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

Reefs under stress

How does this: In Northern Minnesota, ‘Snow Farmers’ Make Sure A Ski-Racing Tradition Endures

Volunteer Don Olson walks past a mound of artificial snow created by a snow gun on Tuesday at the Vasaloppet Nordic Ski Center in Mora, Minn. Christine T. Nguyen /MPR News

Relate to this:

  • Both involve water within a particular range of temperature and environmental conditions;
  • The places evolve, survive/thrive through mutual adaptation of the inhabitants’ motivations and capabilities;
  • The inhabitants of each have had to respond to changes in their environments due to global warming;
  • And both are the kinds of places where individuals can find each other.

The questions that come to mind in relation to cross-country skiing are around the increasing efforts required to sustain commitment to the sport. For instance what, if anything, would replace the Vasaloppet in this Minnesota town, should the commitment wane? Would there be a critical loss to the social fabric if the specific blend of skills, land, and community interest featured in the story were made irrelevant?

I happen to think there’s something very special about cross-country skiing. Part of it is because it takes place in the outdoors, and takes advantage of an undervalued time of year. If you’re a farmer, you’re tied to the land, so you might as well have some fun in winter. For sub/urbanites, it’s a way to acknowledge and enjoy the fact that nature is what it is. For the 98% of Americans who aren’t involved in farming, we can choose to be part of the seasons.

Every cross-country ski area is like a reef, with its own particular community of participants. From business owners to the trail crew, park administrators and land owners to coaches and instructors, there has to be a sufficiency of each type. Moreover there has to be a sense of willingness in order to make it a place for skiers to come to- and come back to with the little fishes skiers.

Like coral reefs, winter seems to show nature at its most vulnerable, its most precious and precarious side. The stressors are easier to mark and make note of in the conditions needed for reefs and cross-country skiing alike.

The new rocket science

…is climatology

Earth’s weather and climate result from recursive and iterative interactions between the elements, energy, and time. Recently, with advances in computer modeling, predictions are much better, and simulations are getting closer to replicating observed evidence.

Not a moment too soon, or not a moment too late?

From the NYTimes:

…and from The Atlantic:

Modern Weather Forecasts Are Stunningly Accurate

“The weather-research hub of Norman, Oklahoma, is rarely mentioned in the same breath as Palo Alto… But over the past few decades, scientists have gotten significantly—even staggeringly—better at predicting the weather.

“Meteorologists are increasingly uniting weather models and climate models, allowing them to project the general contours of a season as it begins.

“You translate Newtonian physics into a sphere and get Coriolis [force],” [said Richard Alley, a geoscientist at Penn State]. “There’s no line in the code that says, Please make a Gulf Stream. But it is the physics of the Earth, so when you spin it up, the Gulf Stream appears because it has to.”