GRAND FORKS — It’s still in the early stages, but a North Dakota skiing enthusiast is on track to form a Nordic ski club for like-minded skiers — and those who want to learn more about skiing — in Grand Forks and East Grand Forks.

The goal is to give area skiers a voice and ultimately expand skiing opportunities beyond the trails available in the Greenway, said Jonathan Haug of Grand Forks, who is forming the Grand Forks Nordic Ski Club.

Nordic skiing, which refers to the sport’s Norwegian origins, is synonymous with cross-country skiing, Haug says.

“One goal is to just raise awareness about our ski trails along the Greenway because really, over the last 15 years or so, there’s been a fantastic improvement, year after year, of making them better,” Haug said. “I’m just eager to visit with more skiers in one setting because we’ve never been organized at all or gotten together, and just hear from everybody and see what we can do to make it better.

“Either improving the quality of the trails or even expanding the trails and adding to them, because the better trails we have, it’s safer for beginners and it’s better performance for advanced skiers.”

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An anesthesiologist at Altru Hospital, Haug says he took up skiing while in medical school in 1998 and started skiing a small, groomed trail in Lincoln Park.

“I recognized I love skiing,” Haug said. “I don’t live in the mountains, so I’m going to embrace cross-country skiing, and I kind of got hooked.”

Nordic skiing involves two basic techniques, Haug says: classic skiing and skate skiing. Haug does both, but says he spends 60% to 70% of his trail time skate skiing.

“The classic technique is what you think of when you think of cross-country skiing, with kind of a running motion in the two grooved or groomed tracks, which is typically what anybody starting cross-country skiing will start with,” he said. “It’s easier to get going. You can walk basically have a glorified walk on skis with poles or again, you can fly at a fast pace.”

As the name suggests, skate skiing involves a skating motion with wider leg strides and generally is done on a wider flat, groomed track, Haug says.

“That has become more popular in the last, really, 20 to 30 years,” he said. “The classic technique is great for a cruise through the woods at a nice, slow pace.”

Besides the physical benefits of participating in a sport that people of all ages can enjoy, the mental health aspects of spending time outdoors can’t be overlooked, Haug says.

“There’s more and more data out there about getting outside in nature, and it’s so good for you,” he said. “And in North Dakota, with our long winters, (skiing) and snowshoeing are the best, safest ways to get out there.”

Last winter, a season with much better snow conditions than this winter so far, Haug says he skied 130 days. Even with this winter’s marginal conditions, Haug says he’s been out 30 times, dating back to an early snowfall in October that later melted.

To date, Haug says he has a list of about 30 people he’s visited with about forming a Nordic ski club. There have been some informal sessions, Haug says, but plans are in the works to meet more regularly.

“COVID-19, of course, has been a challenging time to get anything organized, so that has been the extent of it, other than me just asking around and generating interest,” Haug said. “It’s pretty surprising how many people are either into it or interested in getting into it and would like to have more information.”

As with any sport, getting started can be intimidating, Haug says; that’s where a club could come into play. Similar clubs already exist in Bemidji and Fargo, he says.

“A club is really the next step to give people a voice and then (learn) the collective wants, whatever that is,” Haug said. “When I visit with people, I hear things, but I don’t know everybody that’s interested, so I thought, ‘Well — let’s do this.’”

For more information on the Grand Forks Nordic Ski Club, contact Haug at GrandForksNordicSki@gmail.com.

Brad Dokken
Brad Dokken