Skiing excellent at nature center

Published 10:25 am Friday, December 26, 2008

It’s a winter wonderland at the Jay C. Hormel Nature Center in Austin, where nine miles of groomed cross country ski trails await outdoors enthusiasts.

The 507-acre facility, which was established in 1971, is boasting the best cross-country ski conditions for December in a decade.

“Very rarely do we have excellent trail conditions over winter break,” said naturalist Alex Watson, who added that this much snow doesn’t usually arrive until the end of January or beginning of February.

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“This is as good as it gets,” he said. “This is excellent.”

Residents and visitors wanting to ski must purchase a trail pass. Daily passes are available at the nature center for $5 for those over 16 (15 and under are free). Season passes are $15 and are available at Kmart, Wal-Mart and Ruskell Hardware. Rentals are available at the nature center for $6 for skis, boots and poles.

In Thursdays in January, rentals are free for skiers 15 and under.

And those who have never cross-country-skied before, don’t need to worry.

The trail is packed and then groomed by a snowmobile that features a weighted pair of skis to form the skier-friendly course.

“The track is ideal for beginners,” Watson said. “We have families who bring 3-year-olds and 4-year-olds, and we have skis for them. They shuffle along and have a good time.”

In addition to the entertainment value, Watson said the sport is a good form of exercise.

“It’s a tremendous workout,” he said. “It’s up there with running and swimming.”

Austin’s Dean Burzinski took advantage of the conditions Wednesday and ventured out to the center for some skiing.

“It’s wonderful,” he said, about the course. “I hope to use it numerous times with a winter like this.”