Published February 14, 2010, 12:00 AM

Duluth skier racks up miles on artificial hip

It’s safe to say that Tim Holst takes his cross-country skiing seriously.

By: Sam Cook, Duluth News Tribune

It’s safe to say that Tim Holst takes his cross-country skiing seriously.

He doesn’t race. He just skis and skis and skis.

Holst, who will be 59 on March 24, skied his upcoming age in kilometers on Jan. 17. Fifty-nine kilometers. Roughly 37 miles. A bit more than a Birkebeiner.

That’s no big deal. Plenty of 59-year-olds ski the Birkie.

But not all of them have an artificial hip, as Holst does. He had his right hip replaced in July 2005.

“The new hip’s great,” said Holst, who is director of graduate programs and research administration at the University of Minnesota Duluth.

It must be.

So far this year, Holst has skied a total of 1,175 kilometers, or about 728 miles. He’s gone out to ski 63 times. He’s on pace for a pretty typical winter.

Since 1992, when Holst began keeping detailed records of his skiing, he has been out an average of 86 times per season and skied an average of 1,640 kilometers (1,016 miles) per winter.

While some cross-country ski racers log that many miles to train for racing, Holst hasn’t raced since he was in high school at Minneapolis Roosevelt. When someone asks him why he skis so much, he has a ready answer.

“I ski that many Ks because the next 10 meters are the most fun I’ve had in my life,” Holst said.

“He absolutely loves it. He loves it like your dog loves to retrieve,” said Duluth’s Beth Storaasli.

She and her husband, Mark Knutson, often ski with Holst and his wife, Beth.

“I don’t know if I know anybody our age who skis the amount he does as fast as he does,” Storaasli said. “But he’s very willing and happy to ski with slower people. It’s just the sheer joy of it.”

Holst often skis twice, even three times a day, on weekends. During the week, he does a lot of night skiing with a headlamp or under the lights at the Lester-Amity or Snowflake Nordic trails.

“I try to ski 90 times a year,” he said. “I got out 156 times in 2003-2004.”

He got in 3,604 kilometers (2,234 miles) that season. He has skied as early as Oct. 29 in a season, as late as April 13.

“I keep track of this not because I’m crazy, just because it’s fun,” Holst said.

Next winter could be big for Holst in terms of total kilometers — lifetime.

“I’ve got almost 38,000 kilometers now,” he said. “It’s 40,000 kilometers (24,000 miles) around the earth at the equator. In my 60th year, I’m hoping to hit that one. I’ve already skied around the world at Duluth’s latitude.”

None of this counts his kilometers on roller-skis, those shortened platforms on wheels that cross-country skiers use on roads during summer and fall. Holst does plenty of that, too. He was on them in the summer of 2005, three months and three days after his hip replacement.

He is only mildly concerned about wearing out his alloy hip.

“Although I’m a poster boy for this surgery, I don’t want to do it again,” he said.

But neither is he going to go sedentary just to extend the life of the new hip. He’s taking nothing for granted.

“You never know what’s going to happen tomorrow,” Holst said.

And he knows he’ll be happier if he skis today.

“If I ever once went out there and was sorry I had made the effort, then that would probably keep me from going out again. But that hasn’t happened,” Holst said.

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