After the Olympics, I drove down to California to visit some family and friends, and on the way down, I had the pleasure of stopping for a ski at the Mt. Shasta Nordic Center.
For real, this place is on the side of Mt. Shasta, which is (sadly), a dormant volcano, but still an amazing sight, because there is no surrounding mountain range. As John Muir says on Wikipedia: “When I first caught sight of it over the braided folds of the Sacramento Valley, I was
fifty miles away and afoot, alone and weary. Yet all my blood turned to wine, and I have not been weary since.” My feelings exactly, although since I was driving, I had to stop and wait to sober up.
I knew I’d be going by Mt. Shasta on my drive, so I’d sent an e-mail to Laurel Harkness, the Center’s executive director, inquiring about skiing and getting a trail pass. She told me that the passes are donation-only, due to the organization’s unique structure, and offered to meet me when I stopped to talk with me about it.
It’s a pretty cool model, and one that I’m not sure is replicated anywhere else. (Note: I’m going entirely off memory here from a conversation a few weeks ago, so some details may be off, but the gist is right.) Basically, a few years ago, the nordic center was owned by the nearby alpine area, and when the alpine area was sold, the new owners didn’t have any interest in operating the cross country area. So the xc skiers in the area got together and took over, forming a community-based non-profit that kept the area open.
They don’t have their own groomer, but the alpine area donates their machines and staff to groom the trails. This doesn’t always make for the most
extensive grooming, so Harkness said that the organization is raising money and applying for grants to purchase their own groomer.
It’s a rural, relatively poor area, so it has been a struggle to get schools and kids to ski and join the center’s programs, but Harkness said that participation is growing, and that they hold a few races each year.
The trails are fun, with some sweet views, and at least for an east-coaster, there’s more snow than you can wrap your mind around. If you’re ever in the area (driving I-5 from Oregon to California or vice versa), stop in and check it out. Check out their Web site here.