Cross Country in the City: Beginner-Friendly Ski Trails in Duluth


Eric Sam Grace Backpack

Dorothy’s Loop at Korkki.

Duluth is blessed with over 120 miles of groomed cross country ski trails within a half-hour drive. This is a paralyzing plethora of choices. I built an easy button for you newbies out there.

Here are four local trails that have common traits: 1) A place to warm up, 2) easy terrain, and 3) a short loop. What’s good for beginners is good for kids. So whether you’re new to the best sport in the world or a little tyke, here’s a quick roundup of beginner-friendly XC ski spots.

Larry Sorensen Trail (aka Campground Loop), Spirit Mountain Nordic Center

Just off I-35 is a friendly 2k path groomed over the road through the summertime campground. Grab a trail pass at the Nordic Center building and you’re just a few steps from a good time.

Bear Paw Trail, Boulder Lake Management Area Ski Trails

Drive to the Rolling Pin Trailhead and the Wolfski’s Ski Den. Head across the lake immediately in front of this warming hut and connect to the Bear Paw Trail. It’s got small rolling hills, just big enough to make smiles and build confidence. And the price is right: free.

Jane’s 5k Loop and the Stadium, Snowflake Nordic Ski Center

Buy a trail pass at the Chalet from George Hovland, 1952 XC ski Olympian. Get your legs under you at the flat Stadium area. Head out on Jane’s 5k Loop. There are several cut-offs that bring you back to the Chalet. The sledding hill is always popular, too.

Dorothy’s Loop, Korkki Nordic Ski Center

Get a Great MN Ski Pass and head toward Two Harbors. This simple classic-only 1k loop takes you over frozen brooks. My daughter took her first strides here so I’m biased. Warm your toes by the wood stove in the cabin and sign the guestbook.

I asked Anne Flueckiger, Chairperson of the Duluth Cross Country Ski Club (DXC) Board of Directors, what tips she had for beginners. “Be sure that the ski equipment you use fits you (fit is based primarily on body weight). It’s hard to learn to ski, or to ski more efficiently, on skis that don’t fit.” She also said, ”If you’re new to exercising outside in the cold: it’s important to stay well-hydrated and to avoid cotton clothing (including socks). Dress in wool and/or “wicking” synthetics and bring a snack and a water bottle or thermos.” She pointed out KidSki for children (See Sidebar). “For adults, we offer clinics for beginner and intermediate level skiers (both skate & classic),” said Flueckiger.

Visit for details about these four ski trail choices, tips for beginners, and all things cross country in the Duluth area.

SIDEBAR: Have Fun at KidSki

For the 16th year, over a hundred kids from the ages of 5-12 will gather at Snowflake Nordic Ski Center to learn the joy of cross country skiing. Every Sunday for eight weeks, the Chalet at Snowflake will be mobbed by kids, parents, and coaches.

Pete Langr, Snowflake KidSki Director, said the best thing about KidSki is that “it works – in other words, kids do love cross-country skiing and do learn a healthy activity.” Langr said, “I think we have a quality program since we always fill quickly.” KidSki operates under the umbrella of the Duluth Cross Country Ski Club, but it’s not the only show in town. The Nordic Spirit Youth Ski League runs a similar program at Spirit Mountain.

The most important thing? Coach Dave Prusak asked the kids and they hollered, “HAVE FUN!”

(This article first appeared in the Dec 2010 issue of Northern Wilds.)