When weather cooperates, Wisconsin XC is great
Conditions might have already changed when you read this, but after a slow start Old Man Winter has supplied enough snow for cross country skiing around the state.
When the weather does cooperate, Wisconsin offers some of the best XC in the Midwest, if not the entire country.
More than 250 XC facilities encompass miles of groomed trails when there is sufficient snow. Seven hundred miles of these trails can be found in state parks. The Department of Natural Resources maintains a web site that gives you information on these trails and current snow conditions at http://dnr.state.wi.us/org/land/parks/ski/xc.htm.
You also can find varying degrees of difficulties from beginners to experienced skate skiers on these trails. This writer is somewhere in the middle, slipping to the easier trails as I age. Here are five trails in the state that my wife and I have enjoyed over the years:
1. Peninsula State Park, Door County: The park has 16 miles of trails, which offer some spectacular views of Green Bay (the bay that is, not the city) and peninsula. Most of the trails are groomed for double track skiing.
Six miles are groomed for skate skiing. It's a hilly run, so will challenge you. The park also offers a warming facility. A one-mile candlelight ski is held on the first Saturday of February.
2. Norskedalen: This is a Norwegian heritage facility near where I live in the Kickapoo Valley. You won't necessarily find it in a lot of guides, and grooming is spotty since it's done by volunteers. But, when the snow conditions are right, this is a spectacular place.
You can ski through Coulee Country and right by an old Norwegian settlement that has been preserved.
3. Gov. Dodge State Park, Grant County: This state park offers more than 20 miles of groomed trails, with a wide range of difficulty. If you're out for a leisurely, scenic glide, take the Gold Mine Loop, a 2.5 mile trail that goes through wooded areas and meadow.
If you want to try a more advanced trail, try Lost Canyon, an 8.1 mile run that will take you about three hours. It goes through some spectacular terrain in Lost Canyon and past Stephens Falls.
4. Buettner's Wild Wolf Inn, Langlade County: We had a wonderful trip to this privately-run facility a few years ago. Located on the scenic Wolf River, the inn is known for rafting in warm weather, but has 11 miles of well-groomed trails when the conditions are right. You can make an easy run by take the Inn Loop or challenge yourself on the Outer Loop.
5. Harrington Beach, Sheboygan County: This was one of our favorites when we lived in Milwaukee. It's located only 35 miles north of town, so can provide an easy, fun day of skiing. The trail runs from the lower parking lot to a shuttle bus lot, and will take you through woods and give you views of Lake Michigan. We seldom failed to see deer while skiing here.
These are just five personal favorites and only touch the tip of the iceberg of state XC skiing. With our inconsistent winters in recent years, you would be wise to contact any facility before making a trip.
One major reason Wisconsin is known for XC skiing is The Birkie, a world class cross country race which will stage its 34th annual event in Cable and Hayward, Feb. 22-24.
Leslie Hamp recently wrote on The Birkie's site that, "Despite unseasonably warm temps worldwide, the wimpy winter isn't putting the kabosh on skiers bound for the event."
"The Birkie Trail is in surprisingly good shape and registrations are ahead of last year's numbers at this time," said Ned Zuelsdorff, Executive Director of the American Birkebeiner Ski Foundation (ABSF), a couple weeks ago.
"The trail has a thin, but very firm base from the start line to Lake Hayward. We just received three inches of new snow and more is forecast. Cold temperatures are projected through the end of January, and many skiers are on the trail getting ready for race day."
More than 7,000 skiers are expected to participate in the 51k Birkebeiner and 23k Kortelopet. One in four is a classic skier.
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