Reporter's Notebook

Nordic Dreams

Season-pass sales at Glacier Nordic Club help lay preparations for the youth ski-education programs for children between the ages of 4 and 18 and ensure that a stable of groomers is prepared to perform this yeoman’s work all winter long


Every year in early November, after boxing up the Halloween decorations and turning back the clocks, I start dreaming of corduroy — miles of it, unspooling before me along narrow forested corridors, shadows dancing against the moonlit snow as I glide past. In these dreams, I’m skiing in a simulation, dodging snowshoe hares and low-hanging pine branches, moving in a world without friction.

Waking up from a revery like this is disappointing. The only consolation lies in knowing that, soon, it won’t be a simulation. It will be real life, and on the right day, in the right conditions, the cross-country skiing will be as perfect as it was in my dream.

In the dream, however, I’m skiing from Thanksgiving until mid-April, a seasonal spread that real-life winter-weather patterns don’t often cover these days. So, I settle for Christmas to St. Patrick’s Day, but I adopt some peculiar rituals to feed my Nordic stoke until then.

To begin with, I purchase my membership pass to the Glacier Nordic Club, which supports grooming and youth ski education programs at the Glacier Nordic Center (located at the Whitefish Golf Course), as well as at Haskill Basin, the Big Mountain Nordic Trails, and, beginning this year, Meadow Lake Golf Course. Those passes are on sale at an early-season price discount until Nov. 6 (visit glaciernordicclub.org). Although they’re technically only required to access the groomed terrain at the Whitefish Golf Course, I attach mine to my hydration belt and wear it proudly everywhere I ski in the winter, as well as indoors at the coffee shops and bakeries I frequent before and after my skiing adventures. If I spot other people wearing their passes dangling from a hydration belt, I exchange a friendly nod and smile, as if to say, “I know what you’ve been dreaming about.” I do not exchange these pleasantries with skiers who are not brandishing their passes, regardless of whether they are wearing a hydration belt or fanny pack.

I visit numerous Nordic ski systems in the Flathead, and I purchase day passes or contribute to the organizations’ donation boxes whenever I go. But Glacier Nordic is my hometown cross-country ski club, and I frequent its trails on a near-daily basis when the conditions are primed. The main reason I purchase my early-season ski pass there, and encourage others to do so, too, is because I understand the work that it funds, enabling both pre-season trail and equipment maintenance, as well as helping lay preparations for the youth ski-education programs for children between the ages of 4 and 18 and ensure that a stable of groomers is prepared to perform this yeoman’s work all winter long.

I also wile away the time reading archived grooming reports from previous winters. I do this in part as an exercise in appreciation, but also to probe the sparse sentences for hidden meaning or flourishes of enthusiasm — “One inch overnight snow. All upper trails groomed for skate with ginzu. Classic set. Get it while it’s good!”


The saintly souls who perform this work are skilled in an art and craft that is maddeningly underappreciated. They groom daily, rumbling through the woods on snow machines, conducting their magic overnight or early in the morning, sometimes in multiple six-hour shifts, navigating the trails by a cone of yellow light. Their equipment frequently breaks down due to the freezing, snow-choked conditions, requiring feats of mechanical innovation that baffle me.

But when they see me zipping past in the pre-dawn darkness, my season pass fluttering against my hip flask, they understand it’s because of their efforts that freaks like me are living the dream.