Nordic Ski Town USA? Active Living USA?

three-stooges-web1Cows, colleges and contentment? Fuggedaboutit. Cows, colleges and cross country skiing should be Northfield’s new town motto, if the number of participants in yesterday’s Vasloppet ski races is any indication. I skied in the 42-kilometer classic race with friends Mark Mellstrom (left) and Dave Folland (right). An astounding 34 Northfielders participated in all of the day’s races (see the results I pulled together below),  ranging in age from 12 (Zach Scheuerman and Ethan Nelson) to 69 (Bob Nesvold). At least one Northfield ex-pat, my brother-in-law Eric Larson, also participated. Click on the photo at right for a brief slideshow from the event.

I enjoyed a thoroughly memorable ski. The weather was perfect, with temperatures rising from about 12 degrees at race start to the upper 20s by the finish, bright blue skies, and just a slight headwind out of the southwest. Snow conditions were also fabulous, with a solid and fast but not icy track for those of us skiing the classic race. I hit both glide and kick wax right on, and had a wonderful time (all 3 hours, 5 minutes and 45 seconds of it). I wasn’t the fastest skier out there by a LONG stretch, but it was a good ski for me nonetheless. I felt great until about 10 K from the finish, ground it out, finished 19th out of 52 in my age group (158th out of the 349 classic racers overall), and didn’t even feel like collapsing or puking at the finish.  As sufferfests go, this was a comparative day in the park. (I should mention that in perusing the results I see that a 74-year-old from Sweden finished just ahead of me. Wait until next year!)slide11

Northfield’s 34 racers represents just over 2% of the total registrants (about 1600) for the entire event, which draws participants from all over the US and a number of foreign countries (including Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Canada). Counting only the 1248 Minnesota participants, Northfield’s share of the racers is an impressive 2.72%, compared to our roughly 0.44% of Minnesota’s total population (even including those folks with Northfield addresses living in the townships surrounding Northfield). In other words, we were over-represented by a factor of more than six compared to the rest of the state! Special mention should be made of a family-that-plays-together group: Mike Scheuerman, a friend and fellow Northfield Bike Club member, skied the 13K freestyle race with his wife (Kelly), son (Zach), and daughter (Sophie).

While participation is the thing in events like this, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention several spectacular performances by Northfielders:

  • Sue Welch (an intrepid biker with the Northfield Bike Club, and relative skiing neophyte, having skied her first race just a couple of years ago), took first in her age group in the women’s 35K freestyle.
  • Bob Nesvold finished first in his age group in the men’s 42K classic race.
  • Sophie Scheuerman of the Northfield High School Nordic Ski Team finished second in her age group in the 13K freestyle.
  • Thomas Dunning of the NHS Nordic Team turned in the fastest time of any Northfield racer in the 35K freestyle, with a smoking 1:39:35 (2:51 per kilometer), and was third in his age group.

Way to go Northfield!

Now, there’s been a lot of talk about forging a strong community identity: Arts Town, Green Town, etc.. While I don’t have a gripe with any of these other designations, I think Northfield is developing a strong cultural identity as a hub of human-powered recreation (walking, biking, skiing, canoeing, etc.), and a real walker/biker culture in terms of just plain getting around town. I bike (and ski) with a growing group of folks who loosely identify themselves as members of the Northfield Bike Club herd. You can see their/my bizarre garb and ridiculously over-priced bikes on display in and outside Goodbye Blue Monday after rides on most Saturdays when the roads are snow/ice-free. Nordic Ski Town USA? Active Living USA? I’m proud that either designation wouldn’t be much of a stretch.


  1. Posted February 9, 2009 at 1:40 pm | Permalink

    Great post, and nice race!

    Thanks for the collected info. Kudos should go also to Peter Wilton of Carleton, who skied ridiculously fast to finish 51st in the 58k race. That’s after skiing very well at the City of Lakes last week, too.

    More personally, I think it’s great that Northfield is so ski-happy. For a place our size, we have a number of great assets – a culture of human-powered recreation, at least two good places to ski (the Arb and the Natural Lands), at least four good ski organizations (the NHS team, the college teams/clubs, and you biking yahoos), and (mostly) reliable snow. Could we form a Northfield club?

    Even more personally than that, I hope I can get up to Mora next year and add to the town’s over-representation at the races. Think snow!

  2. Posted February 9, 2009 at 2:10 pm | Permalink

    While the Northfield Bike Club has been kinda-sorta functioning as a nordic ski club for a modest number of folks the past few years, I think a quasi-formal Nordic Ski Club would be a great thing, Christopher. You strike me as just the guy to pull it together! Whaddya think?

  3. Posted February 10, 2009 at 10:09 am | Permalink

    Great post, Bruce! I’ve enjoyed skiing around St. Olaf.

    Do you think we’re adequately set for cross-country skiing facilities here? What about the city and county parks? The golf course? And how can we get even more people skiing? If we had a warming house with ski rental somewhere, that would be even better.

    I have fond memories of skiing at Baker Park in western Hennepin County as a kid. Much of the skiing area is a golf course in the warmer months.

  4. Posted February 13, 2009 at 11:08 am | Permalink

    Not to whine, but I think the cross country ski facilities could be better. I love skiing in the Arb (where I’ve done the great majority of my skiing since I started in about 1968), but the grooming is pretty hit or miss. In addition, there’s lots of foot and dog traffic on the Arb trails, which tends to chop things up pretty badly soon after any grooming is done. For whatever reason, I’ve never skied at St. Olaf so I can’t speak to the conditions there. I’ve also enjoyed the occasional outing to the Cannon River Wilderness Park (no grooming) and Nerstrand Big Woods State Park (sometimes groomed).

    My experiences in recent winters on occasional outings with friends or by myself to destinations in the Three Rivers and Dakota County parks systems in the Metro area (Lebanon Hills, Cleary Lake, Highland, Baker and Elm Creek) have spoiled me. All of these parks do a FABULOUS job of grooming, and it IS nice to have a chalet to retire to after skiing to enjoy a sit by a fire, a hot drink, and conversation.

    That being said, I don’t know if Northfield or Rice County could support much more than we have. Better grooming would undeniably be a good thing, though…

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