Michigan Tech trails now one of nation's top six cross-country ski courses

The ski trails around Michigan Technological University now qualify for national and international cross-country ski races, thanks to the hard work of Tech and community members.

It’s one of only six such systems in the nation that now meets the highest trail standards there are.

"The competition portion has been brought up to Olympic and international standards, a process called homologation," says Jim Schmierer, forester and instructor in Michigan Technological University’s School of Forest Resources and Environmental Science. "Now, we’ve improved it to the point where we are one of only six trails in the nation of this caliber."

The others are in Utah, Maine, New Hampshire, Alaska and Vermont.

What it means for the university is that it becomes a better candidate to host future competitions like the U.S. Senior Nationals and Junior Olympic Nordic ski races, which have been held near Houghton in the past. Among the upcoming events are a Michigan High School Athletic Association event and the Central Collegiate Ski Association Championship, both coming this winter.

"The sprint portions and the 3.3K to 12.5K race courses have all been improved," Schmierer says. "We did trail widening, grade improving, culvert work, hazard tree and stump removal--and it was all done very quickly."

"We," in this situation, is a trail improvement team of Schmierer, local trail experts Jeff Parker and Jim Meese, Tech associate athletic director Dave Nordstrom, logger John Cowell, Tech forester and instructor Jim Rivard, and Tech ski coach Joe Haggenmiller.

"We've incorporated our work into our courses, too," Schmierer says. "It’s a great field class, and I’ll be teaching a forest recreation course here."

Part of the project also was reforestation, as the team planted at least ten trees for each tree they removed to widen and improve the trails.

Writer: Sam Eggleston
Source: Jim Schmierer, Michigan Technological University
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