PRECIP:
Hi temp:
0.08
"
rain
48.64
°f

The year that was (2021-22):

  • December 2021 early snowfalls were encouraging, then we received a near-record 14-inch snowfall on December 10th. We spent about $400 grooming that snowfall, skiers enjoyed it for a few days, then the weather gods were cruel enough to give us rain, tornadic winds, and a major meltdown. The weather shifted in our favor just after Christmas, and by late December we again were busy grooming. January and February were cold, and during those two months we received about 20 inches of snow, with 7 of those inches on Tuesday February 22nd just prior to the Birkie. The overall snowfall for the winter measured 67 inches, but only 26 inches fell when we could use it. Much of the grooming this past winter was done in the evening – producing nice firm trails to start the day – and skiers were uniformly happy throughout the winter. Logging of the West Side ‘Lollipop Timber Sale’ in the late fall necessitated removal of those logs after the ground froze. As a result, the logs were hauled on the ski trails up until mid January. We weren’t really able to ski those involved trails until late January after enough snow accumulated. On the East Side, a small logging operation near the warming house in late February was minimally disruptive thanks to a cooperative effort to minimize equipment crossing the ski trail. The trails were in great shape at Birkie time. Warm weather moved in a week after the Birkie, including ice and rain on March 5th (actually the first rain since late December). The last grooming was March 19, but cold weather allowed skiing until late March. We groomed a total of 49 times this past winter: 13 times in December, 16 times in January, 17 times in February, and 3 times in March. There still was ‘skiable’ snow in early April.
  • Our “Blue Hills Trail Fun Day” never materialized this past winter due to cntinuing COVID precautions.
  • Each summer, one of Wisconsin's 30 County Forests hosts the annual WCFA Summer Tour. It's a unique opportunity for one county to share the best of its forest lands. This year was Rusk County's turn to host the Summer Tour, and the Rusk County Forestry Department invited the Blue Hills Trail Association (BHTA) to show what we have to offer. In late June, three busloads of foresters pulled into the parking lot by the warming house, 100+ attendees piled out of the buses (this included members of the Rusk County Forestry Committee and the Rusk County Board), then listened to brief presentations from the Forestry Department and from the Blue Hills Trail Association. One point emphasized was the many benefits to the ski trails that result from the good working relationship between BHTA and Rusk County Forestry.
  • A round of applause please for everyone that provided volunteer help this past year. Our volunteers, members & donors are very giving – THANK YOU!!!

Here are some specific thank you notes…

  • Thanks to last year’s grooming team for creating great skiing conditions. They groomed a lot, we skied a lot – and groomers never complained about the need to use their winches to pull themselves out of deep snow.
  • Thanks to John Waldron for serving as emcee at our November 5th banquet!
  • Thanks to Jan Paulsen and Vickie Waters for decorating the banquet site.
  • Big thank you to John Kann & Dan Bjugstad who continue maintaining our network of dedicated snowshoe trails – they’ve got their work cut out to reestablish the trails through the areas that were logged this past year. Watch for email messages if they request help removing the logging slash.
  • The entire trail system was mowed this summer, thanks to our volunteers for removing downed trees & their 50+ hours of mowing.
  • Thank you to the volunteers at this year’s fall work day. We brushed out most of the trails, and tidied up the warming house and trailhead.
  • Thanks to the Rusk County Forestry Department and the Wisconsin DNR for bulldozing, culverting, and grass seeding the new West Side trail (between Letters Y and Z). This trail will be loads of fun to ski (it climbs, rolls and dips) as it provides a new loop for your enjoyment.
  • Thanks to Bob Wieckowicz for his clever welding jobs on our Honda Pioneer (he added solid support for the extended hitch, and creatively modified the aftermarket bed rails to fit).
  • Thanks to a dry summer, erosion problems have been limited this year.
  • The distant loop on the West Side (C-D-F-G-H-I) remains beaver territory. For now, we’d like to coexist and avoid removing the beavers. In fact, their two active dams undoubtedly help control runoff during heavy rain events – thus minimizing erosion of the ski trail.
  • There are two timber sales on the East Side that have been logged this fall. Details are on maps below.
  • Remember, the entire trail system is non-motorized. If you find motorized vehicles on the trails, educate their operators to the contrary. And consider reporting this to the Rusk County Sheriff’s department.

  

Equipment and Monies:

Our equipment is valued at close to $90,000 – 2020 Honda Pioneer with Mattracks tracks, 2017 Arctic Cat Bearcat Groomers Special snowmobile, 2 rollers, 3 Tidd Tech implements, an ABR trail compactor, & various state of the art attachments. Thanks for your financial support that helps keep the equipment running well. 

  • Our 2020 Honda Pioneer 1000 with Mattracks & enclosed cab (cost of $41,000 when purchased April 2021) is a great asset – thanks again for everyone’s financial support in helping us afford the Pioneer. This summer, the Pioneer transmission acted up and required two trips to the dealership in Chippewa Falls before repairs were completed to our satisfaction. Thankfully we had purchased an extended warranty that covered the repairs.
  • Our 2017 Arctic Cat Bearcat Groomers’ Special snowmobile is a big workhorse, powerful and maneuverable. It nicely complements the Honda Pioneer. Unfortunately, it overheated on multiple occasions this past winter, presenting a diagnostic challenge that took two months to figure out. We’re pretty sure it’s good to go.
  • Our AcrEase trail mower gets plenty of use each summer. It was purchased 2012, and the engine was replaced spring of 2021. This summer we replaced all the wheel bearings (8 wheels, 16 bearings total). It does a great job handling the tall grasses.
  • For working the snow surface, our Tidd Tech implements (called “G2s”) do most of the work. They measure 6, 8 & 9 feet wide with the outside flaps extended, & each works well in different snow conditions.

Monies

  • The donation pole in the parking lot last winter added $3900 in revenue – thanks for spreading the word about the Blue Hills Trail – please remind visitors to plug that donation pole!
  • This fall’s membership & fundraising drive has already generated more than $19,000 ($5200 from business donors, $5000 from individual donors, $6700 in membership fees, $1300 from raffle tickets) – that’s about 75% of our budget – and your generosity with this year’s auction will hopefully raise another $2000+ – thank you!!!  Whenever you can, please thank the many businesses and individuals that support the Blue Hills Trail Association Inc.

New Trail

This map shows the new West Side trail that was bulldozed and seeded in August 2022. It runs from Y to Z.

West Side map showing the new trail between Y and Z
The new trail runs from intersection Y to Z

Status of active timber sales as of late October 2022:

Refer to the first map below...

Green:

1. North of warming house – this was a select cut of red pine. The cutting is done, almost all the logs have been hauled out, and bulldozer repair of the ski trails is happening now. Our volunteers are in the process of reestablishing the ‘Nordic Pines’ snowshoe trail. One big plus: the ski trail that provides access to our trailhead storage has been greatly improved (ditched & culverted) to now allow heavy traffic to reach our storage sheds.

2. To the Far East – this very large sale (174 acres of a hardwood select cut) was cut in ‘record’ time this fall. Currently, the involved trails are rutted and muddy – and have an amazing amount of wood piled up waiting to be hauled to market. If the weather cooperates for the loggers (frozen ground before snow accumulates), the logs will be hauled to the west (down Rut Road to the Firelane Road), then the trails will be dozed in time for skiing. If the weather doesn’t cooperate and that plan doesn’t materialize, then the affected trails on the Core Loop will be repaired in time for ski season – and the logs will be hauled to the east using a route that doesn’t involve the Core Loop (refer to the second map below). We probably should anticipate a good portion of the Far East trails will be unavailable this winter. But they should be repaired and ready for skiing next winter. PLUS – we have a great new trail planned for the Far East that will be our payback for disruption of those trails.

Pink Line = East Side Core Loop

Aqua = water flow

Map of Blue Hills Trail (Wisconsin) showing active logging
Map showing active logging on the East Side of the trail system

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Additional Recent Posts

Each summer, we evaluate our 20+ miles of trails to look for areas in need of bulldozing. The goal is to control erosion and/or improve trail segments to enhance skier enjoyment. The Rusk County Forestry Department usually donates the cost of two days of dozing plus the necessary grass seed; the dozing is performed by highly skilled local Wisconsin DNR foresters. We're fortunate to benefit from this ongoing relationship.

This summer, all of June and the first half of July were very dry for a change. This created an opportunity to bulldoze areas that would otherwise be too muddy for dozing. So we focused this year's dozing on two areas on the East Side trails: the Roundabout intersection, and the lower half of the Hairpin Trail.

The Roundabout Trail was created several years ago. It's a great way to climb to the Ridgeline, or to quickly descend from the Ridgeline on the way back to the warming house. It flows beautifully, and is one of our favorite trails. However, when this trail was built conditions were too muddy to create the ideal junction between the Roundabout Trail and the Rollercoaster Trail. When skiing downhill, we've been forced to stop and make a hard left turn to switch from the Roundabout to the Rollercoaster.

Good news - we just completed dozing that added a sweeping left hand turn that will allow skiers to maintain their speed while dropping from the Roundabout Trail onto the Rollercoaster Trail. It's gonna be sweet!

On the Hairpin Trail, the lower half (the southern half) had several rocky and rutted areas that made grooming a real challenge. As a result, that trail hasn't been groomed and skied very often. On their way back from working on the Roundabout Trail, dozers spent time improving several segments of the lower half of the Hairpin Trail. This should be a welcome improvement for groomers and skiers alike.

Our volunteers spread grass seed August 20th, first spreading an annual rye, then spreading a perennial mix that includes clover (makes for nice grouse habitat).

Many thanks to our DNR dozer operators (Bob Hauser and Colton Erickson), they did a super job!

Check out the following pictures taken August 20th...

Map showing location of recent bulldozing on the Blue Hills Trail
Map shows where bulldozing has improved the ski trails

CLICK HERE FOR A VIDEO SHOWING THE NEWLY DOZED ROUNDABOUT-ROLLERCOASTER INTERSECTION

Bulldozing on Blue Hills Trail at the Roundabout intersection
View from the Rollercoaster Trail where fresh bulldozing creates a new junction with the Roundabout Trail
Bulldozing on Blue Hills Trail at the Roundabout intersection
New junction sweeps between the Roundabout and Rollercoaster trails
Bulldozing on Blue Hills Trail at the Roundabout intersection
Bulldozing where the Roundabout and Rollercoaster trails are joined
Bulldozing on Blue Hills Trail on the Hairpin Trail
Bulldozing on the southern half of the Hairpin Trail
Bulldozing on Blue Hills Trail on the Hairpin Trail
Bulldozing on the southern half of the Hairpin Trail

Our new workhorse has arrived!

After selling our 2014 Gator to a private party, in early April we finalized plans to purchase and modify a 2020 Honda Pioneer 1000 Deluxe side-by-side that now makes its home at the Blue Hills Trail.

Beginning in February, recognizing it was time to replace our Gator, here's the process we followed...

  • Researched UTVs that would meet our needs
  • Researched industrial strength tracks that would be superior to the Camoplast tracks we've used since 2014
  • Inspected and test drove several UTVs
  • Visited the nearest Mattracks dealer (Winter, WI) for a first hand look
  • Spoke with groomers at ski trails with experience using the Honda Pioneer, and Mattracks.

By late March, we felt the Honda Pioneer 1000 was a good choice for our new UTV. And Mattracks became our choice for a tougher set of tracks. Recognizing the need to pay attention to our space limitations (the doors opening into our storage shed are 83" wide and 83" tall), we...

  • Downloaded specs for Mattracks and the Pioneer
  • Made multiple careful measurements of the Pioneer
  • Realizing the vertical fit would be close, we decided to purchase the Pioneer (with a backup option of modifying the storage shed doors)

Recognizing the current Coronavirus Pandemic has greatly disrupted supply chains and the availability of manufactured items, we felt fortunate to locate a UTV that could fit our needs (a 2020 Pioneer was available at Zacho Sports Center in Chippewa Falls). We made a down payment on the Pioneer. Simultaneously, we ordered the Mattracks from TRACKIT trail grooming located east of Winter, WI (just before a big price increase). Zacho Sports Center did nice work adding a front receiver hitch, interior storage compartments, front and rear LED lights, special dashboard rocker switches to operate our grooming implements, and a second stronger battery to handle the extra electrical load.

Once all the modifications were completed on the Pioneer, we sealed the deal and chose May 12th as the day to transport the Pioneer from Chippewa Falls to Winter (Wisconsin) where the tracks were installed. Then from there to the Blue Hills Trail -- all in the same day. A HUGE THANK YOU to John Waldron for his time and mileage (220 miles that day) as he trailered from Rice Lake to Chippewa Falls to Winter to our trailhead transporting the Pioneer.

Once at the trailhead, we were relieved our new Pioneer fit the vertical opening into the storage shed with about 3 inches to spare! WooHoo!!!

The next major step was to fabricate a special extended rear hitch for towing our grooming implements and trail mower. Bob Wieckowicz (our member with special welding expertise) evaluated the Pioneer, and decided to weld the extended hitch at his shop. The welding and painting was accomplished in a couple days, and the Pioneer returned to the trailhead just before rainy weather moved in. Considering the tight spaces that are present when the cargo bed is tilted, the fabricated hitch and welding support is really quite brilliant! Thanks Bob!

Many thanks to the following members that helped research the new machine and tracks: Sam Behrends, Ron Beebe, Ron Jasperson, Tom Paulsen, and John Waldron. And thanks to Bob Langer for help with trailering as part of the rear hitch fabrication.

And many thanks to our members and donors. The Pioneer + Mattracks is a big investment, we genuinely appreciate your financial support.

Our Honda Pioneer on the rack while Mattracks are installed
Our Honda Pioneer gets a lift while mounting its new Mattracks
Our Honda Pioneer on the rack while Mattracks are installed
John Waldron inspects the new industrial strength Mattracks
Mattracks installed, ready to trailer to our trailhead.
Mattracks installation is completed. Loaded on JW's trailer for the trip to the trailhead.
Honda Pioneer arrives at our trailhead.
Honda Pioneer arrives at the trailhead
Honda Pioneer checking out the Blue Hills Trail
Honda Pioneer checks its new footing
Closeup image of the industrial strength Mattracks
Closeup photo of the industrial strength Mattracks
modifying the cargo bed
Cargo bed of the Honda Pioneer - with some personalized modifications
Fabricated (welded) hitch extender
Bob W did a great job designing and fabricating our extended hitch
Fabricated (welded) hitch extender - rear view closeup
Closeup view of the hitch support fabricated (welded) by Bob W
Fabricated (welded) hitch extender - side view
Side view of the hitch support fabricated by Bob W

The COVID pandemic has pushed many more people into the out of doors this past year. This has clearly added to the enjoyment of the beauty of the Blue Hills Trail, we've been experiencing a big increase in the numbers of first time visitors this past year.

Thanks to COVID, for the first time, the American Birkebeiner Ski Foundation partnered with multiple 'Virtual National Venues' for the 2021 Birkebeiner (Birkie) Ski Race. Here at the Blue Hills Trail we outlined three courses that satisfied the distance requirements for either the Prince Haakon, Kortelopet, or American Birkebeiner races. Give credit to our vice president (John Waldron) for pushing the Blue Hills Trail Association to link with the American Birkebeiner for this year's event - the 47th annual American Birkebeiner Ski Race. And credit our president (Sam Behrends) for providing hydration and energy snacks at key locations.

We were pleased to see so many skiers join in the fun by completing their races at the Blue Hills Trail during the Virtual Week of Feb. 20 to 28. Racers were free to ski any of our trails that they wanted, many skied their own routes, quite a few followed our suggested routes. The Blue Hills Trail was a Tier 3 Virtual Partner, and we groomed the heck out of our trails during Birkie week. We could brag about the dynamite conditions, but it's better to let the following pictures convince you. Thanks to Jan Paulsen, Steve Porn, and Dave Putnam for the majority of these photos.

Skiing at the Blue Hills Trail during the 'Virtual Birkie' week
East Side race course on February 20th
Skiing at the Blue Hills Trail during the 'Virtual Birkie' week
Happy sisters - February 20th
Skiing at the Blue Hills Trail during the 'Virtual Birkie' week
A future star?
Skiing at the Blue Hills Trail during the 'Virtual Birkie' week
Skiing at the Blue Hills Trail during the 'Virtual Birkie' week
Fresh grooming February 22nd following a 2" snowfall the day before
Great grooming at the Blue Hills Trail during the 'Virtual Birkie' week
Skiing at the Blue Hills Trail during the 'Virtual Birkie' week
More great skiing conditions on February 25th
Skiing at the Blue Hills Trail during the 'Virtual Birkie' week
Members of the 'Spirit of 35' - between them they've completed 87 Birkies!
Skiing at the Blue Hills Trail during the 'Virtual Birkie' week
Smooth sailing. 27 kilometers done, only 16K to go.
Skiing at the Blue Hills Trail during the 'Virtual Birkie' week
A proven winner!
Skiing at the Blue Hills Trail during the 'Virtual Birkie' week
Ski. Run. Bike. Live!
Skiing at the Blue Hills Trail during the 'Virtual Birkie' week
shirt sleeve weather on February 27th
Skiing at the Blue Hills Trail during the 'Virtual Birkie' week
Skiing at the Blue Hills Trail during the 'Virtual Birkie' week
dogs are welcome on the West Side of the trail system
Skiing at the Blue Hills Trail during the 'Virtual Birkie' week
Skiing at the Blue Hills Trail during the 'Virtual Birkie' week
Skiing at the Blue Hills Trail during the 'Virtual Birkie' week
Getting his kicks
Skiing at the Blue Hills Trail during the 'Virtual Birkie' week
Speeding around the West Side - February 27th
Skiing at the Blue Hills Trail during the 'Virtual Birkie' week
Skiing at the Blue Hills Trail during the 'Virtual Birkie' week
Skiing at the Blue Hills Trail during the 'Virtual Birkie' week
Skiing at the Blue Hills Trail during the 'Virtual Birkie' week
Family fun - February 27th
Birkie Proud Partner sign

The Blue Hills Trail is excited to partner with the American Birkebeiner Ski Foundation for the 2021 Birkebeiner (Birkie) Ski Race. SCROLL DOWN TO SEE THE THREE COURSES we've outlined that will satisfy distance requirements for either the Prince Haakon, Kortelopet, or American Birkebeiner races. Our trail system is very well marked - but you will need to carry your own race directions.

Join in the fun by completing the race from Feb. 20 to 28. You are free to ski any of our trails that you please, they'll be open to racers and non-racers alike. The Blue Hills Trail is a Tier 3 Virtual Partner, and we are committed to grooming frequently during Birkie week. Track will be set prior to the week of the Virtual Birkie, and as needed thereafter. See the Virtual Race page on the American Birkebeiner website for additional information on choosing the virtual option.

To help plan your outing... At the top center of our website, 'Trail Conditions' are updated twice daily (this includes grooming reports).

To help you find your way around...

To print the following maps, right click any of the images to 1) open in a new tab and print from there; or 2) save to your computer and print from your computer.

Prince Haakon 14K virtual race 2021

The following map shows our suggested Prince Haakon Route (13.99 Km)

Firelane Road ⇢ A ⇢ X ⇢ A ⇢ B ⇢ J ⇢ I ⇢ C ⇢ D ⇢ E ⇢ E ⇢ D ⇢ F ⇢ G ⇢ H ⇢ I ⇢ C ⇢ B ⇢ A ⇢ Firelane Road

Prince Haakon 14K Virtual Race at the Blue Hills Trail
Prince Haakon 14K Virtual Race Course at the Blue Hills Trail

Kortelopet 26K virtual race 2021

The following two maps show our suggested Kortelopet route (26.26 Km)

Kortelopet LAP 1:

Firelane Road ⇢ A ⇢ X ⇢ A ⇢ B ⇢ J ⇢ I ⇢ C ⇢ D ⇢ E ⇢ E ⇢ D ⇢ F ⇢ G ⇢ H ⇢ I ⇢ C ⇢ B ⇢ A

Kortelopet Virtual Race Course at the Blue Hills Trail - Lap 1
Kortelopet Virtual Race Course at the Blue Hills Trail - Lap 1

Kortelopet LAP 2:

A ⇢ X ⇢ A ⇢ B ⇢ C ⇢ D ⇢ E ⇢ E ⇢ D ⇢ F ⇢ G ⇢ H ⇢ I ⇢ J ⇢ B ⇢ A ⇢ Firelane Road

Kortelopet Virtual Race Course at the Blue Hills Trail - Lap 2
Kortelopet Virtual Race Course at the Blue Hills Trail - Lap 2

American Birkebeiner 43K virtual race 2021

The following two maps show our suggested Birkebeiner route (43 Km)

This route combines loops that add up to 43K. Starting at the warming house, you’ll ski 19K on the East Side trails, then cross to the West Side trails for another 24 K. Scroll down to look at BOTH maps that guide you through the East Side to the West Side trails.

Virtual Birkie East (19K):

1 ⇢ 26 ⇢ A1 ⇢ 2 ⇢ 3 ⇢ 4 ⇢ 5 ⇢ B1 ⇢ B2 ⇢ B3 ⇢ 9 ⇢ 8 ⇢ 7 ⇢ 6 ⇢ C1 ⇢ C7 ⇢ C6 ⇢ C2 ⇢ C1 ⇢ C7 ⇢ C6 ⇢ C5 ⇢ C4 ⇢ C3 ⇢ 17 ⇢ 16 ⇢ 8 ⇢ 9 ⇢ B3 ⇢ B2 ⇢ B4 ⇢ B3 ⇢ 9 ⇢ 10 ⇢ 13 ⇢ 12 ⇢ 11 ⇢ 10 ⇢ 13 ⇢ 14 ⇢ A5 ⇢ A2 ⇢ 25 ⇢ 24 ⇢ 22 ⇢ 23 ⇢ 24 ⇢ 22 ⇢ 23 ⇢ L

Birkebeiner Virtual Race Course at the Blue Hills Trail - East Side
Birkebeiner Virtual Race Course at the Blue Hills Trail - East Side

Virtual Birkie West (24K):

L ⇢ K ⇢ J ⇢ I ⇢ C ⇢ D ⇢ E ⇢ E ⇢ D ⇢ F ⇢ G ⇢ H ⇢ I ⇢ C ⇢ B ⇢ A ⇢ X ⇢ A ⇢ B ⇢ C ⇢ I ⇢ H ⇢ G ⇢ F ⇢ D ⇢ C ⇢ I ⇢ J ⇢ B ⇢ A ⇢ X ⇢ A ⇢ Firelane Road

Birkebeiner Virtual Race Course at the Blue Hills Trail - West Side
Birkebeiner Virtual Race Course at the Blue Hills Trail - West Side

In 2014 we purchased and began using a John Deere Gator with Camoplast tracks to handle the bulk of our ski trail grooming. It also pulls our trail mower through 22 miles of rough trails during the summer.

As a result of a couple major breakdowns involving the Camoplast tracks, we’ve learned to carefully monitor the tightness of the bolt/washer combination that secures the hub bearings and holds the entire track on the Gator axle. Every 50 hours we perform a safety check on the tightness of the 12 mm diameter hub bearing bolts that hold everything together. If we discover a bolt is starting to loosen up, we replace it. However, on two occasions the bolt itself snapped off - requiring a delicate welding operation to mount a nut on the bolt shaft so the bolt could be removed. This happened most recently just one week ago.

The Camoplast tracks that we use are realistically designed for recreational use. However, we demand a lot more of the tracks when pulling heavy grooming implements up hills, down hills, across hills, over bumps and ridges. Even though we’re using new bolts and washers when they need replacement, they still have difficulty withstanding the abuse.

After one of these bolts broke off a week ago, we called Camoplast in Canada and spoke with a very helpful engineering technician. He knew that ski trail groomers in Europe had greatly diminished their problems with bolt breakage through one specific modification of the setup: they substitute a much thicker washer. This makes a lot of sense. We’ve noticed all along that the original washers tend to deform (cup) within the first 100 hours of use - probably allowing the bolt to loosen, perhaps allowing too much play at a point where the mechanical forces are extreme.

So this past week, we tried finding a thicker heavy duty washer by calling Fastenal, and by scouring the internet, and by speaking with representatives from several big online companies that specialize in selling fasteners. Nobody could provide what we were looking for!

Then an AHA! moment. How about trying the machine shop located 3 miles from our trailhead?

CPH Enterprises Inc said “Of course! - WE CAN DO.” They took the original washer, recommended an improved fitment for the bolt, and later that day provided a bid for fabricating the washers we needed. We gave the go ahead, and actually had the opportunity to watch the machining in action.

They used a Waterjet Machine to cut the new thick heavy duty washers. After programming the specs, it cut the washers using water pressure of 50,000 PSI. I’ve never seen anything like it, truly amazing!

Think Global, shop Local.  

The following pictures and video tell the story.

Parts diagram of Camoplast track
Parts diagram - Camoplast track
Waterjet machining
Waterjet Machining - setup
Waterjet machining
Waterjet Machining - setup
Waterjet machining
Waterjet Machining - big machine to make our specialty washer
Waterjet machining
One washer completed

original washer compared with new fabricated washer
Original washer (top) - New fabricated washer (bottom)
New washer assembled on hub spindle
New fabricated washer shown mounted on hub spindle
Waterjet machining at CPH Enterprises
A full service machine shop - just down the road


Snowshoe Trails - Here's the scoop

  • Back in 2012, John Kann developed the first of our 'Snowshoe Trails'. Soon he was joined by Dan Bjugstad - and they've been primarily responsible for maintaining and expanding the network of trails. From time to time, several of our members/volunteers have helped brush out the trails.
  • The snowshoe trails weave up and down through various stands of timber.
  • John and Dan quickly realized that good directional signage would be important. Sheets of yellow poly were purchased for the sign material.
  • Pretty soon, clever directional signs began appearing. And as the trails expanded, this required a lot of signs.
  • Recently, John shared more of the background regarding our highly visible snowshoe trail signs. Ryan Kann (his son) has been doing the screen-printing, and Ryan provided photos and videos as an example. Fascinating!
  • Many thanks to Ryan and Ambient Inks (Eau Claire) for donating the time and materials.

Check out the videos and images below - an eye opening introduction to the art of screen-printing. Ryan makes it look pretty easy.

Enjoy stomping our snowshoe trails. The signs are placed at critical locations to keep you on track. If you'd like to be high tech and follow yourself on your smartphone, our georeferenced maps are free and available when you 'Get the Avenza map' from our website. This app communicates with satellites, and works in the absence of cell towers!

Screen-printing photos/videos are courtesy of Ryan Kann. Photos from our 'Ridges' snowshoe trail were taken February 2019.

This step shows the design being printed on to the screen which is coated in a light sensitive emulsion.

Next the screen/design is exposed with a bright light which hardens the emulsion around the design creating a stencil.

This step shows the unhardened emulsion being washed away with a power washer leaving you with a screen stencil to print with.

This step shows printing the signs using the screen previously made. In this case 15 signs were put on one screen to be efficient, and the signs are cut apart later with a bandsaw.

Wisconsin Blue Hills Trail sign on snowshoe trail
Wisconsin Blue Hills Trail sign on snowshoe trail
Snowshoeing at Blue Hills Trail during February 2019 'snowmageddon'
Snowshoeing at Blue Hills Trail during February 2019 'snowmageddon'

Most of December 2020 was dry and warm. Instead of skiing the Blue Hills Trail, we’ve been hiking its ski and snowshoe trails. A recent return to colder weather allowed nearby lakes to freeze solid, and during the middle of the month we enjoyed skiing a 1-inch coating of snow on always beautiful Audie Lake (located 2 miles northwest of our trailhead).

Then the weather forecast got us all excited, calling for snow a couple days prior to Christmas. We started closing off traffic on the ski trails, hoping to retain the little snow already on the ground. However, December 23rd was warm with too much rain; toward evening the winds began howling, temps plummeted, and wind whipped snow blew on by. The following day temps were in the single digits and when we inspected the trails, we were pleasantly surprised to find about 2.5”-3” of new snow stuck to the ski trails. Just enough to start some early season grooming.

After several days of grooming, today (December 27th) we're enjoying very good skating and good striding on 'Excelsior Road' (West Side) and the 'Gravel Road' (East Side of the trail system). The rest of the trails have a thin base with an irregular surface, grassy patches and dirt spots - skiable but not nearly as much fun as the two 'roads'. Take a look at the maps (images below) for a quick summary of the open trails.

Here's what groomers have accomplished since the rain/wind/snow event of December 23rd:

  • Packed (rolled) 'Excelsior Road' (West Side) and the 'Gravel Road' (East Side) on December 24th
  • Packed (rolled) many of the East and West trails December 25th
  • Packed (rolled) more of the East Side trails the morning of December 26th
  • Brought out our big G2 implements (finishing tools) and groomed 'Excelsior Road' (West Side) and the 'Gravel Road' (East Side) the afternoon of December 26th. This included setting a shallow classic track.

Here's an inside view of our grooming logic:

  • At the beginning of the ski season, the initial grooming is targeted at knocking the air out of snow next to the ground so the interface can freeze into a protective layer and allow frost to penetrate. If it’s cold enough and dry enough we use rollers for this first step. During that first step, we often discover damp areas that need to be compressed so they freeze up.
  • As soon as the base is thick enough, out come the finishing implements (we use Tidd Tech Generation 2 groomers) to start sculpting the surface. We start setting classic track only after the base has set up AND when the base is thick enough to minimize exposing grass, dirt and rocks.
  • On our trail system, we have a couple of gravel road surfaces that tend to freeze up and hold snow earlier than the rest of the trails. That's where you'll find the best skiing right now (look at the maps below).
  • So much of the good skiing in the days ahead is dependent on the summer/fall trail maintenance. This includes mowing, bulldozing to deal with erosion, repair of bridges & culverts, chainsaw work to clear downed trees, and brushing the trail margins. Please join us when we put out the word seeking volunteers (we have an annual work day late September). 

Our head groomer put in an 8-hour day yesterday, and was willing to return late evening to touch up some trails. We told him to rest up, enjoy family, and wait for some fresh snow. No grooming today.

Ski the Hills!

Cross country skiing on Audie Lake in northwest Wisconsin
Skiing on Audie Lake December 16, 2020
Cross country skiing on Audie Lake in northwest Wisconsin
Audie Lake December 16, 2020
Magical cross country skiing on Audie Lake in northwest Wisconsin
Magical skiing conditions on Audie Lake
Pausing to reflect while cross country skiing on Excelsior Road on Christmas Day
Christmas Day on Excelsior Road
Skiing with your dog on Excelsior Road on Christmas Day
Christmas Day on Excelsior Road
Classical skiing on the 'Gravel Road' on the East Side of the Blue Hills Trail
December 26, 2020: classical skiing on the 'Gravel Road' on the East Side of the Blue Hills Trail
skijoring on the West Side of the Blue Hills Trail
December 26, 2020: skijoring on Excelsior Road. The West Side trails are dog friendly. Photo submitted by Meghan Smith.
map showing groomed trails on the East Side of the Blue Hills Trail
December 27, 2020: map showing groomed trails on the East Side of the Blue Hills Trail
map showing groomed trails on the West Side of the Blue Hills Trail
December 27, 2020: map showing groomed trails on the West Side of the Blue Hills Trail

Blue Hills Trail Association Inc.

BIG BIG NEWS
Today we're rolling out...

  • A totally redesigned Blue Hills Trail website and blog
  • New and redesigned Blue Hills Trail maps
  • Our first official Instagram account @bluehillstrailwisconsin

Please check out...

  • The Blue Hills Trail website. At the top of the page, find daily updates by clicking on 'Trail Conditions'. Explore the top menu items to find the links and information imported from the old website. Scroll down the home page to enjoy the many features it offers.
  • The Blue Hills Trail maps. The big change is the all new West Side map. It's formatted to mimic the East Side map, and it includes Excelsior Road (groomed for the first time last winter). The East Side map is now even more accurate than before. Both maps are available for download to your smartphone using the Avenza Maps app.
  • The Blue Hills Trail blog where you can scroll back in time to relive the history of the trail in pictures and text. Be sure to visit the blog to find more information regarding our new website and maps. (Find the 'BHTA Blog' within 'THE TRAIL COMMUNITY' menu at the top of the website page.)
  • Our fairly new Instagram account @bluehillstrailwisconsin. Add hashtag #bluehillstrailwisconsin to photos of your Blue Hills Trail adventures. Feel free to share this account widely.

A big shout out to...

  • Kristine Paulsen. She's a photojournalist living in Missoula MT where she combines tech savvy skills with a flair for the artistic. A huge thank you for donating the many many hours and knowledge required to create the new website, migrate loads of information from the old website, and work out the bugs.
  • Kirk Paulsen. He's a transportation engineer living in Portland OR where he realizes his passion for cycling on an everyday basis. A huge thank you for the many hours and expertise that resulted in highly accurate maps that are loaded with information and easy to read.


We'd greatly appreciate feedback regarding these changes - thank you!

Sam Behrends (president)
John Waldron (vice president)
Tom Paulsen (secretary / treasurer)

The new home page, a unique gateway to the Blue Hills Trail. Have fun exploring the Hills!

trail maps for Blue Hills Trail
This is what the new 'MAPS' section looks like. Highly accurate and informative maps. Click the 'Get the Avenza map' button to easily download our maps to your smartphone.

Blue Hills Trail trail conditions
Access updated trail conditions easily from the top of the page

Blue Hills Trail home page gif
Check out our new Instagram account!

New West Side map for the Blue Hills Trail in northern Wisconsin
new West Side map for the Blue Hills Trail
old West Side map for the Blue Hills Trail
old West Side map for the Blue Hills Trail

Post Categories

Blue Hills Trail

instagram updates
@bluehillstrailwisconsin
Nice, crisp fall day. Good day to finish this year’s trail mowing. Thank you Bob W for sharing your chainsaw know how! #skitrailwork #gettingreadyforwinter #xcskiing #ruskcountywi
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Thanks to everybody that helped during our annual Work Day yesterday. We totaled about 50 human-hours of labor. The light (somewhat unexpected) rain showers kept us cool as we picked rocks, threw branches, removed logs – getting the trails ready for our favorite time of year – winter x-country skiing! #ruskcountywi #crosscountryskiing
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Summer mowing operations have begun at the Blue Hills Trail. We mow with our Honda Pioneer (with Mattracks) pulling our AcrEase trail mower cutting a 57” swath. Visit our website (link above in bio ⬆️) where you’ll find a link to ‘Trail Conditions’ at the top of the page. #skitrailwork #crosscountryskiing
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Moving forward with development of a new trail on the West Side of the Blue Hills Trail. The new route was blazed during logging this past winter. On May 16th we installed a new gate that will greatly discourage illicit motorized traffic. Later this summer, we plan bulldozing and grass seeding. Should be ready for skiing this coming winter! #ruskcountywi #skitrailwork #crosscountryskiingwisconsin #xcskiing
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Thank You to a Great Group of Volunteers that helped move our grooming equipment into storage today. And guess what? It’s only 269 days until winter! #skitrailgrooming #wisconsinwinter #ruskcountywi #snowisgreat
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Mild temps, sunshine, & lots of skiers from distant locales. Great way to celebrate the tail end of winter. We enjoyed sharing our trails with so many Birkie participants. #ruskcountywi #wisconsinwinter #birkiefever
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Lots of smiling faces yesterday. Here are just a few. #funonskis #ruskcountywi
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Feb. 6 seemed like Lady’s Day at the Blue Hills Trail. Lots of gals flying around the trails. #womenskiers #ruskcountywi
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Happy Groundhog Day from the Blue Hills Trail! Grab winter while you can. #kidsonskis #ruskcountywi #xcountryski
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1.5" fluffy powder snowfall overnight Friday. Saturday this fluffy powder made for pleasurable skating to start the day, and nicely covered the oak leaves in the classic track. On the skate deck of the heavier trafficked trails, the early bird caught the worm - later in the day, the traffic on the skate deck in the powder snow created a slower snow structure that meant more work for skaters - very interesting phenomenon. Side trails with less traffic kept that wonderful sensation of floating on feathers. As the new snow in the classic track was skied in, it was faster than the skate deck and provided good kick. #skateskiing #powdersnow
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It’s been pretty dusty here the past week. Several light snowfalls (dustings) have left a dreamy creamy coating on the ski trails. On top of the firm underlying base and classic track, this has made for wonderful x-country skiing. #ruskcountywi #wisconsinwinter #dustingofsnow
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Yesterday: bluebird sky, shadows, and smiles! Kudos to our groomers. #ruskcountywi
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Really nice skate skiing yesterday. Look at these guys flying around the Core Loop on the East Side trails. #skateskiing #wisconsinwinter #ruskcountywi
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Saturday's one day moderation of frigid temps brought out loads of smiles at Wisconsin's Blue Hills Trail yesterday. A huge thank you to our groomers for braving nasty wind chills to turn Wednesday's snowfall into such nice skiing for the weekend. #crosscountryskiingwisconsin #ruskcountywi #wisconsinwinter
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After a roller coaster weather ride in December, it looks like winter has arrived at Wisconsin’s Blue Hills Trail. Happy New Year! #ruskcountywi #bluehillstrailwisconsin
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Washed out culvert presented a big challenge when discovered in late September - located on the trail that connects our East Side trails with our West Side trails. Repair work was completed mid October. Photos show before & after. #bluehillstrailwisconsin #ruskcountywi
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We just completed some bulldozing that will really make our skiers happy this winter. Visit our blog for more photos, video, and the full story: link above in bio⬆️ #bluehillstrailwisconsin #ruskcountywi #skitrailwork
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Taming the tall grasses on the Blue Hills Trail. Hiking & biking conditions are good. Visit our website to see where we’ve been mowing (look at ‘Trail Conditions’ top center of the page). #ruskcountywi #bluehillstrailwisconsin #skitrailwork
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Nice day for a walk in the woods. Pause to appreciate the hidden gems. #bluehillstrailwisconsin #naturegems #springawakening #ruskcountywi
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Crazy is as Crazy does. Had to cross multiple stretches of bare ground to find skiable snow on the East Side Ridgeline yesterday. A laughing fun adventure - shared with the snow fleas. #bluehillstrailwisconsin #snowfleas #snowinthewoods #skiingondirtisbetterthannoskiing #skiingondirt
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Sap’s running. So are my skis. #bluehillstrailwisconsin #springskiing
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What a fantastic week of skiing it was! Celebrate our week long ‘Virtual Birkie Races’ by visiting our blog. Link in bio ⬆️ #bluehillstrailwisconsin #birkiefever #winterwisconsin #wisconsinwinter
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Fresh snow Wednesday morning, fresh grooming Wednesday evening, then Thursday sunshine and temps in the mid thirties. A perfect Bluebird day in the Blue Hills - another memorable day for Virtual Birkie skiers. Congrats to all! #bluehillstrailwisconsin #bluebirdday
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2” fresh snow Sunday evening, then groomed about 3/4 of the trail system Sunday night. Found untouched fresh corduroy this morning. #bluehillstrailwisconsin #freshcorduroy #skitrails #skitrailgrooming #winterwisconsin
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Mighty fine skiing today. Look at all these smiley faces! #bluehillstrailwisconsin #nordicskiing #kidsonskis #winterfun #ruskcountywi #birkiefever2021 #birkiefever
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Classic classic track. Shady Way trail on the East Side. #bluehillstrailwisconsin #birkebeiner #waxmyskis #snowisfun
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Monday sunrise -25 F was coldest day of this otherwise mild winter. Reached zero by mid afternoon when classic skiing was a kick! #bluehillstrailwisconsin #bluehillstrail #colderthanapolarbearstoenails #winterfun #belowzero
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Cold, sunny days. A good time to explore our snowshoe trails. Human rope tows are a FUNctional assist on the steeper hills. Swipe to see a video example. #bluehillstrailwisconsin #wisconsinsnowshoeing #northwoodswisconsin #ruskcounty #subzerofun
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Come ski the Hills! Virtually! The Blue Hills Trail is excited to be a BIRKIE VIRTUAL VENUE PARTNER. We've outlined three separate race routes for our trail system. A snapshot of one of those routes is shown with this post. VISIT OUR BLOG to see the rest of the routes and get the details. Link in Bio ⬆️ #bluehillstrailwisconsin #birkiefever #americanbirkebeiner
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Single digits Fahrenheit. Toko mint grip wax. A classic day on Excelsior Road. #bluehillstrailwisconsin #skiclassic #tokowax #kickwax #wisconsinwinter
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This is the steep straight down/up portion of our trail that connects our East and West Side trails (located between J and K on the West Side). Swipe to see what’s hiding under the snow. Last fall Scott Gudis Sand & Gravel (Bruce, WI) did a great job of replacing a damaged culvert. Thanks to Scott, we can safely ski this hill. #bluehillstrailwisconsin #culvertreplacement #heavyequipmentoperators #brucewisconsin #skiingisfun
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Excelsior Road and West Side trails: THE place to ski yesterday. Fantastic conditions! #bluehillstrailwisconsin #groundhogsday #classicskiing #skateski
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Another day full of smiles at the Blue Hills Trail. Ain’t winter great! #bluehillstrailwisconsin #aintwintergrand #wisconsinwinter #xcskiinglife
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The equipment that grooms our ski trails takes a beating. We recently were again amazed by the capabilities of a nearby machine shop that fabricated a special washer for improving the durability of our Camoplast tracks. Visit our latest blog post to be amazed: link in bio⬆️ #bluehillstrailwisconsin #cphenterprises #waterjetcutting #ruskcountywi
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Gator rescue! Our John Deere Gator suddenly stalled out on a steep hillside a couple days ago. Yesterday we got it running, and were able to move it back to our trailhead before it quit again. Swipe to see the 5 videos showing the rescue. Now it’s time for Dr. Gator. #bluehillstrailwisconsin #gatorrescue #winterchallenges #skitrailgrooming
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Dynamite grooming. Dynamite skiing. Come Ski the Hills! #bluehillstrailwisconsin #bluehillstrail #covidescape #skiforfun #ruskcountywi
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Video shows our groomer looking ahead while setting classic track behind. Swipe for photo of finished results on ‘Excelsior Road’ trail. Nice to see the sun again. #bluehillstrailwisconsin #skitrailgrooming #powdersnow❄️ #foresttherapy #freshcorduroy #fluffypowder
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Rollercoaster Trail at Blue Hills Trail. Built a dozen years ago, anyone can ski it in the uphill direction. Downhill, it’s a bit of a thrill. #bluehillstrailwisconsin #rollercoasters #rollercoasterride #skicrosscountry #funonsnow
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At the Blue Hills Trail, “what goes down, must come up”. Plenty of hills to satisfy your training needs. #bluehillstrailwisconsin #getoutside #cardioworkout #crosscountryskiing #skateskiing
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January 20, 2021. A very good day. #bluehillstrailwisconsin #bluehillstrail #otterslide #fastskis #skinnyskis #ruskcountywi
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Busy Sunday in the Blue Hills. Skate skiing on the ‘Gravel Road’. Classic skiing on the East Side Ridgeline. #bluehillstrailwisconsin #snowislife #skiforfun #wisconsinlife
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Photo shows our trails midday today. Surprisingly firm and skiable despite warm temps and some rain. We’re gonna try grooming this evening. Please be patient, it might take a few days to get yesterday’s new snow up to snuff. #bluehillstrailwisconsin #bluehillstrail #skitrailgrooming #aintwintergrand #heavywetsnow #wegotsnow #winterwisconsin
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A quick lesson in ski trail grooming: With snow headed our way, this was a good day to use our trail compactor to level the high spots and washboard on a few select trails. Should result in a smoother skate deck. #bluehillstrailwisconsin #skitrailgrooming #snowgrooming #skateskiing #skateski #ruskcountywi #bluehillstrail
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Hoar frost / Rime frost topping on the trails today January 12th. Wonderful skiing - do yourself a favor and SKI THE HILLS January 13th - you’ll be happy you did. #bluehillstrailwisconsin #bluehillstrail #foresttherapy #ruskcountywi #getyourvitamind #iloveskiing #escapetothehills #winterinwisconsin
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As Good As It Gets! Two January 10 videos show great skiing on Excelsior Road - Blue Hills Trail in northwest Wisconsin. #bluehillstrailwisconsin #xcclassicski #skiclassic #skateski #asgoodasitgets #januaryinwisconsin #wisconsinwinter
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Another fun day getting my kicks in the Hills. #bluehillstrailwisconsin #xcclassic #xcskier #chasingyourdream
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Not much snow, but our groomers have made the most of it. Two videos showing good skiing on the East Side trails - January 6, 2021. #bluehillstrailwisconsin #januaryinwisconsin #wisconsinlife #wisconsinoutdoors #wisconsinwinter #skateski #ruskcounty
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A ‘Rime Frost’ blue skies sunny day - fun day for skiing the Blue Hills Trail. Pictures are from the West Side of the trail system. Swipe for video taken on the ‘Lollipop’. Trail conditions updated daily at website, link in Bio ⬆️ #bluehillstrailwisconsin #fundayonskis #wisconsinwinter #sunnyski #mansbestfriend🐶 #justenoughsnowforme #justenoughsnowtoski
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Sun burnt off the fog, visitors enjoyed a hoarfrost snowfall on the trails. Great place to socially distance with family & friends! #bluehillstrailwisconsin #sociallydistanceoutdoors #hoarfrost #wevegotsnow #fasterskier #skiwithfriends
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Packed powder skiing on New Year’s Day. Loads of visitors welcomed 2021! Video shows the East/West crossover trail. #bluehillstrailwisconsin #packedpowder #skateski #classicski #welcome2021
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Good skiing through the hoarfrost on New Years Eve day. Get the daily scoop by visiting ‘Trail Conditions’ on our website - link in bio⬆️. Wishing you a happy healthy 2021! #bluehillstrailwisconsin #skinnyski #skinnyskis #crosscountryskiwithkids #xcski
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Excelsior Road (West Side) and The Gravel Road (East Side) were groomed last evening. Skiing this afternoon I was treated to 1” of feathers on top of the fresh grooming! Gonna groom these same trail segments again this evening. #bluehillstrailwisconsin #silentsports #silenceofnature🌳⛅️🗻 #skiingonfeathers #beautyofwinter
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Many of our 20+ miles of ski trails have received initial grooming in the past several days. The best skiing is shown as green highlights on the attached maps. And did you know our West Side trails are dog friendly? Be sure to visit our website where you’ll find ‘TRAIL CONDITIONS’ updated daily: link in Bio ⬆️ #bluehillstrailwisconsin #skijoring #foresttherapy #classicskiing #dogsonsnow
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Christmas in the Blue Hills. Very good skating on Excelsior Road this afternoon; pretty good striding as well. Groomers will be out working again tomorrow. #bluehillstrailwisconsin #christmasski #ruskcounty #skateskiing #skiwithdogs
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After yesterday’s rain, Santa brought snow - enough to start grooming the ski trails! This afternoon we rolled the ‘Gravel Road’ on the East Side trails, and ‘Excelsior Road’ on the West Side. Thanks Santa. #bluehillstrailwisconsin #earlywinterskiing #xcs #xcskiing #skinnyski
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A little more snow and we may be able to do some grooming. Today we moved our workhorse snowmobile to its winter home. #bluehillstrailwisconsin #wisconsinoutdoors #ruskcountywi #weneedsnow #crosscountryskiing
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Lunch time. Even busy beavers need a break now & then. #bluehillstrailwisconsin #busybeaver #busyasabeaver #timber
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Not enough snow to ski the trails. BUT very good skiing on Audie Lake - 2.5 miles northwest of the warming house. Audie is always an enjoyable getaway. #bluehillstrailwisconsin #wisconsinwinter #xcskiingonlakes #xcski #frozenlakes #silenceofnature
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Pictures from our ‘Rabbit Trail’ where bunnies made a fresh appearance on the Blue Hills Trail today. It felt like October today - 48 degrees F - way too warm for December! It’s time to cool down, then Santa needs to bring us some snow. #bluehillstrailwisconsin #whereiswinter #xcskiingwithoutsnow
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Every other year our volunteers replace all the intersection maps. That’s 60 maps, but who’s counting? Combined with excellent signage, it makes it easy to get your bearings on the Blue Hills Trail. #bluehillstrailwisconsin #trailvolunteers #xcskitrails #foresttherapy #findyourselfoutside
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Good hiking in early December. Frost is entering the ground, the ski trails are ready for snow. Photos show the biggest oak tree in the County Forest; hiking on the ‘Far East’ trail; and our Gator doing some trail work on the West Side trails. #bluehillstrailwisconsin #trailwork #hikingwisconsin #weneedsnow
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Big News! Wisconsin's Blue Hills Trail has revised its website, its maps, its blog - and added an Instagram account. Spread the word. VISIT THE BLOG for details – link in bio ⬆️ #bluehillstrailwisconsin #crosscountryskiing #skinnyski #ruskcountywi #ricelakewi #travelwisconsin #tomterrifik
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1.5” big fluffy parachute snowflakes today. Might actually be able to ski on some of our trails — even though the underlying ground isn’t yet frozen. #bluehillstrailwisconsin #winterinwisconsin #crosscountryskiing #xcskiing
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Tight corner. Placed orange driveway markers at the edge. Gotta keep our groomers on track. #bluehillstrailwisconsin
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After unseasonably warm weather in the first week of November, more wintry weather will start to freeze the trails. Hopefully x-country skiing is just around the corner. This photo was taken on the East Side trails - it shows one of our most important bridges. #bluehillstrailwisconsin
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Bridge building in October successfully spanned a small creek that was always a challenge to summertime mowing & wintertime grooming of our ski trails. #bluehillstrailwisconsin
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