Bethel’s Nordic ski club taking a break atop Pincushion Mountain on their 2015 Grand Marais, Minn. ski trip. Each year the club plays broomball after a full day of skiing under the lights of Bearskin Lodge’s parking lot. | Submitted photo.

An eclectic group

What type of person goes outside in -30 degree weather for fun? Members of the Bethel Nordic ski club do every Monday, Wednesday and Friday for community and a good laugh.

By Tori Sundholm | Sports Reporter

Daniel Jacobson hacked off pine bough limbs from a sturdy tree to use as a base layer. The temperature held below zero and the group needed as much insulation as possible for the night. Next, they covered the broken pine limbs with a tarp while others began to make a fire in the snow. They needed walls and tried to build a barrier using snow, but the sparse snow on the forest floor didn’t prove ample enough and the wind whipped through their barricade like a piranha through a fish net.

But the five members of Bethel’s Nordic ski club would not be defeated. Jacobson grabbed all their clothes from inside their modern Grand Marais cabin just through the trees – a cabin with a roaring fireplace and piping hot chocolate full of the rest of their club members, who filled their night by playing bowls and sharing “most embarrassing moment” stories. For the five focused on securing their tarp fort, these games could wait. They needed more caulking in the form of cotton.

When five sleeping bags were jammed with all the sweatshirts they packed, the group focused on constructing a dome by weaving ropes together into a spiderweb contraption and hoisted it above their bed of pine boughs. A final tarp on top completed their Jack Frost fort, but nature wasn’t finished.

“It was chilly,” Jacobson said. “Some of us didn’t make it.”

The night’s wind pounded the janky snow walls, creating holes so large it suddenly looked like a wire fence. Group members tapped out and retreated back to the cabin, which promised brownies and a bed. Jacobson, however, slept through the night, awoke the next morning and skied until nightfall.

Five members of Bethel’s Nordic ski club take shelter from nature’s elements in Grand Marais, Minn on MLK weekend. The group used pine boughs, rope and tarp to survive the night. | Submitted photo

Senior nursing major Savannah Bates didn’t join Bethel’s Nordic ski club until the 2015 season, but she’s been Nordic skiing since 8th grade. Her Mahtomedi High School Nordic team had a similar weekend outing to Bethel’s Grand Marais ski trip called ski camp.

One year, her whole team reenacted the Harry Potter Puppet Pal’s theme song, replacing the cast of Harry Potter with their coaches, various team members and famous Nordic skiers. Bates remembers laughing so hard she knew the impressions would always be “remember whens.”

“People in cross-country skiing tend to be pretty authentic and that was a draw to the sport,” Bates said.

She once opened her high school locker and found a handwritten note from an older teammate she admired. The note included encouraging words about her ski technique and positive attitude.

Even though Bates quit her high school team after sophomore year to save up money for college, she never left the sport. She claims she’s a slow skier, focusing on technique over power, yet she ascends the trails with a dominance akin to Lindsey Vonn descending a slope, all while giving guidance to less experienced skiers.


Hso Hser, a freshman nursing major who talks so fast he’s usually asked to to repeat himself at least once, showed up first to a Wednesday night club practice. His accelerated speech and pristine arrival time could be attributed to his excitement level, which stood at a steady eight while everyone else remained stagnant at a five.

Daniel Jacobson and Reid Harer ski in Grand Marais, Minn. on MLK weekend. Harer was the only club member that never fell during the trip. “I was going push him over sometime during the trip, but it never happened,” Jacobson said. | Submitted photo.

Until Jacobson showed up. He cradled three books in his right arm and couldn’t join the club on the trails because his exegesis needed to be written, but he assisted in lining up driving arrangements for the night.

“This is so tantalizing you guys. I wish I didn’t have so much work,” Jacobson said.

Bates rolled up, sprung out of her dusty-blue Mercury and strode over to the group. She turned around, smirked and snapped a picture of her “janky parking job” to show her friends.

Another student joined the group, an instrument cradled under his arm and a pair of skis clutched in his hands.

The group finally hit the trails at Elm Creek Park. Just his second time on skis, Hser didn’t have trouble keeping up with Bates and freshman Reid Harer, who skied past hi and shouted, “Good job! Great technique!”

When they approached a challenging hill, Harer took Hser’s ski poles.

“You do better without these. Focus on the motion of your feet. It will help you up the hill,” Harer said.

The group skated up the hill, Hser greeted with encouragement when he met them at the top. The next hill the group came across, Harer shared the same advice with Hser and gave him four minutes to conquer the hill.

Hser reached the top in two.


“It’s about honoring God and having great fellowship through skiing.” — Collin Larson, Nordic ski club co-director

Collin Larson, a junior finance and marketing major, has gone on Bethel’s ski trip since his freshman year and now co-directs Bethel’s Nordic ski club with Jacobson.

“It’s about honoring God and having great fellowship through skiing,” Larson said.

On this year’s trip to Bearskin Lodge, a newer skier, Aiden, headed out on the trails with two faster, more experienced skiers, Dan and Dillon. Aiden was surprised when they never left him behind. Dan and Dillon waited at every corner for Aiden. What would usually take the experienced skiers a half hour took them two hours, because they never left Aiden.


“It’s not a hyped-up thing.” — Daniel Jacobson, Nordic ski club c0-director

Larson said Nordic skiing attracts the type of people who put themselves out there. Most club members only knew one person before they joined. Many knew no one. Nordic skiers tend to drive Subarus and eco-friendly cars, he said. The type of people who get done with skiing and go climb a cliff or camp out for the night. Many of Larson’s high school club teammates are liberals.

“I don’t even want to mention Donald Trump around them,” Larson said.

Bates said Nordic skiers are usually more aware of their world and their surroundings and are more engaged with them instead of just reaping the benefits of society. It can be a nature thing or a spiritual thing, but it’s not necessarily a cool thing to do.

“It’s not a hyped-up thing,” Jacobson said.

Jacobson sported a neon yellow T-shirt with a Batman logo spread across his chest. He plopped his fedora onto the coffee table and his Hard Mountain backpack sprawled to the side.

“When society wants to talk about activities they do they don’t say,” Jacobson leaned up in his chair, tilted his head and posed like the Dos Equis most interesting man in the world while adopting his accent, “ ‘I did cross-country skiing.’ They want to say ‘I did football or basketball or hockey.’ ”

Larson said not many jocks join Nordic ski teams, but people who are intentional with their time and usually dedicated to the outdoors sign up.

Bethel’s Nordic ski club practices every Monday, Wednesday and Friday for three hours. Nine hours a week of practice, along with an occasional race and daily school work adds up to a time commitment. For Jacobson, Larson and Bates, time commitment issues are quelled with an easy solution.

“It’s easy for us to say we don’t have time for something but we all have unproductive time in our days so why not smash that time together and go skiing and be productive?” Jacobson said.