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Duluth's Snow Stompers make trails more accessible

“It’d be great to have volunteers manage every part of town, but there’s a limit to the available snowshoes."

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Duluth Parks recreation specialist Brett Odegard snowshoes a section of the Dan Proctor Trail below Skyline Parkway on Dec. 30, 2021. Odegard coordinates Snow Stompers, volunteers who pack trails with snowshoes after snowfalls. Steve Kuchera / Duluth News Tribune
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DULUTH — Brett Odegard’s snowshoes crunched along, paving a path up and down the slopes of a Chester Creek trail. Near the end of his hike, Odegard ran into a group led by a few kiddos — all in sync following the padded snow before them.

Odegard manages Snow Stompers, a pandemic-born volunteer group in charge of packing spots along seven Duluth trails after a big snowfall.

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Brett Odegard yields the trail he’s packing to a group of hikers Dec. 30, 2021. Steve Kuchera / Duluth News Tribune

Twenty-one volunteers tackle seven locations when there’s about 2 inches or more of snow — on their own time frame — covering the Ely's Peak Loop, parts of the Superior Hiking Trail, Lincoln Park Drive and more.

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Distances range from 0.75 to 3 miles, and everyone from novice to experienced snowshoers flocked to the call. “We filled up all our spots within a day and a half,” said Odegard, recreation specialist for the city.

Volunteers are issued snowshoes for the season if they don’t have them, and it’s a way to encourage getting outdoors. “It’d be great to have volunteers manage every part of town, but there’s a limit to the available snowshoes,” Odegard added.

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Before volunteering, Niqkee Whittet had only snowshoed a few times. After stomping for a couple of months, she’s now purchasing her own pair. “It’s not something I ever thought I’d pick up. When they said they’d lend them out, I jumped on it,” recalled the Duluth woman.
Whittet has run into some hiccups putting the snowshoes on, learning to walk in them and getting used to a little extra weight on her feet. And: “Of course, the hills.”

“It’s a workout. Sometimes, my legs feel like jelly. I have to pace myself.”

While it’s tedious, it’s an outdoor activity accessible to anyone, she added.

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Niqkee Whittet

A regular on the Munger Trail, Whittet figured volunteering would be a great way to explore other Duluth spots. And in her days of stomping, she’s been in awe of what we can access here.

“Before hiking the trails, I didn’t think wildlife was active after a snowstorm. I’ve seen a few animals, a couple of coyotes. It’s amazing to see,” she said.

Snow Stompers is in its second season, and the idea came about last year when indoor activities were at a low due to the pandemic.

“We are always looking for new ways to engage with the community, especially in ways that make our parks and trails more accessible to people of different abilities or backgrounds,” said Megan Lidd, recreation specialist for the city.

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Brett Odegard takes a step while snowshoeing Dec. 30, 2021. Steve Kuchera / Duluth News Tribune

You don’t have to be an official volunteer to help, and though they have a set amount of designated trail sections, any hiking or multi-use trail in Duluth can be stomped after a fresh snowfall, she added.

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“The folks who have signed up to stomp are loving it as a great way to spend time outdoors, and we’ve heard from community members who are excited that trails across Duluth are being activity walked on, and therefore they can use it to walk, trail run, or fat-tire bike with ease,” Lidd added.

Asked about the perfect material for stomping, Odegard said, generally, you want the wet heavy stuff. “Think of the snow you’d want for a snowman.”

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Brett Odegard fastens his snowshoe harnesses at Chester Bowl before going out to pack a section of the Dan Proctor Trail on Dec. 30, 2021. Steve Kuchera / Duluth News Tribune

For more information on the Snow Stompers program, see bit.ly/3HCYBZD

Related Topics: NORTHLAND OUTDOORS
Melinda Lavine is an award-winning, multidisciplinary journalist with 16 years professional experience. She joined the Duluth News Tribune in 2014, and today, she writes about the heartbeat of our community: the people.

Melinda grew up in central North Dakota, a first-generation American and the daughter of a military dad.

She earned bachelors degrees in English and Communications from the University of North Dakota in 2006, and started her career at the Grand Forks (N.D.) Herald that summer. She helped launch the Herald's features section, as the editor, before moving north to do the same at the DNT.

Contact her: 218-723-5346, mlavine@duluthnews.com.
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