MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — No school, plenty of snow, and a chance to have fun while social distancing.

“It’s probably the healthiest thing you can do this winter,” said Mary McKelvey, Ski Instructor.

The challenge of cross country skiing actually begins with the challenge of finding a parking spot outside the Theodore Wirth chalet. Perfect snow conditions beckon skiers of all skill levels.

“It’s really popular this year,” said McKelvey. “It’s a challenge, but it’s a fun challenge.”

When 10-year-old Bryce Servais’s basketball session was canceled, he went from the hard court to the snow trail.

“My parents told me if I wanted to do it I could sign up. I thought I’d have fun,” said Servais.

From skis to sleds to snowmobiles, an uptick in outdoor activities also means an uptick in business for many retail stores.

Some snowmobile retailers say their business is up nearly 25% since the pandemic started. And they’re not alone.

“I would say we are getting more interest in Boundary Waters winter camping this year than past years,” said Ben Bunsted.

Bunsted works for Midwest Mountaineering. He said they’ve been getting shipments of 20 or 30 pairs of snowshoes at a time, and they’re selling almost as soon as they arrive.

“The only thing we have left are children’s snowshoes. These are for 7- or 8-year-olds,” said Bunsted. “I know we’ve sold more this year already than we did the entire winter season last year.”

It’s a sign of the times. And if part of this means getting kids out of the house then Nick Peyer is 100% on board.

“Great weather, lots of people having fun. Got to get out and get these guys worn out so they sleep at night,” said Peyer, while tubing with his three sons.

Midwest Mountaineering said the outdoor push is already being felt for 2021. Bunsted said they are already selling canoes and kayaks for next summer.

John Lauritsen