A Winter Oasis

Driving down the entrance road, a beautiful sight greeted us. The dry brown late fall scene was suddenly transformed into a wintry wonderland. The trees were laden with fluffy snow clinging to the branches, and the ground was covered with a clean white blanket. The picturesque chalet was lit up from inside, aglow in the evening darkness and skiers silently slid by on the lit trails. Winter!

We were in the Twin Cities, and took the opportunity to get in some skiing at Elm Creek Park Reserve where they make snow for a portion of their cross-country ski trails. Since there was no snow even Up North, we were grateful for the investment and industriousness of the park staff dedicated to keeping their ski trails open. Never mind that it was artificial snow – it was snow and skiing. So far they had covered only 1.3k of trail, and were working hard to add the additional portions to bring it up to 2.5k, but we were happy to have that. Despite the recent warm temperatures, nightly grooming and frequent replenishment with the snow guns had rendered very decent skiing. It was heavenly to ski along, pressing rusty muscles back into service and get some real glide. Feeling the cold air on my face and spending the evening outside skiing was nirvana! To add to the ambiance, real snow was falling, making us believe that maybe real winter was not far off after all. It didn’t amount to much, but that wasn’t the point.

Rich calls it “gerbil” skiing. Doing any distance at all on a 1.3k loop means lots of rotations around the same terrain. But last night no one complained about the repetitions. And once the dinner hour arrived, the trail emptied out and we had little competition for space. Make no mistake, it’s not the same as skiing in the woods, away from civilization and on real snow. But it’s the best we have right now.

I know it’s a worn out refrain, bemoaning losing the ferocity of winters past. So we look forward instead, and as we return to Duluth we are putting our hopes in the Winter Storm Warning that is out for tonight. Will we wake up to winter that is more than a small urban oasis, and snow that blankets not only our front yard but the ski trails across the street? We sure hope so.

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