In a nearly snowless winter, a line of snowmaking machines at Battle Creek Regional Park has fought to keep Nordic ski trails open in the east metro. This is the first full year that Ramsey County has been able to make snow, thanks to funding from a variety of local, regional, and state sources.
However, recent record warm temperatures are pushing the limits of snowmaking technology all over the region. To make snow, the temperature has to be below 27 degrees and humidity has to be low enough to freeze the fine mist of water emitted by the machines. Forecasts for late January and early February are not promising for snowmaking.
But earlier this month, Ahvo Taipale was out with his daughter and granddaughter at Battle Creek, where he has been pushing for snowmaking for years. He grew up on skis in his native Finland.
"Oh, this is fantastic," Taipale said. "We are coming up to the standard of anywhere in the world. This is absolutely key for today's world, the way the climate is changing. We are counting on this one now that skiing is here for a long time to come."
Snowmaking is available at Theodore Wirth Regional Park in Minneapolis, Elm Creek Park Reserve in Maple Grove, and at Hyland-Bush Anderson Park Reserve in Bloomington. However, there was not artificial snow at a regional park in the east metro until last year.
“When the weather has been cold enough to make snow, this has just been a game changer," said Emmett Mullin, regional parks manager with the Metropolitan Council. “The Met Council thinks a lot about equity, and I know Ramsey County does too. And the idea of expanding opportunities to a wider range of people is really a huge thing that we want to do more of.
“We’re hoping for more snowfall, but if the temperatures drop again and it doesn’t snow, Ramsey County can now make it for everyone who wants to come and enjoy it," Mullin said.
In addition to making snow, Ramsey County also accessed Met Council funding to operate an equipment rental program as well as to create outreach and programming for people who haven’t had an opportunity to try cross country skiing.
"With this investment, we've been able to really open it up to a lot more audiences,” said Ramsey County Parks and Recreation Director Mark McCabe. "So you see a lot more younger families and individuals who haven't skied before coming out and trying it for the first time."
Funds for this year’s snowmaking came from Ramsey County, State of Minnesota general obligation bonds, the Parks and Trails Legacy Fund, and Met Council regional funds.
Ramsey County opens Battle Creek’s trails to skiers free of charge several days each week.