Being a member of the Brainerd High School Nordic ski racing team this winter is probably like trying out for the Warriors' swimming and diving team and discovering the school district intends to put water in the pool about half the season.
It's an understatement to say it has been a difficult season to be a Nordic (cross country) ski racer. Seven meets have been canceled. Dates have been changed. Meets have been moved.
For the first time in memory there is virtually no cross country skiing in the lakes area. The DNR forestry office in Brainerd reported Thursday that approximately two inches of snow blankets the lakes area right now.
Brainerd Dispatch/Nels Norquist
The Warriors' Nordic team, which somehow had skied in seven meets before Thursday's Central Lakes Conference meet conducted on private property near Fergus Falls, has been practicing conditioning and technique indoors. They have also practiced at Ski Gull in areas that are conducive for cross country skiing.
"It's been tough," Brainerd senior Hans Stadem said, "but you just go through it because you can't do anything about it. We had a pretty bad year when I was in seventh grade but that wasn't this bad.
"It's like (the weather) is tempting us. It gives us a little bit of snow, but not enough to ski on, and too much to rollerski on."
Warrior girls' captain Katherine Mueller jokes there will probably be a blizzard after the season ends Feb. 16 with the state meet at Giants Ridge in Biwabik. In the meantime, she continues to encourage teammates and remains positive.
Mueller said the frustrating part of not enough snow is the monotony of indoor workouts, in addition to attempting to simulate cross country skiing at downhill skiing facilities.
"I love to be on trails, go up and down different hills and terrain," she said. "That's what's most frustrating. This takes away from what cross country skiing really is."
Despite the conditions, Mueller said few skiers have quit.
"If you love the sport you stay with it," she said, "but it does get frustrating at times. It's hard to stay focused on what's at hand, but if you love the sport you will do all you can to stay with it. Everyone is pretty much in the same boat in the state."
Unless there is a blizzard the annual Lumberjack Classic at Northland Arboretum in Brainerd, scheduled for Feb. 4, will be canceled. Race co-director Josh Duda said a decision will be made this weekend, whether to cancel the event or stage it even if sufficient snow falls in the next few days.
"Right now there are no groomed trails in the area," Duda said, "and we don't have enough snow to start grooming. ... Right now it's looking pretty bleak."
The Classic was last canceled in 2003. Since 2000 it has been canceled three times.
"(2004) was the year we had a big snowfall Sunday night and Monday morning the week before and we were able to hold the race the following Sunday," Duda said.
The few venues in northern Minnesota with snow for cross country skiing include Mt. Itasca near Coleraine and Giants Ridge, both of whom make snow, and Maplelag near Detroit Lakes, which moves snow from lakes and deposits it on trails.
Dale Braddy, executive director of Northland Arboretum in Brainerd, said the winter hasn't been a complete disaster, however. Braddy said people continue to walk and run on arboretum trails.
"Nothing is groomed," he said. "We have about an inch of snow, but not enough to ski on. A lot of rocks are coming up in certain areas. If we do get snow we have a lot of frozen ground out there with a good base.
"We're ready, but it's a waiting game. Looking back, things have a way of balancing out, moisture-wise. We could get a lot at the end of the winter season."
Mueller is probably right.
Mike Bialka, sports editor, can be reached at email@example.com or at 855-5861.
Brainerd Dispatch ©2013. All Rights Reserved.