The blizzard that kept on giving in mid-April was the largest snowfall that month for Minnesota, the 12th largest on record for any month and likely adds one more footnote to local history: It made possible what could be the latest-ever groomed ski trails in the Twin Cities.
Fresh tracks were laid down last week at Theodore Wirth Regional Park to the delight of skiers — they love winter, what can you say? — who started arriving before sunrise to take advantage.
“We’re not the common crowd,” joked Odd (pronounced Ode) Osland, a Norwegian master’s-level competitor who spent 90 minutes skate skiing through the snow-covered woods.
At a time of year when most Minnesota skiers have usually stored their gear, the local Nordic community has instead scrambled to hold ad hoc races, traded tips on where to find the best trails (since most ski areas have stopped grooming) and marveled at their good fortune to have late spring skiing worthy of the mountains.
“It’s like mountain skiing, but you can breathe,” said John Munger, the Loppet Foundation’s executive director.
The local Nordic website Skinnyski.com has recent ski trail reports from Edina to Marine on St. Croix, where skiers reported conditions that ranged from freshly groomed to icy and treacherous.
Elsewhere, online skiers have shared pictures and video of their sessions, usually punctuated by some combination of disbelief and glee.
After the past several years of warm conditions — the largest ski race in the nation, the Birkebeiner in Hayward, Wisconsin, was nearly canceled outright last year for lack of snow — this season’s snowfall has taken some by surprise.
“It’s weird that they’ve groomed it so late,” said Doug Johnson, a 3M retiree who skied laps at Wirth with Osland. “It’s close to perfect.”
The extra skiing has come as the Twin Cities enjoy something of a Nordic moment: Not only have the trails lasted, but the Loppet Foundation will open a new 14,000-square-foot facility at Wirth this spring that should finally give skiers a place of their own.
Then there’s local skier Jessie Diggins, the Olympic gold medalist, who barnstormed through the region this past weekend to thank her fans and lobby for Minnesota to host a World Cup race in 2020.
Beth Bertelson of Minneapolis finished up a lap at Wirth, then said she’s had a fantastic winter on skis. She was out in her Linden Hills neighborhood during the blizzard when a neighbor spied her, she said.
“They said, ‘Don’t tell me how happy you are!’?” she said.