To a cross country skier, there are few sounds more magical than the swoosh of their skis on a freshly groomed trail – and Minnesota has no shortage of these.
According to Gail Lundeen Brand, members of the North Star Ski Touring Club (NSSTC) have joyfully skied every inch of the Midwest’s trails and beyond. Brand is a board member of NSSTC, a ski club which started in 1967. Back then, skis were made of wood; the bottoms were treated with pine tar every fall, and scraped to a smooth finish before the season began. That was a long time ago.
These days, the equipment has changed but the attraction to the sport has not. For people who love being active in winter (in a quiet, un-motorized way), cross country skiing is still as good as it gets.
Brand said, “The health and wellness advantages of cross country skiing include improving coordination, heart health, muscle strength, endurance, and balance. In addition, it’s a great way to visit places you’ve never been before – and there’s the potential for making life-long friends.”
NSSTC welcomes skate skiers and classic skiers of all ages and experience levels from beginning to expert. Two years ago, the volunteer-led club decided it was important to offer a mentoring program for beginning adult skiers who have completed at least one formal lesson somewhere.
There will be no mentoring meet-ups until COVID-19 lessens, but anyone interested can still go the website at www.north-stars.org to get the process rolling. It’s a good time to connect with a mentor, to talk about how to dress for warmth and comfort while skiing, to start to learn about waxing, and to get some tips on where to buy new or used equipment.
Once the ski season starts in earnest and it is safe to gather again, organized trips will resume. According to Brand, “Trip leaders are encouraged to take club-sponsored safety and first aid training. We make sure there is a volunteer leader bringing up the rear on all of our outings, as well as up front. No one will be left behind on the trails. There’s a supportive culture of how we lead trips. We encourage people to buddy up with others who are at the same level, and to ski in groups of at least three.”
In the past, NSSTC has sponsored reasonably priced day, weekend, and week-long trips to cross country skiing destinations near and far. Member-only trips venture to ski lodges in northern Minnesota, Wisconsin, Ontario and points beyond. The forested trails of the Upper Midwest are considered some of the best skiing in the country.
Membership costs $20 per year, per household, regardless of family size. At present, the only scheduled activities are monthly ZOOM meetings about cross country skiing technique and history – and about Minnesota’s great outdoors. Brand said, “We are following the governor’s recommendations carefully; the most important thing is to stay safe right now.”
Cross country skiing may be the passion of the North Stars, but they find ways to have fun together all year. In the off-season, they can be found hiking and biking local trails, canoeing, kayaking, dancing, and picnicking.
They also roll up their sleeves every fall and brandish hand tools, rakes, and chain saws. Club members take their brush clearing responsibilities seriously, as they prepare cross country ski trails for the coming season. Through a formal grant program and organized volunteer activities, NSSTC contributes to developing and improving trails across the state.
While cross country skiing is a fairly inexpensive sport, remember that trail passes are required in most parks. The money they raise goes to improving and maintaining trail systems. There is no cost to ski at most public city golf courses. However, passes are required at Minneapolis city golf courses. The Loppet Foundation sells natural snow ski passes to access the natural snow trails of Hiawatha Golf Course, Columbia Golf Course, Theodore Wirth Park, and The Chain of Lakes.
Email North Star Ski Touring Club board member Gail Lundeen Brand with questions about club membership at firstname.lastname@example.org.