Theodore Wirth Trail UpdatesNovember 19, 2016
Big changes are happening at Theodore Wirth this season. This fall, the Loppet Foundation signed an agreement with the Minneapolis Park Board to take over much of the operation and maintenance of the trails at Wirth, as well as grooming at Columbia and Hiawatha golf courses.
At Wirth, a major transformation is underway with the trails between the Par 3 building and the chalet, as the Loppet Foundation begins work on developing their Trailhead project. While construction on the Trailhead building won't begin until next spring, the Loppet Foundation has been working quickly to add MTB trails (event trails), to move the tubing operations to the snowboarding area, and to reroute the snowmaking trails.
With the Loppet management of the ski trails, there will be a number of changes in skiing at Wirth, the most prominent being the rerouting of some of the snowmaking trails. The basis for the ski trail rerouting is not only to make space for the new Trailhead building, but also to allow for a pedestrian corridor to the tubing and snowboarding area. The major changes in the route include directing the trail out of the upper stadium, down the south hill to the loop next to the maintenance building and then climbing all the way back up to the upper stadium again. This climb will be nearly continuous, making it as long as some of the biggest hills on the competition loop (north golf course). The second major reroute involves the descent that featured a crash-prone left turn (a spectator's favorite). That section has now been straightened, allowing a runout, and then weaves over some ridges before finally connecting to the lower stadium. There has also been tuning to alleviate some pinch points and improve the trail flow.
Hover your mouse over the map numbers to see a course photo and short description from that location. The same sequence of images can be reviewed in the photoset just below this map.
Photoset: Wirth Snowmaking Trail Changes 17 photos
Two of the biggest complaints of the Theodore Wirth snowmaking trails have been trail congestion and a shortage of parking. The parking issue will be addressed next season with the addition of roughly 100 parking spaces across the road from the old Par 3 building. As for congestion, the Loppet has moved to set up a number of off-trail practice areas (which will be reservable), thus hopefully keeping the flow on the trails more continuous. And for regular high school meets, they will split the snowmaking loop in half, dedicating the old button hook downhill/climb, as well as the new maintenance loop and return climb to high school races, while keeping the rest of the loop open for training. While this will make for a very difficult high school course (multiple laps, very few flats), it will keep the trails open. As of this writing, there is no plan to limit the number of teams/groups (unlike Hyland and Elm Creek).
One possible area of concern this winter will be the addition of Fat Biking activity. The new event trails cut this fall will criss-cross the ski trails in a number of new locations, meaning athletes will need to be aware of cross traffic. Loppet organizers have said the event trails may be closed when prominent ski races are being held.
As of mid-November, construction activity at Wirth was brisk as they scrambled to implement these changes. This may result in the delay of some snowmaking operations, but there is good news on that horizon as well. The Loppet has purchased a cooling tower which will improve the temperature ranges in which they can make snow. This new cooling tower is expected to be installed in the coming weeks.
Ski rentals and ticketing will be at the old Par 3 building for this season, with operations moving to the new Trailhead building next year. Ski trail season ticket passes are on discount until December 1st. Fat biking, even on groomed trails, does not require any pass.
The Loppet Foundation is still seeking to raise the final funds to complete the Trailhead project - please show your support with a contribution!
Loppet: Exciting Changes Coming this Winter to Theodore Wirth Park