Skiing is one of the first things that comes to mind when the snow starts to fall. We don't really have any hills in Minnesota, so aside from a couple of downhill ski and snowboard areas in the Twin Cities, the most popular form of skiing here in Minneapolis and St. Paul is cross-country skiing.
Are you new to cross country skiing? This Cross Country Skiing introduction explains the origins of the sport, why you should go cross-country skiing, and a beginner's guide to equipment.
Buying, Renting, Waxing and Servicing Cross Country Skis
Shop for cross country skis, have skis waxed and repaired, or learn to do it yourself, at these local stores.
- Finn Sisu is the Twin Cities' dedicated cross country ski store. As well as selling cross country skis, Finn Sisu will teach you how to wax your skis, and hold classes and run a cross country ski training program with Sisu Skiers.
- Midwest Mountaineering is an independent outdoor store in Minneapolis' Cedar-Riverside neighborhood. They sell and service cross country skis, and hold free clinics and how-to classes on cross country skiing and ski waxing.
- REI has a few Twin Cities locations in Bloomington, Maple Grove and Roseville. REI rents and sells cross country skis, offers repairs and waxing, and holds cross country ski clinics at locations across the Twin Cities.
Many parks with cross-country ski trails offer rentals, such as Columbia Golf Course and Theodore Wirth Park in Minneapolis, Como Park in St. Paul, and several parks in the Three Rivers Park District.
Cross Country Ski Trails
Most large parks and many gardens and open spaces in the Twin Cities have cross country ski trails open in the winter. Here's some of the most popular places to cross country ski in and around the Twin Cities.
- Theodore Wirth Park in Minneapolis has 25 kilometers of trails for beginners to advanced and a two-kilometer lighted trail for evening skiing.
- Columbia Golf Course in Minneapolis has several miles of trails.
- Fort Snelling State Park has 12 miles of scenic trails with river views.
- Como Park in St. Paul has some of the best trails in the Metro area.
- Minnesota Landscape Arboretum is a very scenic place to ski.
- Lebanon Hills Regional Park in Apple Valley and Eagan has some of the best local trails.
- Elm Creek Park Preserve in Maple Grove has several lighted trails, and snowmaking to keep the trails in perfect condition.
Cross Country Ski Passes
Maintaining cross country ski trails is time consuming and expensive, and to pay for the work, cross country ski passes are required to ski almost everywhere. if you are caught skiing without a pass, you will be fined. The pass you need depends on where you skiing.
- The Great Minnesota Ski Pass is required for everyone over 16 at St. Paul's parks, and city parks in Ramsey, Carver, Washington, and Anoka counties. This pass is also required at all state parks, such as Fort Snelling State Park. When skiing at a state park, you will also need a state park vehicle permit to park in the park itself.
- Minneapolis Park & Recreation ski trail pass is good for cross country skiing in all Minneapolis city parks. Every skier over 12 is required to have a pass.
- Three Rivers Park District requires a pass for all trail users over the age of 12. One pass is good for all their parks.
- Dakota County has their own pass system. Everyone over age 18 is required to have a Dakota County Cross-Country Ski Pass pass to ski any of the Dakota County parks.
Cross Country Skiing Events
The major event on the cross country skiing calendar is the City of Lakes Loppet. Held in the first weekend of February, the event attracts national and international professional skiiers, as well as local athletes. Spectators are encouraged to come out and watch the racing. The highlights are the non-competitive candle lit Luminary Loppet held on Saturday night, and Sunday's City of Lakes Freestyle Loppet, the main race of the weekend and one of the most popular urban ski races in the world.
Cross Country Skiing Around Minnesota
There are hundreds of miles of cross country ski trails in Minnesota, and once you have a Great Minnesota Ski Pass you can ski at almost all of them.