During the week between Christmas and New Year’s Eve, Northern Wisconsin was blanketed with snow, but southern Wisconsin received only rain. To get some training in, I decided that I would have to head north.
My travels took me to two fantastic ski trails: The Moccasin Lake Ski Trail and Minocqua Winter park.
Moccasin Lake Ski Trail
Date: January 1, 2015
Total time: About 40 minutes
Distance: About 3 miles
My father frequents the Moccasin Lake Ski Trail, a ski and snowshoe trail not far from Elcho, the town where I grew up. It’s a beautiful piece of county land with rolling hills and a mix of evergreens and deciduous trees. They had gotten a lot of snow — perhaps too much, because although the trail had been rolled, the snow was soft and loose making it difficult to skate ski on, although the classic ski tracks looked good. Dad and I skied a small loop and still got a great workout – remarking that conditions were similar to that of last year’s Korte / Birkie conditions.
There are two different types of ski trail groomers. The one used at Moccasin Lake is the size of a snowmobile while some trails have more expensive groomers that are larger and look more like snowmobile trail groomers – much heavier and able to lay down a more solid foundation.
For example, here’s a photo of one of the groomers used at the Birkie:
I was also glad for the shorter ski that day because I had spent the night before dancing into the New Year — an activity that no amount of weight lifting can prepare me for, apparently.
Minocqua Winter Park
Date: January 2, 2015
Total time: 1 hour 40 minutes
Distance: 9 miles
I woke up the next day, and drove a little more than an hour to Minocqua. (I listened to more of the Startup Podcast by Gimlet Media on the drive — seriously worth checking out.) The drive was beautiful with the trees all flocked with snow.
The trail fee for Minocqua Winter Park is $14, but it was well worth it. The park not only has pristine, well-maintained nordic trails, but it’s a family fun destination. There is a lodge near the parking lot that was packed outdoor adventurers. A tow-rope brings snow tubers up to the top of a hill for a fast ride. An outdoor ice rink was full of ice skaters. There’s a grill to buy food, a shop to buy and rent skis and a fireplace to thaw your toes out in between laps. Oh — and did I mention indoor bathrooms? I will pretty much pay to ski any place that has indoor plumbing.
The most interesting thing that Minocqua Winter Park does (that I haven’t seen anywhere else in the state yet) is cater to snowmobilers as well as silent sports enthusiasts. Snowmobile trails nearby make the lodge an attractive stop or destinations for snowmobilers — particularly with families. I’ve never really seen a place where spandex and Smartwool-clad nordic skiers commune side-by-side with folks wearing full Polaris snowsuits.
Hats off to Winter Park for finding ways to appeal to winter enthusiasts of all stripes in harmony. Even though we enjoy it differently, we all love snow, and chili and hot cocoa.
Another thing I noticed while hanging out in the lodge was a lot of youth skiers — even some from the MadNorSki Madison Youth team. It is so exciting to see middle and high school aged kids falling in love with the sport.
After leaving the lodge, I headed out to the right for some intermediate & difficult hills. (Check out the Trail map of Minocqua Winter Park to learn more) Even though the lodge was packed with people including lots of Nordic skiers, I only saw a handful of other skiers on this portion of the trail. I truly enjoy solitude while skiing, but I also like knowing that someone will probably find me if I have an epic crash along the way.
After skiing some hills, I warmed up by a campfire in the middle of the trail, then turned onto the cookie trail — which is a popular trail for skijoring, or skiing with a dog. I didn’t take the time to stop at the Tea House — but will have to do that next time. I love that they built a Tea House as a warm up spot on the trail.
The thing about paying $14 for a trail pass is that it makes you want to get your money’s worth, so after skiing for a while, I warmed up at the lodge. Then I switched out for warm gloves and got back out there for more hills.
I’m hoping to get back up to both Moccasin Lake and Minocqua Winter Park before the Birkie — both have their charms and are great places to train.