Glide into winter fun

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February 11, 2014
By: Linda Koutsky
Linda Koutsky

FINN SISU, 2436 Larpenteur Ave. W., Lauderdale
HYLAND LAKE PARK RESERVE, Visitor Center, 10145 Bush Lake Road, Bloomington 

Of course we’d turn out winter champions here in Minnesota! This year we’ve had more days with metro temps below zero than in the last 32 years. So if you can’t beat it join it! Inspired by former Stillwater ski champ and Sochi Olympian Jessie Diggins, I decided to learn about cross country skiing this winter.

Cross country skiing is the oldest kind of skiing. Supposedly Vikings skied when they hunted and an ancient Russian painting depicts a hunter on skis, but history shows skiing was invented in Norway as a means of winter transportation.

Probably the earliest famous cross country ski event was in 1520 when Sweden was under Denmark’s rule. Gustav Ericsson Vasa gathered a group in Stockholm to start a rebellion. He fled for his life on cross country skis and headed for Mora and was eventually crowned King of Sweden. Today, Vasaloppet races in Sweden and Minnesota commemorate the event.

Norwegian Army units are given credit for turning cross country skiing into a sport with their early races in the 1700s. The men’s first cross country Olympic event was held in 1924 with the women’s following in 1952.

Compared to downhill equipment, cross country skis are long and narrow with gently curving tips. Boots are locked into bindings only at the toes. Poles are long and can even reach overhead. In the traditional, classic technique, skiers move forward keeping their skis parallel in machine groomed tracks. Free technique, or skating, uses a diagonal motion across flat snow. It became popular in the 1970s and is typically faster.

HYLAND LAKE PARK RESERVE is the place to ski, learn to ski, or just watch the fun from the quaint Swiss chalet-inspired Visitor Center. With nearly 10 miles of daily groomed ski trails for both classic and skate skiing, the trails range in skill level from beginner to extremely difficult and meander through woods and meadows and around a lake and ponds. A brand new 5k lighted snowmaking trail just opened in January.

While there are several places where you can just park and ski, equipment renters should go straight to the Visitor Center (not the Richardson Nature Center). Open sunrise to sunset with two lighted trails open 5 a.m.–sunrise and sunset–10 p.m. Private lessons available. Visit threeriversparks.org or call the trail hotline at (763) 559-6778. Daily ski pass $5; equipment rental, $11–16.

FINN SISU has been in the business of selling cross country ski equipment and training athletes since 1978. The owner and staff members’ lists of awards is encompassing. A cluster of trophies clutters one whole corner of the store while colorful, numbered, signed bibs from former competitive and Olympic events is strung throughout the retail space. Jessie Diggins is a regular here. Check out the skiis, boots, bindings, poles, clothing, wax, and a great exhibit of old equipment including skis made in Minnesota. But if the exhilaration of skiing is still too chilly for you, their full line of Finnish saunas might inspire warmer days. 

PIE BREAK: Enjoy great bakery treats ad coffee in a former gas station at Empire Coffee and Bakery, 451 Stinson Blvd., Minneapolis

Send your comments or tips to WeekendTourist@mnpubs.com.