By Jennie Zeitler
After waiting years for a cross-country ski trail in western Stearns County, Sauk Centre High School computer instructor Dana Boschee started grooming a trail himself.
Boschee had advocated for a ski trail while serving on the Park Board. He had approached Stearns County about setting up a trail.
“The trail at Birch Lake State Forest is also used by snowmobiles,” Boschee explained. “Frozen snowmobile tracks don’t work for skiing. There just isn’t any public property for a dedicated ski trail on this end of the county.”
Two years ago, Boschee drew up a proposal to use the nature trail behind the high school and presented it to school district administration. He wanted to make changes to the trail in winter — make it wider and extend the length.
“The school has had a nature trail along the Sauk River for quite some time,” Boschee said. “Years ago they got a grant to put up signs identifying plants and trees. A construction class built a gazebo near the trail. The cross-country team uses it.”
He got a snowmobile and a trail groomer which is pulled on a sled behind the snowmobile, packing down the snow and making grooves.
He first tried it two years ago, starting with trail preparation before the first snowfall.
“I mowed down weeds to make the trail wider,” he said. “That makes room for people to skate ski and classic ski.”
A couple of hills had to be mowed so that Boschee could make more gradual curves at the bottom of the hills. He created more of a rolling terrain.
“I walked the trail other times of the year, looking for spots where I could use the terrain differently,” he said.
But then there was very little snow that first season. With higher snowfalls the past two winters, skiing the trail has been much more productive.
Boschee points out that the ski trail costs the school nothing, since he has done the grooming on his own. He has his eye on maybe getting grant money to refine the trail in the future, extending it along the river.
There are no permit or other fee requirements to use the trail.
“I wanted to make it where people can just come down and ski, to see if they like it,” he said.
“That’s a ways to go to ski,”’ he said. “Once you get there you often find that the trail conditions are not good or the weather has changed.”
Boschee has received positive feedback from local residents using the trail. He would like more input from people who have skied on the trail.
“The loop is one and a half miles right now,” he said. “I want to make another loop. People can call with suggestions and ideas for improvements.”
He is willing to give skiing lessons.
“I’ll teach anyone to ski,” he said. “One of the secrets is gliding on skis. It doesn’t have to be as much work as people think it is.”
For more information, contact Boschee at (320) 492-6017.