Minnesota Nordic Ski Opener

Save the date for next year's opener: December 7, 2024.

Saturday, December 9, 2023

8–9 AM: Skaði’s Chase
9 AM–3 PM: Festival 

Elm Creek Park Reserve
12400 James Deane Parkway
Maple Grove, MN 55369

Embrace winter by celebrating cross-country skiing at the Minnesota Nordic Ski Opener! Skiers of all abilities and ages are invited to kick off winter with free skiing, free ski rental equipment and free mini lessons. Participate in the Ski Tour with routes for the whole family, and check out the Nordic Market with representatives from 50 Nordic ski suppliers, resorts, retailers and clubs. Warm up in the chalet, and grab a warm beverage or meal.

This is a FREE event.

An instructor teaches a group of people how to cross-country ski.


All activities are held outside, both on and off the snow, so dress for the weather!

  • Free Nordic skiing on Elm Creek Park Reserve’s manufactured snow loop
  • Free Nordic ski rentals, including sit-skis for adapted skiers
  • Free Cross-country Classic Technique mini-lessons by Three Rivers Park instructors (9 AM–3 PM)
  • Free Cross-country Skate Technique mini-lessons by The Loppet Foundation instructors (10 AM–3 PM)
  • Ski with the University of Minnesota's Goldy Gopher (9:30–10:30 AM)
  • Minnesota Youth Ski League Kids Area (10 AM–3 PM)
  • Participate in Skaði’s Chase — 8K, 4K or 2K
  • Visit the Nordic Ski Market 
  • Sign up for 2023–2024 ski passes

Ski Tour — All Day

a dad helping his daughter ski.

Join Minnesota’s first official ski of the year! Time yourself or take a leisurely ski on Elm Creek's 2.5K of manufactured snow. If you need skis, stop by the rental areas to take advantage of free rentals!

9:30–10:30 AM: Ski with Goldy

Join Goldy Gopher, the University of Minnesota's mascot.

Goldy Gopher, University of Minnesota's mascot, skis.

11 AM: Group Ski for Adapted Skiers

Join us for a leisurely group ski for adapted skiers led by a Three Rivers staff member. Adapted skiers are welcome all day; sit-skis will be available. Participants needing assistance with transfers will need a household member to assist.

Nordic Ski Market — 9 AM–3 PM

A line of cross-country skis lean against a railing.

Enjoy Minnesota’s largest Nordic ski expo! Outfit yourself for the season, sign up for races, find out about Minnesota resorts and clubs and learn about ski waxing.

Pick up a Nordic Ski Market Passport, stop by vendors for stamps, and turn in your completed passport to enter for a chance to win a door-prize from one of our generous partners.

Kids Area — 10 AM–3 PM

Visit the Minnesota Youth Ski League Kids Area from 10 AM to 3 PM.  Kids ages 4-12 can test their skills on an obstacle course built by our great partner MYSL!

Sauna — 9 AM–3 PM

A fun day of skiing is never complete without a Nordic sauna and ice bath. Learn about the growing mobile sauna community in Minnesota.

Twenty-minute private saunas will be available for groups of 4-8 people. To sign up for your time slot, stop by the sauna, located near the Nordic Ski Market, when you arrive. Signup is on a first-come, first-served basis. Sauna participants will need to bring a bathing suit, towel and sandals.


Parking at Elm Creek Park Reserve

Park District employees will direct you where to park. Shuttle service throughout Elm Creek Park Reserve will run to and from the Chalet from 7 AM until 5 PM.

Overflow parking will be available, as needed, at the Maple Grove Parkway Transit Station (9870 Maple Grove Pkwy, Maple Grove, MN 55369), with bus transportation to the chalet at Elm Creek.

Dog Policy

The safety of event guests and dogs is the highest priority. To ensure everyone’s safety we ask guests to follow the event’s dog guidelines.

  • Dogs are not allowed on snow, on shuttles or in buildings.
  • Dogs must be kept on a 6’ leash.
  • Owners must pick up after their dogs and dispose of waste properly.
  • Dogs must always be always kept under control.
  • Guests with aggressive dogs may be asked to leave the event.

Skaði’s Chase — 8 AM

A woman competes in a cross-country ski race. Other racers can be seen in the distance behind her.

About the Race

Welcome winter with Skaði (pronounced "skaw-dee"), Norse goddess of skiers, in Skaði’s Chase Nordic ski race. Choose from 8K, 4K or 2K distances (course map). All racers will be entered into the award ceremony door prize drawing.

The Minnesota Nordic Ski Opener is a proud participant in the inaugural Tour de Finn Ski Series.

8K Race – 8 AM

The 8K freestyle race starts at 8 AM with two classes: male skiers and female skiers (all ages). The first 150 racers to register will receive a commemorative cloth bib.

4K Race – 8:40 AM

The 4K freestyle race starts at 8:40 AM with two classes: high school boys and high school girls (ages 14–18).

2K Race – 8:50 AM

The 2K freestyle race starts at 8:50 AM with three classes: middle school boys and middle school girls (ages 12–14) and a beginner class (open to all). (The 2K beginner race does not have awards for top finishers.)

Registration and Fees

Skaði’s Chase registration is now open! Race fees are non-transferable and non-refundable. All racers have the option to preorder a Minnesota Nordic Ski Opener hat.

8K Race

Save by registering online by December 7. Race-day registration is also available beginning at 7 AM. 

  • $25 pre-registration (online registration closes at 11:59 PM on Wednesday, December 6)
  • $35 race-day registration

4K and 2K Races

Save by registering online by December 7. Race-day registration is also available beginning at 7 AM. 

  • $5 pre-registration (online registration closes at 11:59 PM on Wednesday, December 6)
  • $8 race-day registration

Awards – 9:30 AM

The prestigious Minnesota Nordic Ski Opener Loon Award will be presented to the top finisher in each category:

  • 8K — male skiers and female skiers (all ages)
  • 4K — high school boys and high school girls (ages 14–18)
  • 2K — middle school boys and middle school girls (ages 12–14)

Random door prize drawings will also be awarded.

Race Results

Become a Partner

The goal of the Minnesota Nordic Ski Opener is to bring together the entire Minnesota Nordic ski community to celebrate Nordic skiing in Minnesota. If you are interested in being a Minnesota Nordic Ski Opener partner, please email us at SponsorshipOpportunities@threeriversparks.org.


Volunteer as a greeter, help out in the rental building, be a "ski buddy" and help people as they try skiing for the first time. To learn more or sign up, call 763-559-6706 or email us