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WCCO Viewers' Choice For MN's Best Cross Country Skiing

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- It's been a little warmer this past week, but there's still lots of snow left, and I wanted to make the most of it.

So, I went him in search of the best cross-country ski trails in Minnesota.

Your votes sent me to Maplelag Resort in Callaway, about 20 miles north of Detroit Lakes.

And it's easy to tell when you're getting close to the resort. At Maplelag, there are 64 kilometers of trails laid out across forests, lakes and plenty of snow.

"I don't know if there's anyplace in Minnesota that does anything quite like this," said Mary Richards, the resort's owner.

Richards and her husband, Jim, bought the land more than four decades ago. They built a beautiful lodge and made cabins out of old train cars.

But 15 years ago, they almost lost it all.

"So, in December of '99, the whole lodge burned to the ground and a couple of cabins," Richards said. "We got emails and phone calls from all over the country, because I think 'CCO picked it up."

The support from their guests was so overwhelming that even after the disaster the Richards didn't think for a second about walking away.

"Oh gosh, no," Richards said. "I think the very next day [my son] was already sketching on an envelope over in the freight house. Because we just knew, it was our life, and I don't know what else we would have done."

So they rebuilt -- bigger and better than before. And families came back, to kick-and-glide down the trails.

"I think you can enjoy it at any level," Richards said. "So you can be a beginner, and we have trails that are practically flat with just little, tiny hill."

Mary's son, Jay, is fanatical about his trails. He shapes and grooms the snow at all hours of the day so they'll last into spring.

"Typically, when things melt off, like in the woods, we'll have ribbons of white - or basically an ice base - because it's been compacted so much," Jay Richards said.

That means you can find some of the best skiing of the season right now.

"March days are awesome," Jay Richards said. "With the sun, longer days, you know, nice temps, being out in the woods, by yourself, enjoying the beauty of nature."

The Maplelog Resort is closed for the season, but the trails will be open as long as there's snow. Jay Richards says that should be another two to three weeks.


For next week, I'm looking for the best macaroni and cheese in Minnesota. Email your picks to or tweet them to @Matt_Brickman.

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