More snow, more ski trails at Theodore Wirth

Cross country skiers hit the trails near The Trailhead
Cross country skiers hit the trails near The Trailhead in Theodore Wirth Park as snowmaking machines pump out fresh powder. The Loppet Foundation has seven new hydrants and electric pedestals for snowmaking.

Let it snow, even if it’s not in the forecast.

That’s the mantra for the Loppet Foundation as it prepares to host its annual City of Lakes Winter Festival Jan. 31-Feb. 2 and the 2020 Cross Country Ski World Cup in March. This month the nonprofit unveiled new equipment that vastly improves its snowmaking capacity along with 2.5 kilometers of new ski trails at Theodore Wirth Park.

“It’s really essential to offering the wonderful programs we have here at The Trailhead,” Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board Superintendent Al Bangoura said at a Jan. 15 event.

The improvements include seven new hydrants for snowmaking paired with seven new electrical pedestals and thousands of feet of underground water lines that allow for trail maintenance crews to keep the trails at Wirth Park skiable all winter long.

In addition to the snowmaking improvements, the foundation has opened new ski trails more geared toward casual users than World Cup competitors.

“These trails are much more gentle,” Loppet Foundation executive director John Munger said.

The upgrades were funded by a Hennepin County Youth Sports Grant.

Al Bangoura
Al Bangoura

“It will improve not only the events but the lives of our residents who come here,” Bangoura said.

Isaac Kasper, trails director for the Loppet Foundation, used to lead efforts hauling truckloads of snow to trails and spreading it with wheelbarrows and shovels to maintain quality ski trails. With the infrastructure and snow making improvements, he and his crew can keep a consistent two-foot deep base of snow for world class ski trail conditions throughout the winter.

“We can make snow quicker and more efficiently,” Kasper said.

That should come in handy this season. In addition to its signature City of Lakes Loppet Winter Festival, the foundation and the MPRB are playing host to the 2020 Coop FIS Cross Country Ski World Cup March 14-17.

In a typical year, the Loppet Foundation would already be done with its snowmaking for the season, but with the World Cup coming to the United States for the first time since 2001, the organization isn’t taking any chances.

“We’re making quite a bit more snow than we normally would on the cup course,” Munger said.

With the major events around the corner, Munger said the foundation expects the Feb.1 Luminary Loppet will sell out of tickets shorty. (For an extended look at this year’s winter festival see the Southwest Journal Get Out Guide). Tickets for the World Cup go on sale Jan. 27.