Minnesota taking steps to boost lagging sales of cross-country ski pass

Skiers take to the trails at Theodore Wirth Park in Minneapolis.
Skiers take to the trails at Theodore Wirth Park in Minneapolis on Friday.
Evan Frost | MPR News

Cross-country ski clubs in Minnesota that maintain ski trails will have to wait until February before they receive their usual grant funding from the state.

Minnesota has been selling fewer cross-country ski passes on average since 2016. The lower number of sales leaves the state with less revenue to maintain a majority of the state’s cross-country ski trails.

To help make up the difference, last year the Legislature approved price increases for what’s known as the Great Minnesota Ski Pass. The daily pass went from $6 to $10, while the annual pass went from $20 to $25. The three-year pass went from $55 to $70.

The revenue from sales of the pass is redistributed to local ski clubs to maintain cross-country ski trails throughout the state.

“We pass out the money so the local clubs can do it. Some of our state parks still do grooming internally,” said John Waters, a trails and snowmobile program consultant for the Minnesota Division of Parks and Trails, “but for the most part, most of our state trails that are covered under the Great Minnesota Ski Pass are groomed by ski clubs.”

Waters said it’s hard to nail down an exact reason for the dip in sales, but it could be a number of factors, ranging from poor snow conditions, less interest in the sport or just more skiers choosing to break the rules and not buy the required pass.

“We've heard from a lot of the clubs that they encounter people that are on the trails that don't have a ski pass,” he said. “We haven't been doing a lot of education and outreach about where the funds go and where these passes are needed. So we stepped that up a lot this year, doing a lot more promotional items and events to try and help get the word out.”

Waters said early reports for this winter show stronger sales of the ski pass, which may help boost the fund for maintenance grants. But officials won’t be sure on the health of the fund until after the season is over.

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