Healthy Outdoor Sports

Snowflake 2018/19 Season News & Update

October 31st, 2018 Posted in News | Comments Off on Snowflake 2018/19 Season News & Update

First, the exciting, breaking news! Effective on Thursday, November 1st, Duluth Nordic Ski Club (DNSC) has entered into an agreement with Tischer Creek Duluth Building Company, the new property owner, which promises to preserve Snowflake Nordic Ski Center well into the future. Some background: Tischer Creek Duluth Building Company (Tischer Creek) is the entity that owns real estate on behalf of Duluth Edison Charter Schools (North Star & Raleigh). They began the process of buying the property from the developer last Spring. We learned of the pending sale in June, and have enjoyed productive dialog with both Tischer and Edison since then. Our immediate concern was the 2018/19 ski season: would we have one? As dialog developed with Tischer/Edison they became more acquainted with the property: how we use and maintain it; the volume of ski activity in winter and camping in summer; and the affiliations we have with Northland youth programs and non-profits. By September they had become very supportive of having Snowflake as their tenant/neighbor, to our mutual benefit. The result is our receiving a license to operate as we have, skiing in the winter, camping in the summer, Biathlon continuing to train here, and with us retaining exclusive use of the chalet and out-buildings. There are no plans to build the high school. There will be no changes to the trails this season. Next summer the owners will begin development of a parking lot and play area behind North Star Academy. This will be a much smaller footprint than what we expected if a high school were built, and will affect trail segments that we had anticipated losing…but less of it. They have invited us to provide input as the development is planned, and we will restore the continuity of the trail systems as required. During the off-season, North Star students will have full access to the woods and trails for recreation and science classes, etc, and during the ski season they will respect the integrity of the groomed trails. This is, in fact, how we have gotten along during the past three years. We were already good neighbors. Now, we’re friends.

We could not have hoped for a better outcome than this. We have a landlord who values what we do, and is eager to cooperate with us in expanding what we can do for the community. With uncertainty finally behind us, we will move forward with infrastructure repairs and improvements. Just this morning I met with an electrical contractor who will repair the lighting on the Sledding Hill and around the chalet beginning next week. He is also going to survey the damage to the 5K Trail lighting, and prepare a proposal to replace it with energy-smart lighting next summer.

On Saturday, November 10th (Happy Birthday Marines!), in conjunction with the Snowflake Ski Swap, we will host a short public event to mark the beginning of this promising new relationship between DNSC/Snowflake and Tischer Creek/Edison Schools. Time, to be announced.

Other Good News:

Ski Ergs!: Last season, Duluth Nordic purchased four top-of the-line Ski Ergs. Bonnie and Dave have consented to allowing Snowflake Members to use the Ski Ergs! Effective today, the chalet will be open from 8-8, Monday- Friday so that you may use the Ergs. Once East Nordic practices move to Snowflake, the ergs will not be available between 3:30-6 p.m. When you come to use the Ergs, just sign-in at the counter, then go knock yourself out. If you want access to the Ergs on Saturdays, text or call me and we’ll figure out a way to do it.

Snowflake KidSki!: A Kids Ski Program has been a tradition at Snowflake for more than 20 years. This season, DXC has opted to take the program that they run to the new Grand Ave Nordic Center. Winter without KidSki at Snowflake is unthinkable, so we will be running the Snowflake KidSki Program, at Snowflake on Sundays beginning Jan 6, 2019 through Sunday Feb 10th. It will be the same format that we used in previous years, with the Coaches being experienced high school skiers, following established training formats. We will post details on our website by 20 November, as well as a link to online sign-up. Just as Duluth can’t have too many Cross-Country trails, we believe that offering a choice of youth ski instruction is great for parents and fledgling Nordic skiers.

Other News:

Signing-In: Last season we instituted the “Sign-In” requirement. Some folks asked “WHY?”. The first reason is to have some semblance of control over who skis here. Policing Trail Passes hasn’t worked, and the Honor System is a beautiful tradition at Snowflake. Sadly, there’s always that 1%…Just knowing that you’re supposed to sign-in keeps some “renegades” from poaching our trails. The other, more important reason, is to have a record of how many skiers use Snowflake on a daily, weekly, seasonal basis. During the early visits with Tischer and Edison they asked, and were very surprised by the big numbers. Having documented usage, showing that we actually hosted thousands of skiers during the season, was very beneficial as we made our case, and helpful to Tischer Creek/Edison as they sought financing and support for the purchase. So please: Sign-In before you ski; check the Trails Status board for updated info; and if you have something to report about the trails when you are done skiing, come in and tell us, or write it down. It helps.

Looking Back: Despite a low-snow season, Dec-Feb, the cold temps allowed us to preserve our base and we only closed for 3 days in mid-season. Our first grooming was on 4 November, followed by a warm-up, but by Thanksgiving weekend we had more snow than West Yellowstone! The big Spring snowfalls, and solid base allowed us to extend the season into April. We closed segments as the snow melted, but by rerouting trails were able to groom a 3K segment on April 19th, and finally surrendered to the sun on April 24th.

We spent the summer widening several segments on the 10K, focusing on the Fisketti Junction area. Our workers – all members of the East Nordic team – cut and hauled-out a gigantic pile of saplings, as well as debris which we’d cut after the 2016 windstorm. These kids worked like demons, with minimal supervision, and did terrific work. Chief-of-Trails, Jim Wood, and I cleared dozens of trees, many off the trails and others that threatened to fall, and also widened trails. We have opened-up some new connectors between trails, to give skiers options to shorten or lengthen their ski, as well as provide entry/exit points for the groomers or emergency responders. The connectors that create the Perimeter Loop have been widened and improved, which creates a 3rd trail option for skiers. During October, Shawn Higgins brought his Skidster over twice, and we removed dozens of rocks from the trails. You’ll see some giant boulders in the trees next to the trails. This will improve early season grooming and skiing, save your skis, and reduce damage to our mowers and Ginzus.We’ll be out once more next week to add dirt to some holes left by the boulders, and build up low spots.

Looking Forward: The purchase of the Arctic Cat Bearcat XT last year (built for grooming) really helped with our grooming last season, sped-up the process after the “big snows”, and solved the reliability problem with our old Skidoos. This month we await delivery of a Yellowstone Track Systems “Roller/Groomer”, which will improve grooming our base in the early season, improve grooming options during big snowfalls, and allow us to groom both Skate decks and set a Classic track more efficiently.

Thank you for your membership. You keep Snowflake going.

John Graham
The Manager

Snowflake Season Pass Forms Now Available!

October 28th, 2018 Posted in News | Comments Off on Snowflake Season Pass Forms Now Available!

Snowflake Season Pass Forms are now available to download and print online! 2018-19 Season Pass Application 

Snowflake 2017/18 Season News & Update

October 21st, 2017 Posted in News | Comments Off on Snowflake 2017/18 Season News & Update

This wet Spring and Summer have challenged our trail maintenance, but as Ski Season nears, 99% of our trails have been cleared, mowed, and widened, rocks have been removed, and the bridges over low-spots have been repaired or rebuilt. The remaining 1% will be cleaned and cut when the ground freezes. We will be ready to groom when the snow flies.

Membership forms are now available for download from this website. Membership brochures will also be available, by 30 October, at Ski Hut, Continental Ski & Bike, and inside the Blue Box outside the chalet door. We will not be mailing brochures this season.

Our membership prices remain unchanged from the past two seasons, and “Early Bird” pricing will apply to memberships received by 30 November 2017.

The Long Version:

Despite an 11” deficit below average snowfall, we opened with groomed trails on December 1st 2016 and maintained some skiable, groomed trails until 30 March 2017. We were the last trail to close in Minnesota and Wisconsin, according to Two winter warm-ups required us to limit hours and ultimately close to skiing during January and February, but we preserved our snow-base and re-opened with some of the best trail conditions of the season. The “Members Only” weekend was our attempt to thank you for your understanding and cooperation. During last season we hosted the East Nordic team, KidSki, Marshall Holiday Camp, Nordic North Stars, Ski Duluth, and a relocated Proctor HS race. We also provided an intro to Nordic skiing to 87 student/clients from Woodland Hills, and hosted high school and college teams from the metro area and Wisconsin, who had poor snow at home.

Our grooming received positive feedback. It is worth noting that we effectively groomed with only 1 and ½ sleds last season, due to a chronic overheating problem with one of the sleds. Since I will not send groomers out alone at night, for obvious safety reasons, this restricted when we groomed, and increased the cost of grooming as we had to sit on the trail for 20 minutes waiting for the bad sled to cool and restart. To remedy this, at the end of the season we purchased a new Bearcat grooming sled, the same sled used at Giants Ridge and Lutsen, optimized for towing a groomer, and we will have two reliable groomers this year. Many Classic Skiers noted the improved track setting after December, which can be credited to the new YTS track setter that we purchased and installed before Christmas. Credit also to the improving skill of the Groomers!

Due mostly to the difficult snow conditions, and my determination to “Preserve the Trail”, at least through Birkie weekend, the question of “Dogs on the Trail”, became somewhat of an issue last season. There is little question that allowing dogs onto a groomed trail, whether for ski-touring or ski-kjoring, is hard on the trail, and destructive during very soft (fragile) conditions. That’s why dogs are prohibited on the City Trails and most other trails. However, one of the special things about Snowflake has always been that Members have the privilege of skiing with their dogs. They do not pay extra for this privilege, they pay the same as non-dog members. With privilege comes responsibility, and members with dogs are expected to remove dog droppings, control their dogs, and minimize the impact on the trails, especially the vulnerable classic tracks. Most dog owners act responsibly, but as is always the case, the 1 percenters attract the attention of the management. Ski-kjoring down the skate lane behind the groomer while your dog lopes down the freshly-set classic track is inconsiderate, and leaving bags of dog-poop on the chalet porch is just rude. But, I witnessed both.
As the trails became more fragile, we decided to restrict which trails were open to dogs, and on limited occasions, to keep dogs off the trails. This was done for one reason: to preserve the trails for skiers. The restrictions were posted on our phone message, and on, and signs were posted. And the restrictions were lifted as soon as conditions allowed. Going into the new season, we will endeavor to find a solution that works for all members, and I welcome ideas from all members, especially the dog-owners, One idea is to make the “Perimeter Loop” the preferred venue for ski-kjoring and touring with dogs. Another is to have “dog-days”, where dogs would have access on the day before we have scheduled grooming. I am open to ideas…

Post-season, we began trail work in May and have worked through the summer to improve troublesome portions of the trails, rebuild bridging in low spots, remove protruding rocks, and prep the trails for snow/grooming. The frequent and excessive rain has made it difficult – our equipment just can’t get through saturated ground – but at this point we have only a small area that we will clean-up once the ground freezes. We did clear, and mow a “new” loop up in Fisketti Junction, on the 10K, that has been unused for a few years. We are improving the Perimeter Loop connectors, and signage, to make it easier to ski, and we are improving signage throughout the trail system.

Trail lighting on the 5K remains a problem. The electrician that I first hired was overwhelmed by the task, and gave-up. I have another working on it, but how much of the lighting can or will be restored, I do not know. I will have headlamps available for members to borrow – at no cost – if the lighting is not restored.

My big hope is that the summer precipitation will turn into proper winter precipitation, and we will enjoy a snowy, Minnesota winter. Our trails, Your trails will be groomed and ready!

Snowflake looks forward to a fabulous 2017/2018 Ski Season!

September 17th, 2017 Posted in News | Comments Off on Snowflake looks forward to a fabulous 2017/2018 Ski Season!

Trails are in great shape and a new section has been opened. A complete update on our status and improvements will be posted by 1 October. Season Pass Membership forms will be available for download by 15 October and will also be available at Ski Hut and Continental after that date.


November 2nd, 2016 Posted in News | Comments Off on SNOWFLAKE NORDIC SKI CLUB 2016/17 MEMBERSHIP & NEWS

I hope that you all enjoyed “the seasons without snow”, but like me, you are anxious to get back on your skis and enjoy Winter!

Status Summary: Our 15 km of trails are now cleared of trees and have been mowed and edged. If it snows tonight, we are ready to begin grooming tomorrow. Our trails and facilities for the coming season remain unchanged from last season. Our membership prices will remain the same.

The Long Version:

Last season was a success. We began grooming on December 2nd, lost four days of skiing during the January warm-up, then resumed skiing on most trails into March. We preserved snow on some trails such that our last ski day was April 13th!

We expected work on the new Edison High School to begin in May – with expected impact on the 10km trails immediately behind North Star school/United Health – but, for a number of reasons, that work was delayed until it became impractical to begin this year.

We had a successful camping season and hosted campers from all over the U.S. and Canada.

We began Trail Maintenance and Improvements in June, with a goal of widening narrow spots on the trails and improving low (wet) spots. Then, came the Great Storm of 21 July!

Fortunately, we had no campers that night, because we had trees down in most campsites. We had one tree down on the roof of the chalet. Our trails were completely blocked – there were 12 downed trees on the first 100 meters outbound from the trailhead, alone.

We began clearing on 22 July, first priority being the campsites and trail sections that access the campsites. We hosted the campers with reservation that night. Next we moved onto the 5K trail, then Special K and the Biathlon course, and finally into the 10K trails. As we cleared, we mowed and edged. The 5K was completely clear on 30 August, and we got the last tree off the 10K trail on 4 Oct. The bright side to the storm is that it brought down trees that probably needed to come down and, being out there with the chainsaws gave us the opportunity to cut-back saplings and widen some narrow sections.

To focus on cutting and clearing and moving forward, we stacked cut logs and branches on the side of the trails, and we are now removing that debris, mostly by trailering it out for chipping.

With the trails cleared, the other major casualty was our 5K trail lights. They were devastated by the storm. We have hired an electrician to restore the lighting, but the job and costs are such that we will probably not have the full 5K lighting restored this season. Our priority is first to light the parking lots and “Sledding Hill”, then to restore lighting in ever-expanding “loops” outbound from the trailhead. For example a 1K lighted loop out the 5K to the 2nd KidSki cutoff, then back to the Chalet via the 5K return trail. We will expand the lighting as we overcome the problems. We will remain open for night skiing, and encourage night-skiers to add a Headlamp to their gear bag.

Our relationship with the developer remains positive, and we plan to evolve as development begins next summer, adapting to whatever comes and remaining a great place to ski, into the future.

2016/17 Memberships: I confess that all of the trail work has put me behind on mailing-out membership brochures! They are in production and will be mailed/distributed by the end of the month. Our membership prices will remain the same as last season:

Family:     $179 * / $239

Individual: $109* / $149

Student:    $59* / $97

Over 80:    $Free

* = “Early Bird Sale Price if membership is received by 30 November 2016 (We extended this due to the flyers going out later than usual)

Your membership is good until 31 October 2017 and in addition to unlimited skiing, entitles you to 2 nights of camping during the “other” seasons. We are also entering a “Reciprocity Agreement” with a couple of ski areas in Northern Wisconsin, which will entitle our members to a free day of skiing, details to be coming.

With the 5K lighting reduced, we did consider reducing membership prices, however the costs to repair and restore the lighting for this and future seasons weighed against that. We are going to replace broken lights with new, LED lighting, so I hope you will recognize this as an investment in future ski seasons at Snowflake.

Other News:

  1. We have hired Jim Wood, a long-time trail-groomer at Snowflake, to the trail maintenance and grooming team this year.
  2. We are hiring 2 additional groomers, which will give us 5 total, to improve the scheduling of snow grooming this season.
  3. We have hired a “Website Person” to update our website ( ). New 2016/2017 membership forms available for download from our Season Pass page.
  4. Our “Website Person” will also get our Facebook page squared away, and I am going to get a Smart Phone, so that we can post regular updates on conditions at Snowflake.
  5. We have commitments to host East High School Nordic, DXC KidSki, Marshall Holiday Ski Camp, and Northern Lights Ski Program again this season.
  6. We will again organize a charter bus to the Book Across The Bay ski event at Washburn WI in February.

That’s the update! We appreciate your membership and support in the past, and look forward to seeing you up here this season. I encourage you to come up and take a brisk walk, or a run, on the trails. Bring your ski poles and do some nordic walking! If you see something that concerns you, let us know and we’ll fix it. If you just like what you see, we like to hear that, too. Thanks for your membership.

Think Snow!!!

John Graham ( & John Gould, & the Snowflake Team)

Snowflake Contact Information

October 28th, 2009 Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Snowflake Contact Information

Hope you’re excited for another SUPER SNOWFLAKE SEASON!

Contact information:

Snowflake Telephone Number (218) 726 – 1550  (Leave a message)

4348 Rice Lake Rd
Duluth, MN 55811

John Graham (Manager): (218) 355 – 1271
John Gould (Biathlon):   (218) 269 – 2854

twitter:   @ski_snowflake