Nordic skiing (cross-country for Americans) has been in decline since the 1970s. Too warm.
Last winter, though, was pretty good in MSP. The temperatures were above 20th century means, but unusually moist air made up for that. Even better, my Machiavellian schemes worked and we got the kids to join us.
We're trying again, including planning our Feb (President's Day) family trip. The now defunct Telemark Lodge was the near-perfect spot for our gang, so now I'm looking for alternatives I can cobble together. I'll probably have to combine something like an AmericInn with not-too-distant trails.
It's oddly hard to assemble a list of reasonable candidates, but I've got a few. Since I've done the work, here's a short list for the three other humans with similar interests. All of these places are listed on Adelsman's Cross-Country Ski Page. I prefer single track to today's skateways, but unless otherwise noted these trails are very wide. Most of these places have no WiFi and some have limited cell service.
All distances are from St. Paul, Minnesota. I've bolded a few I'm focusing on ...
Zone 1: 2-3 hours from MSP
- Timberland Hills WI: 24K trails, Cumberland is nearest town with Hotels.
- Brainerd, MN: multiple regional trails, Brainerd lodging. Maintained by Brainderd Nordic Ski Club. Bull Lake, Grand View Lodge.
- Blue Hills Wisconsin: lesser known trails - something of a cult secret. AmericInn nearby. See map.
Zone 2: 3-4 hours
- Mogasheen Resort:
- 23380 Missionary Point Drive, Cable, WI 54821. Cabins with a pool/game room building. Small local trail, extensive trail systems about 20-30 minute drive. Small swimming pool, food in cabin or local restaurants (20-30 min). Mostly snowmobile but significant cross-country. Dogs welcome but not, I think, on trails.
Zone 3: 4+ hours
- Maplelag Resort Callaway MN 4.5 hours NW. Very remote - cabin residences, shared dining hall. Beautiful trails. Not for our kids, but I'd love to go myself. You need to book a LONG way ahead to get a weekend room.
- Minocqua Winter Park WI: 4.5 hours NE: Excellent trails including a skijoring trail but no on site lodging. About 30 min from Minocqua's AmericInn and resort hotels such as
- Black's Cliff Resort,
- The Waters of Minocqua (small indoor waterpark),
- The Pointe Hotel
- The Beacons . (Facebook group.)
- ABR Trails - Ironwood MI: 4.5 hours NE, there is limited on-site lodging and they have skijoring trails (3). Offsite lodging is more limited than at Minocqua.
- Gunflint Trail and Grand Marais MN region: @ 5 hours N: Pincushion B&B, Bearskin Lodge (no TV!), Old Northwoods Lodge, Gunflint Lodge.
I've generally linked to business web sites, but in several cases there are more interesting and useful associated Facebook pages. The remaining lodges seem effectively adult only; I don't think our team would be a good fit (Emily and I would love them however!).
Only Mogasheen is both Nordic Ski and kid friendly, though in winter they don't get that many kids. The distance is good.
Minocqua, ABR Trails and Brainerd would mean staying at a Hotel and driving 15-30 min to trails. The Minocqua and ABR Trails sites are considerably further than Brainerd from MSP, but the trails are better and it's much more of a focal nordic scene (great description in 1994 Stride and Glide: A Guide to Wisconsin's Best Cross-Country Trails).
Update Dec 2021
I was delighted to find this long forgotten post in my archives. Since 2010, as we expected, snow coverage has declined. These days we typically make two sets of reservations that can be canceled and choose one based on snow conditions. We may pick one west of Lake Superior and one South of Superior. Most resorts don't allow short-term cancellations so we have to do hotel reservations and resorts at the last minute.
As our children have grown wifi is more of an issue. My wife and I would love rustic cabins with limited mobile service, but it's a deal killer for our young adult children. Many of the best XC ski resorts won't work for them.
One day Emily and I might make it to Stokely Creek. There might be snow there.
Snow Depth and Condition Maps