Yes, that’s right – a Nordic ski race. On May Day. Where else but in Minnesota?
The Duluth Cross-Country Ski Club holds weekly Wednesday night ski races throughout the winter. And Snowflake Nordic Ski Center has continued to groom its trails throughout the long tail to this winter season. So despite the recent warm-up, the packed snow continues to cling to its trails. That made the perfect opportunity to add one more race to the Wednesday night series. It was too good to miss!
Rich and I arrived early and skied the trails beforehand to see just what we were getting ourselves into. Despite the bare patches near the warming house, once in the woods, the trails were surprisingly credible. They had been freshly groomed (I really couldn’t tell) and grassy sections were taped off, forcing us to zigzag between trail sections. The snow ranged from soft and mushy to icy and slushy. And there were a few water hazards… But it was all part of this most unique race experience.
At 6:30 the racers gathered for the start. It was the largest turnout they’d had all season! It’s amazing what a bit of novelty can do. The mood was festive and jovial. How could we not be in a good mood?
As we skied, whoops and hollers could be heard reverberating through the woods. I added my own noisy yelps when trying to skirt a particularly deep puddle. With a sickening sucking noise, my foot became mired in the icy water with my ski inexorably anchored by deep mushy snow. I managed to extricate it with great difficulty, only to have the other foot succumb! Apparently I just didn’t have the right technique – other more accomplished competitors skied right through.
It’s not everyone who can say they skied in a race on May Day. Nor ski 7 out of the last 12 months, which is what we did this year. In Minnesota, when you’re given snow, you just have to ski.