Parks and Rec board approves free ski rental

Published 10:51 am Thursday, December 4, 2008

On Wednesday night, the Austin Parks, Recreation and Forestry board groomed the way for free cross country ski rental at the J.C. Hormel Nature Center this winter.

Youth 15 years and under will be able to rent skis for free on Thursdays after school from Jan. 8 through Feb. 26.

Rental for skis, boots and poles is normally $6. For skiers 16 and older, a $5 ski pass is required, which can be purchased at the nature center. A $15 season pass can be purchased at Ruskell Hardware and K-Mart in Austin.

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Larry Dolphin, director and naturalist for the nature center, said the free rental is a way to stimulate greater interest in skiing and a way of getting kids outdoors.

“Hopefully, they will rent the skis on Saturdays after they’ve tried them out on Thursdays,” board member Bob Wilson said.

“I really don’t think we’d be giving up that much in revenue for the goodwill that it would do,” board chair Darlene Thaisen added.

The board passed the proposal unanimously.

Dolphin said ski enthusiasts who have their own equipment can ski on the 10 miles of trails at the nature center now as center officials are in the process of grooming the area.

He expects the rentals to be available beginning next week at the course.

The rental office will then be open from 8 a.m. to noon and from 1 to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday and from 1 to 5 p.m. Sunday. The trails are open from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. seven days a week.

For more information, the nature center can be reached at 437-7519.