Clubs: North Star Tour­ing Club

SkiTrax - - Contents - by Paul Nico­laus

by Paul Nico­laus

Formed in 1967, the North Star Ski Tour­ing Club (NSSTC) is the largest ski-tour­ing club in Min­nesota and one of the largest in North Amer­ica. The mis­sion of the all-vol­un­teer or­ga­ni­za­tion is to en­joy and pro­mote the de­vel­op­ment of cross-coun­try ski­ing, which is ful­filled through group ac­tiv­i­ties, ed­u­ca­tion and trail de­vel­op­ment.

The win­ter-ac­tiv­i­ties sched­ule of­fers a wealth of trips from De­cem­ber through March. While day trips re­main within a rea­son­able drive of the Twin Cities, week­end ski out­ings take mem­bers to re­sorts scat­tered through­out Min­nesota, Wis­con­sin and up­per Michi­gan. “We un­der­stand that the qual­ity and depth of our an­nual-trips sched­ule is very much the iden­tity of the North Star Ski Tour­ing Club,” says long­time club par­tic­i­pant and cur­rent board mem­ber Mel Peter­son. “Our many trip lead­ers take the time and the ef­fort to lead trips be­cause they truly love the sport of cross-coun­try ski­ing and want to share their ex­pe­ri­ences with oth­ers.”

Week­long ven­tures take par­tic­i­pants all over the coun­try and world. Past des­ti­na­tions have in­cluded Colorado and Mon­tana, the Cana­dian Rock­ies and the Lau­ren­tian Moun­tains near Mon­treal, Que. The 2016 ex­tended-trip line-up in­cludes Stokely Creek Lodge north of Sault Ste. Marie, Ont. (Jan. 6-14), New Hamp­shire and Ver­mont (Jan. 31-Feb. 7), Gun­flint in north­ern Min­nesota (Feb. 21-25) and an over­seas trip to Nor­way (March 12-21).

Ser­vice work and giv­ing back have also been in­grained in the group's DNA. The club main­tains ski trails through­out Min­nesota, and each fall, it spon­sors three to four trail-clear­ing projects – an an­nual tra­di­tion that is more than 30 years strong. Club mem­bers have vol­un­teered at the an­nual City of Lakes Lop­pet and events such as the Ju­nior Olympics when held lo­cally. The Ski for Light foun­da­tion and var­i­ous trail-im­prove­ment projects have ben­e­fited from the group's gen­eros­ity as well.

While most ac­tive mem­bers fall in the age fifty-to-sev­enty range, the club is in­ter­ested in find­ing ways to grow and to at­tract new par­tic­i­pants of all ages now that the mem­ber­ship has lev­eled off at roughly 650 to 700 (pre­vi­ously, it reached a high of ap­prox­i­mately 1,400 mem­bers). The club has pro­vided seed money and equip­ment to the Min­nesota Youth Ski League, a group that pro­motes ski tour­ing among young peo­ple in and around the Twin Cities. “We sup­port their en­deav­our to­tally be­cause those young peo­ple could one day join our ranks and be­come our mem­bers,” Peter­son notes.

While many mem­bers par­tic­i­pate in long-dis­tance Cit­i­zen races such as the Birke­beiner and the Mora Vasa­lop­pet, the club has not pro­duced any elite rac­ers in re­cent years. “One of our founders back in 1967 was Norm Oakvik, a for­mer Na­tional cross-coun­try-ski cham­pion who was the first al­ter­nate on the 1956 U.S. Olympic Nordic-com­bined ski team in Cortina, Italy. Norm, who passed away last year at the age of 94, was a guid­ing force in our club for nearly four decades,” said Peter­son.

“While the club no longer stages any com­pet­i­tive events, we do have the dis­tinc­tion of hold­ing the VJC Vic­to­ria-jonathan-chaska ski race in the 1970s and '80s. This was the first-ever or­ga­nized ski race held in the state of Min­nesota, at­tract­ing nearly 1,200 skiers, but it died out due to a num­ber of poor snow years and the in­creas­ing com­pe­ti­tion from other or­ga­nized races,” he added.

The club is also cur­rently look­ing into the pos­si­bil­ity of join­ing com­mu­nity-health ini­tia­tives to pro­mote ski tour­ing as an ex­cel­lent healthy-lifestyle op­tion. “We are con­sid­er­ing go­ing into com­mu­ni­ties and giv­ing speeches and sem­i­nars, shar­ing slideshows of trips we've done and let­ting them know that if you want to be healthy, there's no bet­ter way to stay healthy than cross-coun­try ski­ing,” Peter­son says.

Per­haps even more note­wor­thy than the fit­ness ben­e­fits, how­ever, are the op­por­tu­ni­ties for de­vel­op­ing life­long re­la­tion­ships with fel­low ski­ing en­thu­si­asts. “To this day, 36 years af­ter join­ing the club, I would say that some of my best friends in life are those I've met through the club,” he adds. “We have a lot of mem­bers who have fam­ily scat­tered through­out the coun­try, and they've learned that our club has be­come their ex­tended fam­ily here in the Twin Cities.”

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