CALUMET - For nearly 50 years, Cross Country Sports has played an integral part in organizing, supporting and promoting cross country skiing, biking and silent sports events in the Copper Country. On top of that, the employees have donated countless hours of their time to building the network of ski and bike trails enjoyed by many in the Keweenaw.
"Our customers appreciate how much we've given back to the community in actual dollars, but even more importantly, in time we've given to trails and events," Cross Country Sports owner Rick Oikarinen said, estimating they've donated more than $30,000 and over 3,000 volunteer hours over the years. "In 2008, we donated over $1,500 to local ski and bicycle events and over 300 hours on trail work at the Swedetown Trail System alone."
Rick, who is the former president of the Copper Island Cross Country Ski Club, said he helped with the layout and construction of the original Swedetown Ski Trail System, and was the race director of the Great Bear Chase Ski race for 24 years. More recently, Rick has played a key role in designing, building and maintaining more than 17 miles of single-track bike trails at Swedetown. Marc Norton, of Copper Island Printing, and Jeff Parker also volunteered in the project, which spanned about three years.
Cross Country Sports owner Rick Oikarinen stands outside the Calumet location.
"I'd say we did about 94 percent of the work there. I've always enjoyed this sort of thing," Rick said. "Of course, the building is much more difficult than the planning. But I love the outdoors and I love being in the woods. Aside from that, there is that feeling of accomplishment. I enjoy riding the trails that I made and if I can have other people enjoying the trails, too, then that's even better."
Cross Country Sports, located in Houghton and Calumet, carries bicycles, cross country and downhill skis, snowboards, snowshoes, apparel and accessories for all types of outdoor fun.
The Calumet location is the oldest cross country ski shop in the Midwest. Rick's father, Len Oikarinen, or "Mr. Ski," started selling skis in 1962.
Rick took over the business in 1978 at the age of 24, and in addition to skis, he decided to sell and repair bikes.
"Now we're just as big a bike shop as we are a ski shop," he said.
In November 2005, Cross Country Sports opened its second location in Houghton - in the large green house across from Family Video, at the corner of Bridge and Sharon Avenue.
In the winter, the Houghton location caters primarily to Alpine, or downhill, skiing and snowboarding while the Calumet shop caters to nordic, or cross country skiing. Both shops carry a full line of technical clothing snow shoes and accessories as well as waxing, tuning and stone grinding services.
During the summer, both locations are full-service bike shops including sales and service repair. Both the Calumet and Houghton shops offer the most complete service and selection in the western U.P. and is the area's exclusive dealer of the top names in bicycles including Trek, Gary Fisher, Haro, Kona, Titus, MirraCo and Redline brand bikes.
"We are a full-service bike shop on all brands of bikes, not just the ones that we sell," Rick said. "We aim for a one-day turnaround on repairs. With our two shops, we have a good chance of having a specific bike part in stock."
Rick said they also order parts on a daily basis. "We can get what you need quickly. We also offer an expanded catalog of parts and accessories that can be viewed on our Web site as well as our calendar of shop rides and events," he said. "Check us out on the Web at crosscountrysports.com."
All of the ski and bike mechanics at Cross Country Sports are certified, with their combined experience topping 50 years.
Cross Country Sports carries kids BMX bikes and more recently, skateboards. While Cross Country Sports has several longstanding employees as well as some who are new to the business, the one thing they all have in common is they all take part in the sports they sell.
"We're populated with enthusiastic people who take part in the sports that we sell," he said. "Everyone who works in our shops both ski and bike."
The same applies to Rick and his wife Lorri, who runs the business with him.
"I didn't get into the ski and bike business from the business end of things. I got into the business from the ski and bike end of things," he said. "We've been doing the sports that we've been selling for years so we aren't just selling the products."
Cross Country Sports is located in Calumet at 507 Oak St. and in Houghton at 103 Frue Ave. Business hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday. For more information, call 337-4520, 483-2453 or try online at crosscountrysports.com.
Editor's note: This feature is part of a paid advertising package purchased by Cross Country Sports of Calumet and Houghton. Businesses interested in being featured on the Business page may call Yvonne Robillard at 483-2220.