Is there anything more fun than skiing on a well-groomed trail?
 Is there anything more fun than skiing on a well-groomed trail?
By MIKE NORTON There are days when you feel like skiing a trail with lots of ups and downs and winding turns, and then there are days when you just want to plug yourself into the iPod and spend a couple of hours chugging along on a straight level track. For me, Saturday was that kind of day and the Leelanau Trail was that kind of place. Since it's an old railbed, the Leelanau Trail has a gentle grade and is punctuated with lots of easy entry points. In the non-snow months this makes it perfect for runners, hikers, in-line-skaters and cyclists - and in winter it's a great place to do some zoned-out skiing. If it has any disadvantages, it's that there are a few too many intersecting roads, which gives you a lot of practicing taking your skis off and putting them on again. As it turned out, Saturday was also the day of the trail's first-ever Open House; when I arrived at the Cherry Bend Road trailhead, there was Julie Clark, the new executive director of TART Trails, Inc., presiding over an urn of hot cocoa and a table loaded with cookies. TART is the nonprofit group that operates and maintains Traverse City's world-class network of trails. (Check out their website at www.traversetrails.org to see them all.) Julie is from Charlotte, NC, where she was in charge of Mecklenburg County's Greenway Planning & Development Division, and said she's really been enjoying herself since she and her family moved to Traverse City. It was certainly a friendly group of skiers who showed up to use the trail that morning (all the competitive skiers were over in Antrim County competing in the White Pine Stampede, so we were mostly the slow, socializing kind). And yes, the skiing was just fine! I didn't go as far as I'd intended, but it's hard to know if that was the snow conditions or just the fact that I'm not the athlete I once was. Heck, the trail goes all the way to Suttons Bay, and I wanted to be sure I got back before all the cookies were gone...
Skiing at the Sleeping Bear Dunes/Cottonwood Trail
Skiing at the Sleeping Bear Dunes/Cottonwood Trail
Speaking of outdoor fun, the folks at the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore have got a great event scheduled for next weekend. Last year they created a family-friendly outdoor activity club called Families United with Nature (FUN) -- a way for families to spend time together outdoors trying their hand at something new, breathing a little fresh air, and meeting other families who enjoy being outside. They meet on the second Sunday of each month, and this weekend they'll be holding their second annual Snow Olympics. There'll be winter games with snowshoes, snowmen, relays, and more - and it's open to all families. Reservations aren't necessary, but they are recommended. If you're interested, contact Park Ranger Amie Lipscomb at 231-326-5135, ext. 332, or Amie_Lipscomb@nps.gov. If you want more information, check out their website at www.nps.gov/slbe.