It’s an annual event. Hosted by the Duluth XC Ski Club, the idea is to ski all the trails in the city – in one day. We loved the idea, but Old Man Winter hasn’t cooperated to keep the snow long enough in recent years. This year that was hardly a problem. In what seems to be a recurring theme for us, we skied the Tour pelted by heavy snowfall, wintry mix and rapidly accumulating wet snow. And loved it.
The tour is a do-it-yourself affair and participants can ski any trails in any order. But we chose to follow the suggested route, starting in the west at the Spirit Mountain / Magney-Snively trails and working our way east.
It won’t surprise anyone to learn that Rich and I were the first to arrive and blazed the trails for those to follow. There was already a heavy accumulation of new snow and more continued to fall, pelting our faces and obscuring our vision. No matter, the accompanying fog veiled the beautiful views of the harbor that normally grace these trails. We had a quiet and mostly solitary ski around the connecting trail systems. I was quickly reminded how narrow and hilly the Magney trails are, although I had no fear of the steep downhills this time as our speed was checked by the sticky new snow.
Returning to the Nordic Center, more skiers were gathering and heading out on the trails. It was a festive atmosphere. Inside, we helped ourselves to hot chocolate which tasted divine. 16k behind us, and we were off to a great start.
Our next stop was the Piedmont XC trails. This one was completely new to us, and turned out to be a charming spot with a fascinating history. The 5.5k of classic trails wend though aspen and birch. But what made it unique were the signs. About 45 hand crafted wooden signs provide humor, puns and inspiration to skiers all along the route. It was in the parking lot following our enjoyable sojourn out on the trail, that by pure luck we met Jerry and Glen. The youthful 88-year-olds originally carved the trails out of the woods in 1960 and maintained them until the city took them over in 1980. And it is they who take great pride in posting the signs. We thoroughly enjoyed their stories and marveled as they headed off for their daily ski.
I next skied at Snowflake Nordic Ski Center, while Rich took a break at home (he was, after all, only a week out of the hospital…). I chose the 5k loop, which I navigated twice enjoying its gentle rolling terrain. Visibility had improved, and the skate deck was snowy but firm – probably the best skiing of the day.
We skied our final kilometers on the Lester/Amity trails, in our own back yard. By then the snow coming down had an icy edge, and what was on the ground turned soft and heavy. It was harder going than before – or was it just that I was tired by the middle of the afternoon? I managed a spectacular fall trying to ski a steep hill that I normally avoid. What was I thinking?
There were two more trails on the agenda, but the pull of a warm house and hot shower were too strong to overcome. For me, the fact that they were short and classic-only also may have contributed to my malaise. Having topped 40k, we figured we’d done enough. We could attend the evening ski club dinner without shame. We’ll just leave those two for next year.