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The winter adventure continues

From the right vantage point, the ski jumps at Pine Valley rise over tall pine trees and - along with the water tower and pulp mill - serve as an anchor in Cloquet's irregular skyline.

On Sunday those jumps were crowded with kids wearing ski suits and helmets, swooshing down the inruns on extra-long skis only to fling themselves into the air and fly off the end. The best ones seemed to hang there, soundlessly suspended for seconds at a time before thumping back to the snow-covered ground at a relatively high rate of speed. Judges, who were jumpers themselves decades ago, watched intently along with the crowd of family and community members gathered around the chalet.

When the jumping finished, the Nordic ski races began. The youngest kids stumbled and sprinted down the trail in front of the chalet, helped up if they fell by nearby adults. The next age group started its race early, accidentally following coach Ken Ripp when he skied away to mark the proper route. It was chaos and they did not restart, preferring to go with the flow. The race series ended with the longest event, a 5K race featuring teenagers and adults in a not very serious competition.

Most of the older races have been involved with the Cloquet Ski Club as coaches, parent volunteers or even kids growing up and learning to ski. In recent years, the club has been growing - with kids who started when they were 4 or 5 years old now jumping off the 40-meter jump.

It's been 61 years since Pine Valley founder Joe Nowak established the first Cloquet Ski Club with 15 members and held the first jumping meet there. The cycle continues.