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The Ski Weekend Story

By Curt Rahman (Kiribati 1981-1983)

I have a story.  This is the history of the Minnesota Returned Peace Corps Volunteer Ski Weekend.   As you are aware, the MNRPCV group began in 1980.  In 1983 Cindy (my wife) and I returned from our post in the Central Pacific and longed for snow…..

We joined the MNRPCV group and attended a ski weekend in January 1984, at the Wolf Ridge Environmental Learning Center in Isabella.  My memories of our time at the ELC?   A run-down, mostly poorly-heated dormitory-style weekend, but still a fun outdoor adventure.   We ate in a chow hall, with meals prepared by the ELC, and participated in the outdoor events planned by the ELC.  Anybody remember the race to light a fire and boil water in a tin can?  We got one match!  What was that, the boy scouts?? I know Mary Donovan was there as was Charlie Stander.  Charlie rolled his car into a pillow of fresh snow on his way home.   He just kept driving…that’s the Peace Corps spirit!

Every year since there has been a ski weekend, always with 30-40 people attending.  From 1985 to 1993 we went to Wilder Forest near Stillwater.   At Wilder forest we stayed in two lodges and again we ate meals that they prepared.  I think my wife Cindy and I started coordinating the ski weekend in 1988 or there about, taking over from Keith and Jolene Pearson.  Our oldest son, Eric, was also born in 1988 and he is 22 years old, so that makes the math really easy for me.   Wow, 22 years ago we started doing this event.  The fun we’ve had, the camaraderie, the outdoor experiences.  Volunteers are a mobile group, they are not like most Minnesotans who stay put.   Friends that came on the weekend in 1984 are mostly out of state now, but some remain year after year- I guess we are those that stay.

But I digress… the ski weekend.   In 1994, we tried Red Wing in order to attract folks in the southern part of the state, but it just did not work.  The facility was a hotel and the snow did not cooperate.  We needed a place to gather as a group, so from 1995 until about 2002, we moved to the Mille Lacs Hunting Lodge.   This was a great place.  With group cooking facilities.  each room in the lodge was assigned a meal to cook.   We roamed in the adjacent 40,000 acre wildlife management area by day and played cards and board games at night.   A little wine was drunk upon occasion also.  Does anyone remember when it was 60 below zero in real temperature at the lodge?   BRRRRRRRRRRRRR.  Vicki Dilley’s car would not start when she needed to leave.   We opened the hood to jump it and discovered she had a block heater – it was time to use the block heater for the first time!

The Hunting Lodge:  pheasants, the big stone fireplace, soaring pine ceilings, mounted animal heads on the wall, everyone packed into 6 rooms, skiing on trails groomed by horses and my personal favorite?  Getting so lost in the woods with Eric Angell that we did not get back to the lodge until 2 hours after dark.   OK, that was a little spooky, but we got through it.  And how many hours did we ski in Kathio State Park?   That was fun, too!

In 2003 we found my personal favorite place, The Edgewood Resort in Park Rapids.   This 13 bedroom, 6 bathroom lodge fits 35 people and has done us well for many years.   We ski at Itasca State Park and cook communal meals.   Nobody ever goes home hungry from the ski weekend!  Les and Lois always come, ski about 5,000 miles, (OK, maybe that is a little exaggeration) and make the best pancakes.   Some people just hike with squeevers and prawns.  (huh?- OK, you had to be there…)  Dan brings his snowmobile and the kids take it out on the lake.   Christi quilts and plays board games.   Did I mention that we always have international students hosted by MNRPCV’s along on the trip?  The group always has several along.

2007 to 2010 we moved to the Headwaters Hostel in Itasca state Park because the Edgewood was not open during the winter those years.  The hostel was the original headquarters building with a stone fireplace; it is a real log cabin!   Ski out the door and live like PCV’s sharing bunk rooms and a tiny kitchen.   OK, it’s cozy!  I like the place, but it is long and compartmentalized, like being in a submarine.    Still, it had a warm feeling and we liked it.

Cindy and I have made it to every ski weekend since 1984.   I think Dan Grundtner has done all but two of those. Christi Williams and Mary Donovan are close 3rd place finishers and Charlie Stander has come about every other year- since 1980!  Then there are Elsa and Bernard who have been mainstays over the last 10 years.  Please bring the Espresso Maker Bernard!

2011, February 4, 5 and 6, we will be back at the Edgewood Resort in Park Rapids.   I love that place.   Call if you want to join us!