Nordic Ski Adventures Near & Far

This past January Endurance Adventures was asked to speak for one of the seminar sessions at the Birkie Ski De She Camp in Cable, WI. The camp had one hundred participants with around half of the audience being new to the sport of cross-country skiing. Guest speaker and Olympian Holly Brooks inspired the women with her coaching, racing and encouraging message. This article shares some of the highlights from my seminar on the topic of Nordic skiing adventures in the Midwest, nationally, and internationally.

I am grateful to my father introducing me to the sport of cross-country skiing back in the late 1970s. He purchased our entire family fish-scaled classic skis with three pin bindings. Those skis provided a jumpstart into the world of Nordic ski adventures. Since then, skiing has taken me to some incredible ski venues both near and far from home.

Craig and Kim Rudd enjoying double-track classic skiing at Bemidji State Park in 1992

The first destination skiing brought me to was Bemidji, MN. I raced on the BSU Nordic team between 1989 -1992 and enjoyed exploring a variety of ski trails in the area. One of my favorite trails was Bemidji State Park. This park grooms double-track classic trails so you can enjoy skiing side by side. This park holds fond memories of my first date night skiing under the moon with my husband Craig in 1992! Every February the park would hold a luminary ski through the woods followed by snacks, hot drinks, and music inside the warming cabin.

I also enjoyed skiing at Bueno Vista which is the home course for the Minnesota Finlandia race. Growing up in the eighties without any snow-making venues I grew fond of skiing on a variety of lakes. I rented the bottom of a house during college located on Lake Bemidji and enjoyed the short ski commute to my Biology class located just a few km down the shore at Bemidji State University’s science building. 

BSU Nordic Team’s main training ground was a place called Movil Maze, a Beltrami county park that provided great agility skiing with a variety of twisty hilly trails. A few years ago the ski team had a reunion at Movil Maze. The team and coach coach Gilman gathered for a celebration of being inducted into the hall of fame as the1992 BSU Women’s Nordic Relay Team podium. My first time on an airplane was in College flying to Lake Placid, NY and Bend, Oregon for the Collegiate Nordic Ski Nationals. These trips opened my eyes to the unlimited possibilities of ski adventures.

Kim Rudd with her BSU Women’s Team at Mt. Batchelor, Oregon at College Nationals

After college, I joined the Rossignol marathon racing team which brought me to different races in Maine, Michigan, and all over the Midwest. Later on in life I got the bug to travel further and competed in a few World Loppet events. Whatever stage of life you may find yourself, there are ski adventures to be had close to home, in the U.S. and worldwide. 

 Midwest Ski Adventures

The Midwest truly offers the most ski races out of any area in the United States. In a good snow year, there are a variety of small and large ski race events offered between December and mid-March. There is also hundreds of state and county recreational ski venues scattered throughout Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan. Minnesota State Parks offer 81 venues that groom ski trails regularly. Wisconsin has an additional 50 ski venues. Both State Parks offer a yearly ski pass for only twenty-five dollars!

Kim sporting retro Rossignol gear at Itasca State Park in 1995

MN State Parks to visit in the Twin Cities Area:

  • Afton
  • William O’Brien State Park 
  • Sunfish Lake Park
  • Ritter Farm park
  • Fort Snelling

Kim Rudd’s top picks for state parks include:

  • Lake Maria 
  • Itasca
  • Banadad
  • Cascade River
  • Gooseberry Falls
  • Bemidji State Park
  • Willow River State Park

Duluth and the North Shore have also been one of my favorite places to explore ski trails. Endurance Adventures is excited to lead the upcoming Women’s North Shore Ski Trip on March 14 – 18, 2024. Skiers will explore trails from Two Harbors to Grand Marais, MN. Enjoy your ski-in ski-out lodging at the Bluefin Bay Resort with views of Lake Superior and fine dining. Trip leaders Kim Rudd and Jan Guenther will provide expert coaching for beginner to advanced skiers. The ski itinerary will include eight stops at various cross-country ski trail systems along the North Shore:

Sugarbush Trail

Upper Peninsula Michigan Ski Adventures

 Driving up to Houghton, MI in the BSU college vans was always an interesting commute! As soon as the van took a left-hand turn off of Hwy 2 heading north it would start snowing like crazy! Many of the college races over the years at the Michigan Tech Trails created a sense of skiing in a snow globe. Houghton receives more than 230 inches of snow each year. This 2023/24 El Nino season has been much less typical, but the area recently received a huge dump of sixty inches of snow in just a few days during the recent cold spell. If you have not had a chance to visit Houghton, I recommend you place it high on your bucket list. 

Top ski venues in Yooper land!

 Houghton, MI

  • Swedetown ski trails in Calumet 35 Km
  • Maasto Hiihto 25 km
  • Copper Harbor 15 km
  • Chassell Classic Trails 10 km
  • Michigan Tech Trails 31 km

Ironwood, MI

  • Wolverine Trails  – 25 km
  • ABR Trails – 70 km of classic/skate and classic-only trails

Marquette, MI

  • Blueberry Ridge
  • Noquemanon Trail (North/South)
  • Forestville Trails
  • Valley Spur Trails – 45 km
  • Big Bay Path
  • Saux Head Trails – 12 km

Ski Adventures Nationwide!

A great way to explore ski venues around the U.S. is to compete in one of the American Ski Marathon Series (ASM). The series was founded in 1978 to provide every level of cross-country skier with a thrilling chance to be part of a nationwide series of adventure, winter festivals, and fun.

Tour of Anchorage 2023 Mass Start Wave 1 at Hilltop Trail

Whether you enjoy racing or recreational skiing, the following ski race venues offer some of the best ski adventures in the nation.

Check out some of the top ski venues and races around the U.S.!

Desire to travel with other like-minded skiers? Sign up for one of the Endurance Adventures’ upcoming ski trips to Alaska, Washington, and Oregon. 

Ski Adventures Worldwide!

World Master Race Events

The World Masters was formed in February 1982 as a worldwide association for master cross-country skiers. The Association provides a common international platform for top competitive skiers as well as for those who simply enjoy racing, regardless of the ranking. Participants must be 30 years or older to compete in the World Masters events. The event is hosted every year in a different country.

Nancy Bauer competing in the women’s World Masters event in Sovereign Lakes Canada

I have only competed in the 2018 World Masters race when the Loppet Foundation hosted the event in Minneapolis. This year it takes place in Finland. The upcoming events in 2025 will be in Switzerland, and then in Italy for 2026. You do NOT need to be a fast or expert skier to compete in these events, everyone is welcome. They have different distance race events depending on your age category. The events have individual, mass start, and relay race formats. It’s pretty amazing to be on the start line with ten to twenty different countries competing in your age group.

The age categories start at Class 1 for ages 30 – 34 and go all the way up to age Class 13 which is 90 years and older! I have fond memories of getting my photo taken with a man who was in his 90s traveling from Norway at the 2018 Minneapolis World Master award ceremony. The World Masters website has all the information for registration, lodging, and other activities you can do in the area.

World Loppet Race Events

The World Loppet is an international sports federation of cross-country skiing marathons, founded in 1978 in Uppsala, Sweden. World Loppet aims to promote the sport of cross-country skiing by focusing on various ski races around the world. The World Loppet currently unites 20 long-distance ski races from Europe, America, Asia, and Oceania (minus the Russia World Loppet). Skiers can join the claim to fame of becoming World Loppet Master skiers by completing 10 different World Loppet events!

Kim Rudd skiing at the start area of the Engadin World Loppet in 2006

Below are three World Loppet events that I have enjoyed competing at over the last decade.

Engadin World Loppet Switzerland

My first World Loppet besides the American Birkie was the 2006 Engadin in Switzerland. The Engadin Ski marathon is the second-largest cross-country skiing event in the world. More than 14,000 athletes from over 60 nations complete the 42 km Engadin every year. The Engadin Half Marathon, the Engadin Women’s Race, and the Engadin Night Race also take place during marathon week. In addition, Pontresina transforms itself into the cross-country skiing mecca of Switzerland for three days as the marathon village.

The Engadin is the perfect first World Loppet race event providing a shorter distance and mostly flat terrain in the beautiful Engadin Valley. The best part of the event is receiving a delicious Swiss chocolate bar at the finish line!

Fossavatn World Loppet in Iceland

In 2009 I won a trip to race in the Fossavatn classic marathon in Iceland through the Skinnyski race series. The race was founded in 1935 but it was not until 2014 that the Fossavatn event was accepted into the World Loppet Federation. The top priority for most racers is to finish the race as quickly as possible so you can feast at the massive dessert cake feed following the event!

The race starts at sea level so there is no need to worry about elevation. You can choose between four different race distances along with a night race option! Similar to the Norwegian Birken, racers must carry a backpack with specific survival clothing in case the weather gets stormy. There are no trees in Iceland so the wind can be very strong with nowhere to hide. Following the race, I enjoyed the travel back to Reykjavik visiting multiple waterfalls and of course the well-deserved Blue Lagoon hot spring pool. 

  Norwegian Birkebeinerrennet in Norway

In 2022 my husband and I along with our daughter Leah took a trip of a lifetime to Norway. My favorite skiing was not in the actual race, but rather visiting all the famous Norwegian World Cup race venues in Oslo and Drammen. Birkebeinerrennet is a cross-country race starting at Rena and finishing in Lillehammer. The 54 km classic technique race was introduced in 1932 to honor the Norwegian King’s son who was brought to safety in the 13th century. Amazing trail system across Norway.

Backcountry skiing with our Norwegian friends in Rauland on a perfect bluebird day!

 Our family was hosted by the family of a former Armstrong High School exchange student. They helped us plan our trip along with taking us to their cabin in the mountains. The highlight of the entire trip was backcountry skiing in the Rauland mountains. We came home with tummies full of brown cheese and a lifetime of memories with our newfound friends.

Ski Adventures in Canada

Silver Star, B.C.

 Endurance Adventures has led two early-season ski trips to Silver Star and Sovereign Lake in early December. This year with the lack of snow in the United States, I felt very fortunate to have skied on natural snow while everyone else was still roller skiing. During the 2022 trip, Silver Star received a record amount of snow, creating a Dr. Seuss-like snow globe. On the 2023 trip there was much less snow, but still ample amounts of trails to be explored. The best part of skiing in Silver Star is the convenience of skiing right out of your hotel door. Visit our 2023 trip blog post to hear the top ten reasons to visit Silver Star, B.C.

Other Canadian races and ski venues you may want to visit include:

Ski Adventures Off The Beaten Path

Craig Rudd with daughter Hannah skiing on the trails from Bearskin Lodge

Gunflint Trail System 

Some of my favorite cross-country skiing is along the Gunfliint Trail. Three groomed and tracked cross-country ski systems await you on the Gunflint Trail, over 400 km: Central Gunflint, Banadad, and the Upper Gunflint Ski systems. Average snowfall is nearly 100 inches. When my children were younger our family rented one of the cabins at Bearskin Lodge and enjoyed a point-to-point ski adventure from Bearskin Lodge to Golden Eagle Lodge. The best part about the Gunflint Trail system is the quiet woods with less crowds. 

Banadad Ski Trail Yurt Skiing

The Banadad Ski Trail system consists of the 27 km of classic single-tracked intimate trails through the Boundary Waters Wilderness, and another 14 kilometers of trails taking off from the Banadad’s eastern end. All the trails are classic single-tracked. 

BWCA Backcountry Skiing

For those who really want to escape into solitude I suggest renting some backcountry sleds and tents and explore lake skiing in the BWCA!

Josie Nelson and friends skiing in the BWCA!

Montana Backcountry skiing

Over the last two decades the Rudd family has enjoyed traveling to West Yellowstone over the Thanksgiving holiday. Most skiers stay on the groomed Rendezvous trails, but I prefer adventure skiing into the park. The river trail is one of my favorites along with the Continental Divide backcountry trail. 

This past December our family spent a few days in W.Y. and discovered the road into the park was nicely groomed by the snowmobiles. Some of my best memories have been skiing into the park on the snow covered road and enjoyed views of buffalo, elk, wolfs and a variety of hot springs with nobody around!

I hope this article provides inspiration to try new ski adventures both close and far from your home!

Kim Rudd enjoying the river trail in W.Y.