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LEDs light Luminary Ski for first time in 2019

The Maasto Hiihto ski trails in Hancock were lit with 200 lights. LEDs were used for the first time this year. (Photo provided by John Diebel)

By JOSHUA VISSERS

Houghton Daily Mining Gazette

HANCOCK — Thursday night, hundreds of people took to the Maasto Hiihto ski trails in Hancock to ski or snowshoe a loop marked out by small lights through the dark forest.

“The attraction tonight is the lights,” said event organizer and Keweenaw Nordic Ski Club board member John Diebel. “It’s completely different from being out there in the daytime.”

Diebel said that skiing or snowshoeing at night adds a sense of adventure and mystery to a sport most people only enjoy during daylight.

This year, the trail was lit using LED lights for the first time.

“(The) hardest part in the past has been lighting candles,” Diebel said.

Windy conditions this year made the LED lights especially convenient. The lightbulbs were cut from a string of Christmas lights and mounted on wood platforms made from repurposed 2x4s and powered by two AA batteries. Each platform’s corners had to be sanded down to keep them from tearing through the paper bags each was placed in along the trail. 200 lights were put together and placed along the trail Wednesday afternoon before dark.

While the KNSC normally requires a membership or day pass to use the trails, the Luminary Ski is a free event.

“It’s our way of saying thank you to the community,” Diebel said.

Membership fees and donations are used for draining, maintaining, building, repairing and grooming the trails through the year.

A $25,000 donation from the John and Melissa Besse Foundation last year allowed the club to purchase a tractor.

“We got more done last summer with that tractor than we have in the last 10 years,” Diebel said.

The club is still waiting on FEMA funding to rebuild some of the trails in Swedetown Gorge after the 2018 flooding according to Diebel, who also acts as the board treasurer. The intention is to relocate some of the damaged bridges to be above the floodline.

More information about the KNSC is available at keweenawnordic.org or by writing them at P.O. Box 564, Hancock, MI 49930.

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