By Midge Reller
Winona’s erratic winter temperatures and little snowfall have had a substantial impact on outdoor activities, specifically cross-country skiing.
“We have one of the best trails in Southern Minnesota,” said Br. John Grover. “A lot of people come here from La Crosse, Rochester or the Twin Cities if they have bad snow because we have such a good trail.”
Although his primary job at the university is working with computers in the IT department, Grover also works in the Environmental Awareness Center and has provided the facility with outdoor equipment.
“I’ve been doing this for about 45 years. I don’t get money for it, this is just something I do because I like the outdoors and I like to share it with people,” he said.
According to Grover, a lack of snow has made the trails more difficult for skiers. “We have machines that go around and make grooves for skiers to use—to make cross-country skiing a little easier—but the snow isn’t deep enough for us to use the machines that make the grooves,” Grover explained.
“Winona has a lot of very avid skiers out every day that use our trails. There’s probably a group of maybe 30 Winona people, plus the Winona High ski team, that use the trail every day, but with these conditions right now aren’t really safe for the average skier,” said Grover.
Snow has made a great difference in the amount of skiers using the trails, said Grover “Last year, on a nice weekend, we’d probably have a hundred people or more out on the trail per day. This is probably the worst year since I’ve been here,” he said.
Outdoor Leadership Coordinator Gary Borash has provided opportunities for students to get involved in a wide range of outdoor activities for the past two years. Although there may still be plenty of outdoor activities available for students this winter, a lack of snow has caused Borash to cancel two ski races, which were originally scheduled for Dec. 16 and Jan. 27. Borash said, “We’re still hopeful that we can have our ski race on Feb. 17.”
According to Borash, “The snow that the high school ski team has been using was artificially made, and they were able to manually cover a loop back in Yon’s valley with it. It’s a lot harder for cross-country skiing to be fun and interesting when it’s just a little loop, though.”
In addition to skiing, lack of snow has inhibited a few other winter activities. “Since there hasn’t been snow, I can’t plan snow activities and there are fewer people doing things like sledding and snowshoeing,” said Borash.
Despite the current weather conditions, both Grover and Borash are optimistic about snow in the near future. “As soon as we get some snow we’ll get people out,” said Grover. “Maybe in a week or so we’ll get a good snow and be able to ski for a month.”
“I would love to see snow so we could get skiers out on the trails again,” said Borash. “We also have sleds and snowshoes that haven’t been used last year or this year, and I would love to see it work out for people to be out skating on Yon’s field where they’ve been trying to make an ice rink,” said Borash.
Weather permitted, students can go to the Environmental Awareness Center to rent equipment, free of charge, from 1 to 4:30 p.m. on weekends.
“There’s no better exercise than cross-country skiing,” said Grover. “Students wait until their senior year to go out and try it and they think, ‘why didn’t I do this when I was a freshman?’”