Our View: Unique park needs snowmaking
February 25, 2022
While it may seem that Cloquet need never worry about adequate snow after the storm earlier this week, we can all recall times when the golf courses still showed green in November and even into December … when cross country ski season kicks off.
So, before the city of Cloquet progresses any further with its master plan for the city’s Pine Valley park, we’d like to ask elected officials to consider elevating the need for snowmaking equipment from near the bottom of the list to somewhere after fixing the jumps and before creating a pavilion or renovating the chalet.
If you don’t have snow, you don’t have Nordic skiing, and you don’t have ski jumping. You won’t have kids enjoying the winter weather, or young Olympians in training, and climate change will make its effects felt that much more.
Of course, we realize that it’s not practical to make artificial snow to spread around the 5.5 kilometers of lighted trails at Pine Valley, but adding snow to low spots is very doable, and also helpful for both recreational skiers and high school athletes. It would certainly boost the ski jumping hills when Mother Nature is uncooperative.
Pine Valley is a remarkable local resource: it’s home to one of only two snow jumping facilities outside of the Twin Cities in Minnesota, and the ski trails are free to use and lit every evening in winter. It is Cloquet’s most unique park, and also contains mountain bike trails that are used year-round, while the ski trails turn into walking and running trails once the snow melts.
For those who enjoy following the Cloquet Ski Club and its many young jumpers — some of whom compete across the region and country — know this: Cloquet is the only ski jumping club of its size without snowmaking capability, according to Central Division coach Ken Ripp. Cloquet’s Ripp is also father to two elite-level Nordic combined athletes, who both got their start at Pine Valley, and has seen what’s out there. He’s very proud of what we have — he would just like to make sure it’s usable every winter.
Pine Valley founder and longtime ski coach Joe Nowak was still alive when the city began developing its parks master plan around a decade ago, when residents were asked to go to a meeting at FDLTCC and mark posters of the parks they wanted to have top priority (and indicate their preferred improvements) using round stickers.
Pine Valley was awash in brightly colored dots that night (probably among the top two or three parks) but got little attention compared to a long list of city parks in the years that followed. It feels like local activist volunteers had more to do with recent improvements there — in particular, the addition of the bike trails — than any city plan did.
But now Pine Valley will enter the spotlight, thanks to volunteer and city efforts to create a regional park and possible funding from that, along with expectations that Pine Valley and the hockey arenas will benefit if residents pass another sales tax.
This time we hope city leaders will really listen to the people who use and know what is needed to make this unique facility work for another 60 years.