For Jacki Fisher cross country skiing is a lifestyle. A way to “get out there and play!”
And when one lives in the northwoods, a ‘get out there and play’ mentality is essential to doing anything more than simply surviving the winter. Consider any children you know. Consider their drive to be outside, playing. What happens to kids as they get older? Where does the mentality that it’s too cold — too wet, too windy — where does that come from?
“We’re supposed to live more outside,” Jacki opines. Indeed, nature is a multivitamin — according to research contact with nature promotes feelings of self-worth, awe, vitality, and relaxation. This is on top of the well-documented benefits of an active lifestyle for physical health.
Shagawa Lake is one of Jacki’s go-to cross country ski spots. “There’s something special about being able to simply walk out your back door and go skiing.” She often walks the trail behind her house down to the bay off Semers Beach, then skis around the big island to the west. She enjoys following the shoreline, appreciating the beauty of the cliffs, the trees, the creatures, and their tracks.
Ely has a robust community of people who regularly go out skiing into the Boundary Waters or any number of other places nearby, including Burntside Lake or the Superior National Forest. There’s an informal group that’s been going skiing on Fridays for years. It’s standard for the group to ski ten to fifteen miles a day, whether they’re on a groomed trail or “just crashing through the woods.” (Though they’ve learned not to go bushwalking after lunch, lest it get dark on them.)
“The group is good,” she says, “because it helps you get out there. I can’t think of a time I’ve gone out there and regretted it.”
Besides, there can be no excuse not to get outside and play if you live in the Ely area. All cross country ski skill levels can be accommodated by our bevvy of resources. Don’t own a pair of skis? That’s no problem! You can rent a pair from Piragis Northwoods Company. Prefer groomed trails? We have over 30 kilometers of groomed trails between Hidden Valley Recreation Area and the Trezona Trail around Miners Lake. Feeling more adventurous? Blaze your own trail on any one of the 1,175 lakes in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. “I think I’ve spent as much time in the Boundary Waters on skis as I have in a canoe,” Jacki wonders aloud.
Jacki has been skiing since she was twelve. She started with downhill skiing and even spent time out west as a ski bum. She’s been cross country skiing since the 70s, and for years she taught cross country skiing and snowshoeing to Elderhostel participants. Although she no longer serves as an instructor for that program, she still teaches folks how to cross country ski via the Ely Folk School, which is hosting a cross country ski class on Saturday, February 6 from 1:00pm to 3:30pm.