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Skiing the North Shore: A Guide to Cross-Country Trails in Minnesota's Spectacular Lake Superior Region

Skiing the North Shore: A Guide to Cross-Country Trails in Minnesota's Spectacular Lake Superior Region

by Andrew Slade

Paperback(2nd Revised ed.)

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Get the guide to cross-country skiing in northeastern Minnesota and northwestern Wisconsin—from Duluth-Superior to Grand Marais and the Gunflint Trail.

Before you hit the trails, grab this essential guide. Get the skinny about the most gorgeous cross-country ski trails in North America. Join Andrew Slade as he takes you along 700+ kilometers of trails winding through the North Shore’s city and state parks, the Superior National Forest, and private ski areas. See why these perfectly-groomed trails have earned names like Bear Chase, Lonesome Grouse, Eagle Ridge, Picnic Loop, and Lonely Lake.

The guide is written for all who love to ski—beginner, recreational, and experienced skiers, families, and classic and skate skiers. Learn about 35 groomed trail systems from Duluth-Superior north to Grand Marais and the Gunflint Trail. Discover hidden gems and rediscover well-known state parks in winter. Andrew offers useful information about challenging trails for the expert skier, gentle and fun trails for a family outing, scenic overlooks where you can stop for lunch alfresco, and lighted trails where you can enjoy a romantic night ski.

Everything you need is inside the book:

  • Detailed trail maps with driving directions to all trailheads
  • Helpful trail descriptions and difficulty ratings
  • Fees and pass requirements…plus free trails!
  • Where to find current snow and grooming conditions
  • Trailside lodging options
  • The author’s top trail picks for best grooming, Lake Superior views, most family-friendly, off the beaten path, more!

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780979467554
Publisher: Adventure Publications, Incorporated
Publication date: 09/21/2021
Series: There & Back Guides
Edition description: 2nd Revised ed.
Pages: 160
Sales rank: 319,641
Product dimensions: 8.50(w) x 5.50(h) x (d)

About the Author

Andrew Slade’s parents first set eyes on each other on the North Shore of Minnesota, and his life has centered there since birth—despite growing up in the Twin Cities. As a kid, he caught nets full of smelt at the Cross River, jumped cliffs into the deep pools of an unnamed North Shore river, helped to band woodcock in the open fields of North Shore homesteads, and shut his eyes tight each time the family wagon drove around Silver Cliff (readers, don’t worry— today there’s a tunnel through the cliff and Andrew’s eyes stay wide open). With his intrepid father, he had to abandon a mid-1970s assault on Carlton Peak due to a lack of recognizable trails.

As a canoe guide and outdoor educator in Ely, he learned that “sauna” is a three-syllable word (sow-ooh-nah). In his twenties, he bushwhacked by snowshoe much of what is now the Manitou-Caribou section of the Superior Hiking Trail. At age 28, in his “before kids” era, he was the editor and lead author of the first Guide to the Superior Hiking Trail.

Andrew graduated from the University of Minnesota with a BA in environmental education and from the University of Montana with a MS in environmental studies. His favorite wildflower is Mertensia paniculata, the native North Shore bluebell.

Andrew has worked for environmental education, parks, and conservation organizations on the North Shore since 1992.

Read an Excerpt

Why is North Shore skiing so darn good? Why do intelligent people give up on career advancement just to live near these trails? Why do families drive five hours each way for a few glorious hours in these woods?

There’s no single answer to these questions. It’s the rugged scenery and remote terrain. It’s the winter weather, bringing more reliable snowfall to the North Shore than anywhere else in the state. It’s the traditional hospitality passed down from generations.

A massive geologic event over one billion years ago created the foundation of the North Shore’s current landscape. Layer after layer of lava and magma erupted from a huge rift in the earth’s crust. These layers stacked up 20,000 feet high, then tilted in toward the center of what is now Lake Superior.

Glaciers from the last Ice Age scoured these layers down, leaving distinct ridges and valleys known now as the Sawtooth Mountains. The glaciers left behind the basin for the world’s largest expanse of fresh water, Lake Superior.

The broad inland sea that settled next to these rugged ridges created the perfect combination of dramatic views and lake-effect climate. Now, the ridges of the North Shore have by far the highest annual snowfall and longest-lasting snow cover in Minnesota.

There’s another reason why cross-country skiing fits this region like a mitten on a ski pole—the people of the North Shore. The history of cross-country skiing is long and mostly Scandinavian. It’s no wonder that Minnesota, with its strong Scandinavian heritage, became such a hot spot for “Nordic” skiing.

But where the Swedes and Norwegians settled in the south and west of the state, it was the Finns who came to the North Shore and left their mark. Korkki Nordic Ski Center in rural Duluth was an early center of skiing, with trails built by Charlie Banks in 1954 on land homesteaded by his Finnish father-in-law. A 1977 effort by Governor Rudy Perpich (a native of northeastern Minnesota) to make Minnesota the “Ski Touring Capital of the Nation” resulted in a flurry of activity with new standards, legislation, and trail signage.

North Shore community members were responsible for most of the trails we see today. Local skiers and resort owners, with training from state and national clubs, made up crews that built hundreds, even thousands, of miles of ski trails. Trails such as those at Sugarbush in Tofte were built with collaboration from resort owners, the Forest Service, and local residents. In Duluth, local volunteers joined with the city parks department to lace trails through the city’s green spaces. One Finn built his own trails at Piedmont, only to have them adopted by the city later on.

Why are these trails so darn good? Because time and nature and people have made it so.

Table of Contents


Duluth-Superior Area: Urban Skiing Paradise

  • Jay Cooke State Park
  • Superior Municipal Forest
  • Pattison State Park
  • Afterhours Ski Trail
  • Pine Valley Ski Area
  • Grand Avenue Nordic Center
  • Upper Spirit Mountain
  • Magney-Snively Trail
  • Piedmont Trail
  • Chester Park Trail
  • Hartley Park Trail
  • Lester Park Trail
  • Bagley Nature Area
  • Snowflake Nordic Center
  • Boulder Lake
  • Biskey Ponds Ski Trail
  • Korkki Nordic Ski Center
  • Mother Bear Ski Trail

Lake County: Snow Country

  • Erkki Harju Ski Trail
  • Gooseberry Falls State Park
  • Northwoods Ski Trail
  • Tettegouche State Park
  • Flathorn-Gegoka Ski Trail

North Shore Mountains: Everything Is Connected

  • Sugarbush Trail System
  • Norpine/Lutsen Area
  • Norpine/Hall-Massie Loop
  • Norpine/Cascade Lodge
  • Norpine/Deer Yard
  • Cascade River State Park
  • Bally Creek

Gunflint Trail: Ski-In Hospitality

  • Pincushion Mountain
  • George Washington Pines
  • Central Gunflint
  • Banadad Trail
  • Upper Gunflint

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