A new snow has fallen. The sky is a sharp cobalt. Cardinals bounce around in the evergreens overhead. In the distance, a dramatic blanket of powder drops from a pine bough. Despite the cold, your core is warmed by the rhythmic movement of your skis. There’s nothing like the silence of the muffled woods on a winter day when the outdoors belongs to you.
Cross-country skiing—a more spontaneous sport than downhill skiing—requires no lift tickets, yet the closest option for those on the North Shore has been a golf course in Weston or trekking up to New Hampshire. That changed last winter when the North Shore Nordic Association began grooming a 20-mile trail system that crisscrosses the North Shore through Appleton Farms and Grass Rides, as well as Bradley Palmer State Park and the Pingree School.
This simple-sounding idea provides skiers with groomed trails in their own backyard. By creating a network of open trails, maps, and signage, the North Shore Nordic Association is advocating for the sport, active living, and getting outside in winter.
Founders Carol and Thomas Catalano of Hamilton have long enjoyed walking and cycling on the amazing existing trail system in the area. “During the winter our true passion, though, is skate skiing,” says Carol Catalano. “There is no other workout quite like it, and it leaves you with an energized and euphoric high.”
Escaping outside to this wonderland in the dead of winter to ski hard, work up a sweat, meet up with neighbors, and experience the full glory of nature is an extraordinary experience, says Catalano.
After meeting at the Rhode Island School of Design, the couple would often escape north to hike or ski. Catalano was glad to have her skis with her when the Blizzard of ’78 shut down New England. She joined volunteers and skied along Route 95 in search of those people trapped in their vehicles.
During the summer of 2015, the Catalanos applied to the state for North Shore Nordic’s nonprofit status and got it approved quickly.
The North Shore Nordic Association is now served by eight board members, up to 20 volunteers, and several large corporate sponsors, including a natural fit, Craft Sportswear of Beverly, whose chief executive officer enthusiastically joined the board. Now having raised $45,000 for equipment and trail repairs, they are looking to reach out to underserved populations, offer free clinics, and form a ski league.
Ski trails can be entered from several places, including Patton Park, which is accessible by commuter rail. A ski loaner program is in the works. Plus, skis can be rented or purchased at the Sports Stop in Wenham. “We want to make this available to everyone,” says Catalano.
Trails are open sunup to sundown. For updates on groomed trails, or to see a ski map or opportunities for volunteering or donating, see nsnordic.org.