Happy Trails

County dedicates Lake Elmo Park Reserve lighted Nordic ski trails

Lake Elmo Ski Trails
One of several Lake Elmo Park Reserve lighted ski trails begins a short distance from the park’s Nordic Center. The 5.4-mile lighted trail system is the largest of its kind in the Midwest. (Gazette staff photo by Erik Sandin)

LAKE ELMO — Cross-country skiing conditions were not the best Friday at the Lake Elmo Park Reserve.
Mild temperatures and a steady drizzle turned the 5.4 miles of trails into ice-crusted runs. But the conditions failed to deter Stillwater residents Lisa Corcoran and her daughter, Christine, from strapping on their skis and gliding away from the park’s Nordic Center.
In fact, Lisa Corcoran said if the conditions were better, the trails would be filled with cross-country skiers.
“The parking lot would be filled with cars,” she said.
There were cars in the Nordic Center lot, but most belonged to county officials and other residents attending the Washington County Board of Commissioners formal dedication of the park’s lighted cross-country ski trails.
“You never know in January what kind of weather you’ll have,” said John Elholm, Washington Parks director. The wet, foggy weather forced officials to cut the ribbon inside the Nordic Center.
Elholm said the park’s Nordic ski trails are the longest lighted trail system in the Midwest. The Nordic Center serves as trailhead for the trails and allows skiers to use its restrooms and put on boots and other gear before skiing the trails. The center has an 80-person capacity and features a small kitchen, audio-visual system, air conditioning and Wi-Fi connection. It is available for year-round use.
The Nordic Center is open 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily when ski conditions permit.
“We are very excited about this project,” said County Board Chairwoman Lisa Weik. “This is a great amenity to add to our park system. Anything we can do to add more activities for residents’ enjoyment, we are willing to look at.”
The trail lighting project was paid for with Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment funds and state and Metropolitan Council boards, county officials said.
“There was no county levy used for this,” Weik added.
County officials’ excitement over the lighted trails and Nordic Center was matched by many residents attending the ceremony.
“We spend a lot of time up here. If we’re not fishing up here, we’re biking or hiking,” said Lois Graham as she and her sons, Ryan and Caiden, looked at an aerial photo map showing the ski trails.
Graham said her sons would be back at the Nordic Center in two weeks to take free cross-country skiing lessons. She cited the lessons as one example of the many year-round family activities at the park.
“We’ve camped up here, too. What’s cool is they have these nature things and bring in snakes and turtles. It’s just great,” said Lois Graham.