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Don't hit the trails without your XC ski pass!

Get your ski pass before hitting the trails - Photo courtesy of Minnesota Department of Natural Resources
Get your ski pass before hitting the trails - Photo courtesy of Minnesota Department of Natural Resources

 It’s been a great January for outdoor enthusiasts. Area trails have an abundance of snow. However, in addition to snow, a lot of behind-the-scenes work is needed for trail users to have the best experience. And that takes funding, which has fallen for cross-country skiers in recent years. WTIP's Rhonda Silence checks in with local Minnesota Department of Natural Resources Conservation Officer Mary Manning to get her thoughts from the trail. 

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources informed the ski clubs in November 2019 that due to the uncertainties in revenue from cross-country ski passes, grant funding for grooming may not be available until mid-February.

John Waters, state trails and snowmobile program consultant for the DNR in the St. Paul office, told the media that this is the first time the DNR had to delay its payments to the ski clubs.

The state uses revenue in the Cross-Country Ski GIA (grant-in-aid) Program that comes from the sale of the “Great Minnesota Ski Pass.”

 Revenue from the ski pass is deposited into the cross-country ski pass dedicated account and this money supports some of the costs associated with grooming ski trails at state parks.

Anyone age 16 or older must have a ski pass. Ski passes are required to ski on grant-in-aid, as well as state park ski trails, including many trails here in Cook County.

The GIA Program is budgeted about $285,000 each year and another $75,000 is allocated to grooming ski trails in state parks, the DNR reported.

Waters said the state has been seeing a decline in people buying ski passes for the past several years. Since 2016, on average there had been about 9,180 passes sold per year. Prior to 2016, there were closer to 12,500 ski passes sold.

With the decline in ski passes sold, the cross-country ski dedicated account balance has dwindled and, as of the end of last season, there was a balance of $100,000.

If the number of ski passes continues to decrease, the account is anticipated to be operating in the red starting in fiscal year 2021 — which would be the funding during the 2020-21 winter season.

In an attempt to make up for the decline, the 2019 Legislature increased the cost of the Great Minnesota Ski Pass, with daily passes increasing from $6 to $10.

The state helps fund grooming of about 1,100 miles of trails for the ski program throughout the state.

The reason for the reduced purchase of ski passes sold may be due to a number of factors, such as fewer people skiing on state park and GIA trails, lower compliance in the purchase of ski passes and people skiing at other systems not covered by the state ski pass, the DNR stated.

Where and how to purchase your Great Minnesota Ski Pass”

  • Online go to the Minnesota DNR website.  
  • Call 1-888-665-4236 or 1-888-MN-LICENSE.
  • Go to any of the 1,750 locations around the state that sell DNR permits and licenses. Click here to find a location. 
  • From the DNR License Center, 500 Lafayette Road, St. Paul.
  • At the front desk in most Minnesota state parks. State parks only sell daily passes.

Ski pass rates

  • Daily: $10.
  • One-year: $25.
  • Three-year: $70.
  • Duplicate passes: $2.50.
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