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Life on skis

Even before he was one year old, Duncan Fox was on the snow, set inside a laundry basket on skis pulled by his parents. By age 2, Duncan could stand on skis. Soon after, he and his father, Bob, his late mother, Laurie Brown, and younger sister, Erika, took frequent family trips to the nearby Jay Cooke State Park.

"We'd always go out there in the winter," said Fox, a Carlton senior. "I love skiing. I remember moonlight skiing at Jay Cooke was once per year - I always looked forward to that."

Fox is looking forward to this winter, entering as the centerpiece of the Cloquet-Esko-Carlton boys Nordic ski team. A varsity skier since eighth grade, the 17-year-old has experience on the trails and even off the paths.

This year he's giving his favorite sport extra time.

The 6-foot, 160-pounder explained that daily practices at Pine Valley in Cloquet last just over an hour, and Fox said he often stays at the chalet after practice to work on his upper body. He also works out in the morning.

"This year, he's raised it up a notch," said Lumberjacks Coach Les Martin. "You have to work hard to be a good skier. He's putting in the time and taking it seriously."

Despite his serious approach to skiing, Fox has yet to qualify for the state meet in his long career. He said he'd love to do it soon, recalling the days when Esko's Raleigh Goessling won the state title in 2010.

"He's on the right track to doing well this year," said Martin, in his fourth year as coach. "He definitely has the ability; his times are getting better every year that he's been on the varsity with me. But skiing is about mental toughness, and putting in that extra little bit to push."

Pushing his skis along with his son's has been Duncan's father, Bob Fox. Despite the passing of his wife, Laurie, a few years ago, Bob has continued to ski recreationally, enjoying Duncan's growth in the sport.

"We started him on skis probably when he was 1½ or 2 years old; he's taken to it and outdone anything I could ever do," Bob said, proudly. "I don't ski as well as he does - not by a long shot.

"He's a busy kid, taking college classes at school, working a job, playing other sports - he's stretched thin," continued Bob. "But he's trying to get the most out the time he has at practice."

Esko junior Matt Rengo, who's been Fox's varsity teammate for five seasons, agreed.

"I feel he wants it more," Rengo said. "He gives the rest of us a momentum push because he's usually the one out in front - he's the one that everyone is trying to get."

Also leading the pack for the CEC boys is Cloquet's Nolan Ripp. The girls team is headed by Esko seniors Molly Meysembourg and Korbyn Danielson and Fox's eighth-grade sister, Erika, of Carlton.

As Erika begins her career this year, Duncan will close his, but hopes to continue the lifelong sport for many years.

"It's something I want to keep doing," Duncan said. "I just like to get outside in the quiet, the trees, the snow. It's peaceful."