Huron Meadows Buck Run Trail has become one of my favorite trails to ski on for a couple of reasons. One, they are very likely to have snow. Two, they have a great staff providing the best possible conditions on the trail and great support from the local xc ski group, Nordic Ski Racer.
Located on the outskirts of Detroit, close to Brighton, you would not expect to find good snow, but a dedicated park staff creates a couple of large piles of manmade snow and spreads it out on the roughly 1.5 mile Bucks Run Trail as needed throughout the winter. The Detroit area is not in the snow belt region of Michigan, but the Bucks Run Trail is probably had the most skiable number of days in the lower peninsula over the past few years. When they get natural snow, they have a few extra miles of trails, which they groom in addition to the Bucks Run trail.
sponsor a weekend race series with a 5k and 15k freestyle race on Saturday (Frosty Freestyle), and an 8k and 12k race on Sunday Krazy Klassic. Helping promote xc skiing throughout Michigan, the Michigan Cup race series has been developed. Both of these races are part of the series; There are six or seven current Michigan Cup teams, all willing to accept more team members as they try to earn points for some of the covet season awards.
With Forbush Corners (Fredric, MI) adding snowmaking this winter, there will now be three areas that I know of in the lower peninsula of Michigan that will have some trails with manmade snow. There, Cross Country Ski Headquarters in Roscommon, MI and here on Huron Meadows Buck Run Trail. My hopes that more areas will consider adding this option as it is always nice to know there will be some snow to ski on during the days of winter.
Last July I decided that I would like to get an early start to the Nordic winter season and started doing some research on early snow locations in North America to XC ski. I narrowed it down to two places. The two finalists were Menihek Nordic Ski Club and the Sovereign Lake Nordic Center. Both were early training locations for National Ski Teams. After looking at travel arrangements, we chose Sovereign Lake and travel arrangements made.
November 8th quickly arrived, and my wife and I flew out to Vancouver, British Columbia from Pittsburgh, PA. There we spent a couple of days sightseeing, as it was our first trip to the area. We then rented a Jeep Cherokee and left on a drive through the mountains of British Columbia on our way to Kelowna Valley where we would be staying during our week of skiing.
During the week, the temperature in the valley was in the mid-40s. The temperature dropped as elevation increased on our daily drive to the Nordic Center. There the conditions were perfect for XC skiing with temperatures around 28F degrees and little to no wind. The trails, like Art Roscoe at Alleghany State Park, are well designed and maintained allowing one to ski with a little less effort.
The practice area at Sovereign Lake was the nicest I’ve seen anywhere. There were 10 or so tracks set with enough space in between to skate for a length of 200 or so meters. Many skiers enjoyed working on skiing technique in this area. The terrain varied with some very challenging hills on some trails, and others with gradual hills mixed in with some flat sections. My wife was a little concerned about whether the area would be within her ability level, but found that they had plenty of trails open in her ability level and loved the temperate climate of the region. I enjoyed those trail along with some more challenging trails, skiing more miles than I had ever skied in a week. We are both excited about a return trip for some early and maybe even some late-season skiing in the future.
Between now and the first skiable snow, I’m going to share my thoughts and experiences of forty or so of my favorite Nordic skiing areas. The first of these is where I learned to ski in the mid-1980s, Art Roscoe Trail system at Allegany State Park in Western New York.
On weekends in the 1980s, it was common to see charter buses from Toronto at Art Roscoe, a testament to the quality of trail design and a commitment from the park to maintain the 20 miles of trails at a high standard. Today, the park still grooms them on an as need basis as a double-tracked classical ski area.
Most of the trails in this network were created just below the ridgeline of the mountains in the park providing beautiful views, looking across broad wooded valleys of the park. Along with the trees, it offers extra protection from the wind well skiing. Lake Erie, which is 40 miles away, provides some lake effect to the park, along with snow from the occasional eastern snowstorm. With a summit elevation of 2100+ feet, the trail system holds the snow well. TIn addition, the trails are all well-graded and drained, adding to the ability to maintain its snow.
The trails at the highest elevations, Sweetwater and Christian Hollow have some intermediate type hills but ski at a beginner level because of how well they were designed. Leonards Run adds a little more distance for a skier with the Ridge Trail adding a couple of longer descents. A return up Patterson allows for a two-mile gradual climb to the Summit or for the advanced skier, a trip on the hills of Snow Snake will provide for some eye-watering descents and some heart raising climbs.
The trail system is now used in the nonwinter months as a mountain bike area. With the development of roller skis with 8-inch wheels (Skikes), I’ve started making an occasion summer trip up to Art Roscoe. The upper trails I roller skied on were firm enough that I was able to do a fair amount of skate style skiing mixed in with a little classical. It is pretty neat seeing the beauty of the area during all of the different seasons.
If you have never been there, I would recommend a winter trip to enjoy some exceptional classical skiing around. The park is located next to the town of Salamanca in NY and just across the border from Bradford, PA. The park has a number of cabin loops open during the winter. The one cabin loop, The Summit Loop is located at the trailhead for the Art Roscoe Trails. More park information is available at Allegany State Park Link.
One of the nice developments over the last 30 years is the number of multi-use trails that have been developed. With in 40 miles of where I live in Western Pennsylvania, I can travel to almost a dozen different trails. When visiting my parents in Michigan last week, I was also able to spend time on a few different trails.
One of the nice things about the different trails, is that the terrain differs, making some trail great for the beginner or a relaxed easy day of roller skiing / cross skating, while another trail can have some challenging hills to get the blood flowing a little faster. The Betsie Valley Trail is an example of an easy, flat trail. The 6-mile paved section of this trail links Crystal Lake to the Lake Michigan town of Frankfort. I always seem to enjoy the beautiful scenery that includes views of the boat harbor in Frankfort, views looking down at the Betsie River, and a few ponds, quite often with turtles perched on logs along the way.
A second trail of the trip was the Leelanau Trail from just outside Traverse City to Suttons Bay. This also is an old railroad bed, but one that has a gradual slope of around 40 ft per mile. A little more effort on the uphill sections, but a little easier on the downhill sections. I would classify a trail like this as easy to moderate. The slope is enough to make you work a little when going up, but not so steep that you have to have good brakes for going down. Suttons Bay is a great little resort type town to reward oneself with a little nutrition after a nice day on the trail.
The third trail of the trip was the southern half of the Heritage Trail which traverse Sleeping Bear National Lakeshore. At one end of the section of this trail is the town of Empire, at the other Glen Arbor. In between, you will find a few miles of rolling hills that are work physical work going up and require good brakes or a no fear mentality going down. After passing the Sleeping Bear Dune Climb, the trail levels out some, and travels through an old Coast Guard Village of Glen Haven and then through a state park campground before arriving in the town of Glen Arbor.
Three trails. One easy, one easy to moderate, and one more difficult because of a few steep up and steep down hills. All three, an enjoyable way to keep the ski muscles ready for the winter season.
Last fall, after a lot of summer time Nordic activities, I was ready for an early start to the ski season. My wife Heather headed to Sovereign Lake Nordic Center in British Colombia in mid November. I had made reservation early in the summer, after doing a little research on good spots for early season skiing. I was not the least bit disappointed. Seven days on immaculate trails was a great way to start the season.
My non snow preparation for my winter of 2018-19 was made up with a variety of activities, including a little swimming and biking and a fair amount of times on a pair of Skikes, a type of roller ski also referred to as a cross skate. With this training, I was able to ski over 140 miles during the week, and feeling good each day.
I can’t say enough about the variety and grooming of the trails at Sovereign Lake. Heather was a little nervous about the trip, as she is not the fanatic that I am about year round preparation, but found it a very enjoyable area to ski with great scenery and terrain and quality grooming that made the skiing easy for her. Were both looking forward to a return trip, for some more early season Nordic skiing. Just a side note on Sovereign Lake, they just ended there season today, May 12 with a Spring Fling ski weekend. Must be nice having good snow for six months of the year.
My preferred area to roller ski / cross skate is on a trail vs a road. It is nice rolling along and not having to worry about the few drivers that feel that roads should be only for cars. Trails come in a variety of different surface types. The most common surface type I summertime ski on is a paved asphalt surface. The second being a crushed limestone surface. Both are quite common in Western Pennsylvania where I live.
Unlike the winter where I have to travel a minimum of 80 miles (130km) to find a nicely groomed trail, I have many trails within 25 miles (40km) of home, including the Hunter Farm trail, a 3 mile loop trail through some woods and fields with one small hill. When busy with life and trying not to spend as much time in the car, this is my go-to spot to ski. The lack of travel time is definitely one of the advantages of skiing with wheels, easily allowing me to find some time almost every day to get outside and get the blood flowing.