Osceola at the crossroads

Last week I noted the efforts by local people to keep up a ski race tradition in Mora Minnesota. This week comes an article about what happens when commitment meets age, time and other needs:

Owners of Osceola cross country center look to get out after nearly 40 years

Hugh Quinn at Osceola-Tug Hill Cross Country Ski Center. After 39 years, he and his wife, Anna, are putting the center up for sale with plans to retire by by the end of next winter. (photo: David Hill for the Rome Sentinel)

As with reefs and the fish they attract, touring center operators and the skiers they attract have different needs but overlapping interests. I don’t expect a groundswell of crowdsourcing to save Osceola, but: “The Quinns note on their website that the highest probability for the property if it doesn’t continue as a ski center would be used by an out-of-state snowmobile club.”

It may be necessary to make more businesslike decisions about cross-country skiing areas to save the sport, but as with downhill skiing, snowboarding, and surfing, people will feel a cost that won’t be on a balance sheet.

“About half the people that ski here come from out of state. And that just boggles my mind, the distances that people travel to go play in snow.”

Hugh Quinn, owner Osceola-Tug Hill Cross Country Ski Center

Nobody runs a touring center to get rich, and families that drive hours with their kids are seeking something beyond fun. They’re looking capture an experience that’s tough to book in advance.

Taking the other side of the coin, you may wonder: What’s it like to run a ski touring center?

“It’s kind of like farming: There’s a lot of work and a lot depending on weather. But at the end of the day if you like working for yourself and you like the cold, you like snow, interaction with the people, yeah, it’s a great job.”

Coach Jeff Moore of Camden High School

In addition to the commerce, the rentals, the bookkeeping, and summertime trail maintenance, you get to engage in some real deep-geek on snow grooming:

  • The Ginzugroomer– just what every trail groomer needs to bust up those tough icy trails.
  • And then you can talk about the relative merits of Tillers vs. G2s & Ginzus with like-minded groomers.

If you read some threads you realize trail groomer-folk are serious backyard engineers, and it’s no wonder that the job fits well with people accustomed to farm equipment. If I had as much interest in shopwork and mechanics as I did my skis, I’d consider it as a way to play with big toys in a worthwhile cause.

But any single person or family can only invest so much of themselves. Now, the linchpin of the Osceola ‘reef’ is disappearing because: “The Quinns want out. They’ve scheduled a meeting for 6 p.m. March 2 at the ski center, 1486 Osceola Road, to explore options with season-pass holders, regular customers, proprietors of area food and lodging establishments and anyone else with an interest.”

A reef without enough diversity is fragile, and so far there doesn’t seem to be anyone with the resources and interest to step in for the Quinns.

Clownfish in a reef