History of the Marshall School Ski Trails

Here you will find the history of the Marshall School Ski Trails

Phase 1

By Dave Johnson
October 1, 2003

Here is an overview of the new nordic trails at Marshall School. The trail was designed by George Hovland. Tom McCabe of McCabe Logging cut the trail. Rick’s Tree Service donated a chipper to process the cut material and they donated wood chips for covering the trail. Fred Sproat, a sophmore at Marshall School, coordinated work teams to spread wood chips on the trail and did other projects related to the trail for his Eagle Scout project. I did most of the mowing of the trail and helped with the brush clearing and wood chip spreading. The trail is about 600 meters long. This is the first step of a multi-step project. We hope to eventually have about a 2 1/2 kilometer trail. George designed the trail to be used as an effective teaching trail. It has a wide variety of terrain in a very short area. It is sheltered in a hollow protected from the northwest winds. It does have a fair amount of southern exposure so it may be difficult to keep snow on it late in the season.

The Ely Nordic Ski Club has loaned us their Larchmont Snow Gun. The Duluth Fire Department has donated over 2000 feet of fire hose and Aspen equipment is donating the use of an industrial air compressor. The Larchmont gun is an older technology that uses water at hydrant pressure and then mixes it with a high volume (275 cfm) of air to break up the water into droplets small enough to make snow. After doing a large amount of research, this older system made the most sense. We have a hydrant close to the trail for water and no special pumps or electrical wiring is needed for this system. Our plan is to make snow in a small area at the base of double dip and the road home for early season training. I don’t anticipate making snow on the rest of the trail unless snowmaking turns out to be very easy. We did cover almost all of the trail in woodchips to cover up any stumps to make it possible to groom with just a small amount of snow.

We are still in need of a snowmobile and grooming equipment. We can borrow one from Snowflake, but I am working towards the donation or long-term use of grooming equipment. The trail starts and finishes right outside my classroom window and I am anxiously awaiting the first snowfall.

The Marshall Nordic Trails are on school property and at this time will not be open to the general public.

Marshall School Ski Trail Expansion Update
Phase 2

By Dave Johnson
August 26, 2004

The Marshall School in Duluth, Minnesota is a great place for a Nordic Ski coach to work for many reasons. The first is for the outstanding terrain that surrounds and belongs to the school. The second reason is the strong support given to coaches by the athletic director and other school administrators. A third reason is the diversity of talent and skills that parents have and are willing to share with the nordic ski program.

The Marshall Ski trails were first put in place last year with a 700 meter loop directly behind the school. This small loop was used frequently through out the school year by skiers, phy ed classes and science classes. It was also the venue for an exciting sprint race attended by over 120 high school skiers.

Tony Lockhart the Marshall School technology director teamed up with ski team parent, Todd Campbell, to design an expansion that would double the length of the trail. The main problem was that the path of the trail was right across a sloping section of exposed ledge rock. Todd Campbell used his skills as an MnDot Engineer to design a trail to cover the section of ledge rock. Todd then filled out the necessary permits and “walked” the permits through the different agencies that need to approve the process.

With strong support from Nels Nelson Construction, a bulldozer and fill dirt from a nearby road project was obtained. From then on the building of the trail was a a dream come true for a ski coach. With our bulldozer artist and as much dirt as we needed, we were able to put in about 700 meters of trail that is about as perfect as a section of trail can be. The corners are perfectly banked, the slope is challenging but safe, and the flat sections are level and smooth.

Once the bulldozing was complete, the trail still required a large amount of hand work. Ski team members showed up on a daily basis to rake out rocks, spread seed, mulch the trail and transplant trees. The work goes on, as all who maintain ski trails know, but it is good honest work with benefits that you can see.

What is next for the Marshall Nordic Ski Trails? This winter we will host one high school race, The Marshall Sprints on Friday, Jan 21. We are also in the running as a primary or back-up site for a Nor-Am Sprint race. What about trail expansion phase 3? Todd Campbell has plans in the work for a new section of trail that would expand the trails to 3.5 kilometers in length with a total vertical climb of over 120 feet. Anyone out there have a snowmobile to donate to a good cause? 3.5 kilometers is a long way to groom using snowshoes!

Marshall Nordic Ski Trail Expansion – Phase Three

by Dave Johnson
September 7, 2005

The Marshall campus in Duluth, Minnesota is situated on about 37 acres of hillside overlooking Lake Superior. The construction of a nordic trail system began in the summer of 2003 with a 600 meter loop in a wooded section directly behind the school building. The trail length was doubled with the phase two expansion in the summer of 2004 that involved covering a large section of exposed ledge rock with fill from a local road project. The spring and summer of 2005 marked phase three of the trail expansion. The challenge was to create a ramp from the upper section of original trail down to the football and soccer field area. The hillside is very steep and an unusual property corner forced the relocation of the old running trail. Once again, Todd Campbell, our trail designer and engineer was able to come up with a design for a ramp that would both be very skiable and be an attractive addition to the sports field area. In the spring of 2005, Nels Nelson Construction Company began the construction of the ramp with fill dirt excavated from a local water park project. With generous help from the St. Louis County Soil and Water Department, over 400 seedlings were planted. The trail was then put on hold over the middle of the summer as the focus on campus shifted to the construction of a new soccer field and sports practice area.

New Trail Layout

On the last weekend of August, Nels Nelson Construction once again needed a place to take a large amount of excavated dirt from a local housing project. For three days trucks hauled dirt and Jeff the bulldozer artist, crafted the ramp into final form. The top of the ramp is in a design called a pork chop :-)