Finally, a Minnesota winter beckons skiers, snowmobilers

  • Article by: DOUG SMITH , Star Tribune
  • Updated: February 16, 2013 - 9:12 PM

The heavy snowfall has meant better conditions for winter-sports enthusiasts on trails through most parts of the state.

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Snowmobilers go for a ride on a frosty morning across Gull Lake during the Minnesota United Snowmobilers Association Winter Rendezvous Friday morning Feb. 8, 2013 in East Gull Lake, Minn.

Photo: Kelly Humphrey, Associated Press - Ap

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Some of the best snow conditions in years have Minnesota snowmobilers and cross-country skiers giddy.

"The trails are absolutely perfect," said Mark Kavanaugh, president of the Crow Wing County Snowmobile Trails Association, which grooms 1,000 miles of trails. "I haven't seen these kind of conditions in about five years. This is just phenomenal riding right now."

Kavanaugh, 57, owns Kavanaugh's Resort on Sylvan Lake near Brainerd, where he also grooms 26 miles of cross-country ski trails. "They are perfect, too," he said. "We got 10 to 12 inches of snow last week."

After an almost nonexistent winter last year, Kavanaugh is ecstatic about the snow -- and not just because it will boost business.

"I'm an avid snowmobiler," he said. "Normally I put on about 1,500 miles. Last year was the worst winter I've seen. I put on 3 miles."

What a difference a year makes.

"This is about as good as it gets," Kavanaugh said.

Others from central and northern Minnesota echo the good news.

"Trail conditions are very good to excellent in Itasca County," said Andrew Brown, assistant area supervisor for the Department of Natural Resources parks and trails in Grand Rapids. "We have anywhere from 20 to 24 inches of snow."

Ditto for northeastern Minnesota.

"Our trail conditions are very good to excellent," said Christa Miller, DNR parks and trails area supervisor in Tower. About 18 to 24 inches of snow blankets the ground, and those reports have attracted snowmobilers and skiers.

"Word is out the conditions up here are good," Miller said. "It's definitely worth coming up."

Most ski and snowmobile trails at North Shore state parks -- always a top destination -- also are in good to excellent condition. The North Shore State Trail, a snowmobile path that runs from Duluth to Grand Marais, is rated good to very good, with 9 to 25 inches of snow.

"We have more snow this year than last year," said Robyn Kovacovich of the DNR's Two Harbors office.

The northwest also has been hit with snow.

At Itasca and Lake Bemidji state parks near Bemidji, ski and snowmobile trails are rated mostly excellent, as they are at Lake Carlos State Park near Alexandria.

However, there's not good snow everywhere. Many trails in southeastern Minnesota are in poor shape -- or worse. They were closed last week at Frontenac State Park near Lake City and were in poor condition at many other parks. But there's snow in the southwest. Snowmobile and ski conditions at Camden State Park near Marshall were excellent.

Even the Twin Cities area, which saw some rain last week, has some decent snow. Conditions at nine Three Rivers Park District cross-country ski trail systems were rated good late last week. And ski trails were very good at Afton State Park and good at William O'Brien State Park.

Meanwhile, Kavanaugh said he plans to get out on his snowmobile after the busy President's Day weekend.

Before the snow fades away.

TRAIL UPDATE

For latest state park and trail conditions, see www.startribune.com/a67.

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