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Trail for Absolute Beginner XC Skiers

I’m wondering what the best (least scary) trails are for newbies to the sport of XC skiing. I’ve been on XC skis once (and downhill skis once). People say Lester is beginner friendly, but I found it a bit frightening. I’d like to learn on a trail with some nice gentle slopes and curves. Suggestions??? Thanks!

14 Comment(s)

  1. Here are my tips for best places in town for newbies/kids:

    Cross-Country in the City: Beginner-Friendly Ski Trails in Duluth

    Also visit for all local XC poop.

    Eric Chandler | Feb 11, 2014 | New Comment
  2. I love cross-country skiing though slowly on fairly flat surfaces. My answer? the B’s: Boulder, Billings, and Brule. Each of these places have some nice easier trails.

    MEL1110 | Feb 11, 2014 | New Comment
  3. People who say Lester is “beginner friendly” don’t remember what it was like to be a true beginner! I second Eric’s suggestion — read his article! The Duluth XC website has directions to trailheads and trail maps to download.

    Hope to see you at Tour Duluth!

    annefluke | Feb 12, 2014 | New Comment
  4. My wife is a very cautious cross country skier and never has had a problem with the C loop at Lester.

    secjewl | Feb 12, 2014 | New Comment
  5. Lester can be tricky. The trails in Superior Billings Park and those at Boulder Lake are gently rolling and flat and would be far better. In town, go for Piedmont.

    kayem | Feb 12, 2014 | New Comment
  6. I consider myself a very cautious xc ski newbie and I love the Red Trails at Superior Municipal Forest in Superior Wisconsin. There are a couple of dinky hills near the beginning and then it is pretty much flat, flat, flat.

    Nyssa | Feb 12, 2014 | New Comment
  7. Two trains of thought here.

    First, I think Boulder Lake is probably the easiest (but also pretty and fun) trail system nearby.

    Second, that being said, depending on where you live Lester might still be the best choice. Don’t get me wrong--I remember when I first started skiing there after a 15-year post-childhood hiatus, and I found some of the hills there terrifying. But the path out of that is to ski a lot, and the closer to home you ski the more often you’ll probably go. If you stick to the main trail between A and C, there are no big hills--the only significant hill that really comes to mind is the bend near the “1.0″ in the attached map. Admittedly that does come with a curve associated with it, but there’s plenty of opportunity to take it slow and wide. If you go up to F or beyond, it’s a different story, and the loop that heads down to the playground is often kind of sketchy. But that A-C stretch is wide, pretty flat, and for me was a good place to build up my skills and confidence.

    The Big E | Feb 13, 2014 | New Comment
  8. Erm, THIS attached map.

    The Big E | Feb 13, 2014 | New Comment
  9. There is a very short loop at Snowflake that is almost completely level. A person could go around it many times to get good practice. They also have a few longer loops without too many big hills. They have learn-to-ski lessons for 4 years and up out there and there are enough trails to help an absolute beginner get started and then move onto bigger things. They charge a small fee.

    MomAH | Feb 13, 2014 | New Comment
  10. 1) Please remember to have a Minnesota Ski Pass ($20 annual) when skiing on city-groomed ski trails (Magney, Spirit, Piedmont, Lester, Hartley, Chester). Snowflake has its own pass system.

    2) The KidSki program that MomAH mentioned is a program of the Duluth XC Ski Club.

    A similar Youth Ski League is offered at Spirit Mt. Nordic Center (run by parents & volunteers, not by Spirit Mt.) Check either of them out for next winter!

    annefluke | Feb 13, 2014 | New Comment
  11. I’m going to start off by apologizing if this comes off as arrogant or offensive, but here’s my suggestion:

    Get a lesson or two, and then Lester won’t be too scary. I’ve coached cross-country skiing for 11 years, and I’ve given many, many lessons and clinics. When I was coaching juniors, it was shocking to see how someone who had never been on cross-country skis before that day skied after an hour of decent instruction, compared to kids who had been skiing many days a week for years.

    There will likely be some cost involved in getting a lesson, but if you like skiing on the sweet Duluth trail systems, it’s worth it. Learning how to turn on downhills, slow down and stop are pretty easy skills, once you have someone explain how to do it and practice.

    Also, for what it’s worth, I wrecked super hard in front of a lot of people today. It’s not the end of the world.

    cork1 | Feb 13, 2014 | New Comment
  12. Thanks for all the replies. I’m actually taking lessons, but the first lesson involved that sketchy hill at Lester going down to the playground. For someone who has never really been on skis, it’s not a real confidence builder. We’ll see if I have the balls to go to lesson #2… Sure would be nice to learn on a less intimidating trail!

    CJD | Feb 13, 2014 | New Comment
  13. Or maybe it was the hill marked by “1.0″ above, but either way… on an icy trail for a first timer, not fun. Maybe it’ll be better now that we have some fresh snow.

    CJD | Feb 13, 2014 | New Comment
  14. I frequently skip the playground loop, and I’ve been skiing there 14 years. It would be fun if you could count on it being in good condition, but it frequently isn’t, so one is left with babying it and hoping for the best--or, frequently, just electing to skip that part.

    The Big E | Feb 18, 2014 | New Comment

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