History of the Norpine Trail Association

Norpine Trails Overview

The 57km of Norpine trails are free to the public with purchase of the MN Ski Pass which is needed for most trails in the state. The trails wind through mature maple forests, mixed evergreens, and in the midst of North Country wildlife. A number of the trails have spectacular view of Lake Superior and connect up to the Cascade River State Park Trails. The trails are well marked and maps are available as a downloadable pdf file.

Norpine Trails Overview

Until 2009 maintenance and improvement of the trails was the responsibility of Cascade Lodge and Solbakken Resort. In 2009 a hand full of local skiers that had been using and enjoying the trails joined together and formed the Norpine Trail Association. The Norpine Trail Association has assumed responsibility for the trails. The Norpine Trail Association contracts with independent groomers who use our equipment to prepare the trails and groom the trails.

Cross country ski trails are of great value to local area residents and the tourist economy. Trail grooming costs are significant. About one third of the money needed for trail maintenance expenses comes from the MN DNR through their Trail Grant-In-Aid program that is funded from MN ski pass sales. The remainder of the money required for trail maintenance comes from membership, area businesses and the Lutsen Tofte Tourism Association.

Norpine Trails have been improved each year so that they are now 12-15 feet wide with many culverts, ditches and bridges. This area is hilly and rocky. The Sawtooth mountain range provides us with regular washouts and swampy areas. There seems to be a never ending list of improvements that we would like to make. As a non-profit organization, Norpine has been successful in getting grants to purchase equipment for grooming and maintenance of the trails and to be able to contract out work to improve trail conditions when the work to be done exceeds our capabilities. We rely heavily on Norpine trail Association members and volunteers to help out with trail clearing and brushing in the Fall as well as clearing after ice storms and wind blow downs during the skiing season.

Early history of some of the Norpine Trails

The information below was taken from the book by Dr. Eugene Glader "Cascade Lodge - The History of a North Shore Landmark". Dr. Glader was the owner of Cascade Lodge for 23 years, from 1981-2004, and was responsible for developing and maintaining many of the trails that are now part of Norpine Trail Association.

During the early 1970's cross country skiing began to attract some enthusiasts in Minnesota. By the winter of 1972 Carl Odmark saw the potential for developing ski trails at Cascade Lodge and started to promote the sport. The first mention of cross country skiing in the promotional literature of the lodge is the following statement in the 1972-73 winter rate card: "Make Cascade your headquarters for downhill and cross country skiing, snowshoeing, snowmobiling, winter photography, bird and wildlife watching." Trails begin at the lodge. The first trail used by skiers at the lodge was the old logging road behind the lodge that was shared with snowmobilers. Part of this road became the east side of the current Pioneer Loop Trail. During the Summer and Fall of 1975 Butch Piepho cleared a trail on the west side of what became known as the Pioneer Loop. Prior to the 1975-76 winter Carl and Butch hired Larry Schutte, a local man to make a track setter for the lodge, which could be pulled behind Carl's snowmobile. In the 1975-76 winter rate card the lodge advertised groomed cross country trails and snowshoes for rent. This was the beginning of groomed cross country ski trails at the lodge.

During the next Summer and Fall (1976), Butch Piepho and Dallas Smith, another lodge employee, developed a cross country ski trail to Deer Yard Lake and the former site of the Cascade Fire Tower in the Deer Yard area. The estimated distance of the new trail system was about twenty five miles. In an effort to get more guests out on skis the lodge purchased a supply of cross country skis, boots and poles to rent to guests during the 1976-77 winter season.

With the lodges emerging interest in cross country skiing, Carl Oldmark was pleased to see Cascade River State Park hire a year around manager who was also interested in the sport. The new manager, Paul Sundberg, began working at the park on August 8, 1976. Prior to this time the park was closed in Winter and the managers position was a nine month job. Pauls previous position was assistant manager at the Savanna Portage State Park located near McGregor, Minnesota, where he had developed sixteen miles of cross country trails and had observed the growing popularity of cross country skiing. Coming with the mandate to develop winter activities at the park, combined with his interest and precious experience in developing cross country trials, it was natural for Paul to immediately begin to develop trails in the park. As a means of getting going on the trails, he also borrowed a bulldozer from another park and roughed out the trails between Cascade River and Cascade Creek and made an access trail on the west side of Cascade Creek behind the lodge for a connection to the road leading to the Pioneer trail. He also developed some trails in the park east of the river, a winter parking area in the park and insulated a park shelter for skiers to use.

In the Fall of 1979 the lodge purchased a new Ski-Doo Alpine, a double tracked snowmobile for grooming the trails. The Alpine was a powerful snowmobile designed for pulling groomers and heavy sleds. This made grooming much easier and improved the quality of the grooming. During the 1980's the development of the trail system continued to spread along the shore from the Cascade area west to Temperance River State Park and northeast to the Bally Creek Area. The development of the ski trails at the lodge and park marked the beginning of the promotion of cross country skiing at resorts and parks along the shore of Lake Superior.

The trails were built in the years from 1975-85. Cascade Lodge trails first. In early years, the trails were narrow and snaky (5-8ft wide) but fun to ski and in beaufiful semi-wilderness area. Over the years annual improvements have been made, as finances permitted.

During the winter of 2008-2009 several meetings were held and the non-profit Norpinetrails.com association was formed under State of Minnesota guidelines, with officers and board members. Annual meetings are held the last Friday evening in October.

The late March 2009 ice storm provided the first venue for the Norpine Trails Association to recruit volunteers. The storm caused countless numbers of trees to fall into the trails, closing many of them. That spring and summer Norpine members spent hours chain sawing and clearing them off of the trail. The late September 09 wind storm again blew hundreds trees down in and accross Norpine trails. Many in the Deeryard area. On the Massie loop alone, 40 trees are laying in or across the trail. Again, Norpine volunteers are out clearing trails so that fall trail mowing and other improvements could begin.

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