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NewsTribune photo/Scott Anderson It’s a great time to ski as Jim and Fran Freeman of Glencoe ski down the lower trail inside Matthiessen State Park. The Freemans were visiting Starved Rock and Matthiessen for the long weekend and were enjoying the winter sights from skis instead of on foot.
One of the colder, snowier winters in recent memory had not, until this weekend, been great for the cross-country ski shop at Matthiessen State Park.
Jack Kusek, co-owner of the Do-It To-It Ski Shop, which operates from little cabin with a fireplace at Matthiessen, said this past weekend was only the second when he and partner Jack Novotney opened the shop this season.
“We had a good day Saturday and Sunday,” said Kusek, who has operated the shop for almost 30 years. “People come out to have fun in the snow when there’s snow.”
But it’s not as simple as all that. Deer hunters had the right of way in the park several weekends in December, snow melted one weekend, and Kusek didn’t bother opening the shop on one of the coldest days of the year.
The shop wasn’t open Monday, the Martin Luther King Jr. Day holiday for schools and many workplaces, but lots of skiers were the Matthiessen trails. Normally the shop is open 9 a.m.-4 p.m., weekends only, and the park’s open from dawn until dusk.
While the timing of snow and hunting seasons hasn’t been great for the ski shop, Oglesby resident Russ Wood said this has been an unusually good year for skiing in Illinois.
“This year has been the best year in the last three. At least we got some snow,” said Wood, who got hooked on skiing during the snowy winter of 1979 after renting skis from Brown’s Sporting Goods in Peru Mall and heading out with his son and wife to give it a try.
Since he’s retired, he skied on December weekdays between deer-hunting weekends and enjoyed the trails when they weren’t crowded on other days in late December and early January. He said the skiing was excellent Saturday, but snow was sticking to the skis as temperatures rose to about 40 on Sunday.
He was hoping for snow tonight so it would fill out the ski trail tracks again and he could head out again. When he doesn’t ski at Matthiessen, he sometimes tries the groomed trails at Rock Cut and Shabbona state parks.
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