by many local parks.
Compiled by Joe Albert
Jake Morgan, 26, Minneapolis
Day job: Program director/junior head coach, Endurance United outdoors club
I love cross-country skiing because it keeps me outside and active all year. That sounds cliché, but it always makes me smile to hear people talk about getting back in shape in the spring, when I know that I’m probably in my best shape going into the winter and in the middle of the winter. This is also the most common reason people have when I ask them why they love skiing, especially in a place like Minnesota that tends to be brutally cold and gray all winter. It’s nice to get excited about a forecast in the single digits with snow instead of dreading it.
Skiing can take you to some pretty cool places. I grew up in Bozeman, Mont., which is a cool place in itself, but I’ve had the opportunity to go to some awesome places throughout my racing and coaching career: Truckee, Calif.; Soldier Hollow, Utah; Sun Valley, Idaho; Jackson Hole, Wyo.; Lake Placid, N.Y.; Grand Marais, Minn.; and most recently, Canmore, Alberta, with the Endurance United Junior Team for a training camp. There are so many more ski destinations that I have yet to experience. I would love to have the opportunity to travel to the Scandinavian countries. Some of the middle European countries have some of the prettiest skiing in the world, too.
There’s a great community around cross-country skiing. It’s a relatively small group of people (although larger in this region of the country than most). If you become involved in the sport, join some groups or clubs like Endurance United, and do some races. You start to get to know people pretty quickly. You can become part of a larger national community of skiers. It’s great to have that community that you see and spend time with at races or events, and there’s a lot of crossover with other sports as well, from mountain biking and trail running to paddling. You develop this network of people that you spend time with year-round, another great aspect of the sport. Pretty soon you’ve got friends and acquaintances all around the country that share your passion for the sport. That to me is a really special thing and something that makes cross-country skiing unique.
Compiled by Bob Timmons
Kristen Merwin, 41, Howard Lake, Minn.
(Incoming president, Women Anglers of Minnesota)
Day job: Vice president of compensation and benefits, SIRVA Inc.
Ice fishing is a game of cat and mouse. Unlike during the summer, fish are constantly moving in the winter. If you want to catch them, you have to move to stay with them. And once you are on them, the game continues. I use my Vexilar as my eyes under the ice and watch them move to my bait. When you watch that fish on your Vexilar come screaming up to your bait, it’s a rush — one you want to experience over and over.
Unlike open-water fishing, where you can only have a few people in a boat to talk with, on the ice you can basically have an unlimited number of people sitting with you. It makes the sport social. Much of the fun is in sitting around with others you have met that day on the ice, or the friends who share your love of ice fishing, and swapping fish tales.
Ice fishing allows people who may not have access to a boat to have the same chance of great fishing as the next person. With the exception of a few weeks a year, you have to have a boat to get to the fish on the open water, and also have to have a truck to pull that boat. This can be a barrier for people. Ice fishing equalizes the playing field. Anyone can do it, and the cost of entry into the sport is low, making it an activity that gets you out of the house and enjoying one of the 10,000 lakes.
Compiled by Joe Albert