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Wolf Lake Ski Trail offers way to embrace winter

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Stan Borle glided off the trail on his cross-country skis on what could be described as a warm day for this season’s winter.

The temperature was about 18 degrees but the southern breeze wasn’t providing as much warmth as hoped. Still for Borle, it was a chance to be outside.

“I can’t stand being in the house,” he said. “It drives me nuts.”

Cabin fever is no doubt settling in with gusto this winter season. While there is plenty of snow, bitter temperatures have made it harder to enjoy. Borle said he gets out as much as he can “when it warms up. When it’s not 20 below.

“It’s a nice trail.”

The trail, not far from his home northeast of Brainerd, is about 15 minutes from the city on a scenic stretch by Wolf Lake. Crow Wing County grooms the Wolf Lake Ski Trail, which has a combination of easy and difficult segments. No ski pass is required. The county’s Larson Lake Ski Trail near Deerwood includes state dollars and does require a ski pass.

Bryan Pike, Crow Wing County natural resource manager, reported revenue from timber sales and land sales fund the recreational trail maintenance and operations. Pike was out on the Wolf Lake Ski Trail this week with the groomer he calls the big blue ox.

The four-stroke, fuel-injected Alpina Sherpa groomer made easy work of it, barely grunting with effort as it climbed the hills passing over the tell-tale V patterns cross-country skiers created as they navigated the incline. Stubborn oak leaves lingered along the trail seeking refuge from a winter wind in the tracks. Pike checked the tracks he was leaving behind in the pristine snow, preferring the straight lines etched in white without a touch of color from the leaves. Grooming the entire trail, with its variety of loops and difficulties, takes about three hours.

The ski trail sweeps past views of the Wolf Lake laden with snow, travels next to a young stand of slender birch trees and, perhaps most impressively, passes 110-year-old white pines. The pines tower overhead on thick trunks with delicate looking needles high above. For the skier looking for a workout or an adventure, there are hills to make the trip interesting. And along the way a sturdy shelter offers a refuge for overnight camping.

For those who want to take in the sights, from sheltered forested areas where the trees shoulder up to the trail to open spots with vistas stretching across the frozen lake, there are other options besides cross-country skis. Hikers on snowshoes are welcome but asked to walk the sides of groomed trails, not over the ski tracks.

Since this winter doesn’t appear to be departing anytime soon, the county’s groomed ski trails offer a way to embrace winter, get some exercise and appreciate the stark beauty of the season.

To get to the Wolf Lake Ski Trail: go east from Brainerd on Highway 210 toward the airport, turn south on County Road 25 and after crossing the railroad tracks, take the next left on Woodrow Road, travel 1.5 miles before turning left at the four-way stop on Nelson Road. Travel another 2.1 miles on Nelson Road and the Wolf Lake Ski Trail parking lot is on the left. Maps are available by the sign board at the trail head and updates on the trail system may be found online at and at

RENEE RICHARDSON, senior reporter, may be reached at 855-5852 or Follow on Twitter at

Renee Richardson
Richardson is a Pacelli High School graduate from Austin, Minn., who earned an applied science degree from the University of Minnesota, Waseca, with an emphasis in horse management. She worked extensively in the resort industry. She received an associate’s degree from Central Lakes College, where she was editor of the Westbank Journal student newspaper, as well as a summer intern at the Dispatch. She graduated from St. Cloud State University summa cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in mass communications and interned at the St. Cloud Times covering business while attending SCSU. She's been with the Brainerd Dispatch since 1996.
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