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Cross Country Skiing

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 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
Read more >

Winter 2019-20 started early.

10+ inches of heavy snow November 27, 7+ inches of heavy snow November 30, 4+ inches of dense snow December 9, 2.5 inches of light snow December 12. Groomers had their hands full throughout December. This made for very good skiing over the Christmas and New Year Holidays. January added 14" of snow in generally light snow falls. February was dry, only 5" of snow. We had only one major rain event (1.5" of rain December 28), and the rain was absorbed into the abundant base. Trails were in great shape at Birkie time. Then warm weather moved in a week after the Birkie. The last grooming was March 13, but we were able to enjoy decent skiing into the beginning of April. All thanks to the big snows in late November.

We groomed a total of 57 times this past winter. Here’s the breakdown: once in November, 18 times in December, 19 times in January, 16 times in February, and 3 times in March.

Our head groomer and his crew were very willing to use our rollers - both of our rollers were used more this past winter than at any time in the past. As a result, this past winter the trails were groomed wider, and the edges were more firm. Groomers were very willing to try different techniques, and performed far more evening grooming than at any time in the past. This allowed the grooming to set up by the time skiers arrived in the morning. The classic track was in generally good shape most of the winter - the groomers were responsive to input from some of our most enthusiastic classic skiers. Thank you groomers!

The ABR compaction drag (we call it the 'Blue Thing') also was used more frequently this past winter. It was especially helpful removing high spots in the center of the trail, and when the trails needed a quick light touch-up of the skate lane.

Logging along Rut Road kept us from grooming that part of the East Side Core Loop the entire winter. Toward the end of that logging operation, it also disrupted our access to the West Side using the usual East-West crossover trail. However, one of the real pluses this past winter was the newly permitted use of Excelsior Road on the West Side for grooming and skiing. In the middle of December, after the gun deer hunts were done, a berm was plowed to block off traffic at the east end of Excelsior Road. We then groomed the entire 3 km length of Excelsior Road, and skiers were uniformly thrilled with the results.

Overall, it was a fairly long winter with very good skiing and snowshoeing in the Blue Hills. We hope the following photos trigger some good memories.

skate skiing on the Blue Hills Trail
December 6, 2019 - Excelsior Road on the West Side of the Blue Hills Trail
grooming the Blue Hills Trail cross country ski trail
Grooming the 'Gravel Road' on December 11, 2019
map highlighting Excelsior Road as part of the Blue Hills Trail
The blue line shows Excelsior Road - grooming and skiing it for the first time during winter 2019-20
hoar frost on the Blue Hills Trail in northern Wisconsin
December 21, 2019 on the East Side ridge line
beautifully groomed cross country ski trail
December 21, 2019 - Roundabout Trail
cross country skiing January 2020 on the Blue Hills Trail
January 1, 2020 near intersection #5 on the East Side Core Loop
women skate skiing
January 7, 2020 - the 'Gravel Road'
skijoring on the Blue Hills Trail in northwest Wisconsin
January 9, 2020 - dogs are welcome on the West Side of the Blue Hills Trail
men skate skiing
January 11, 2020 - East Side ridge line on the Grouse Trail
Blue Hills Trail cross country ski trail
January 20, 2020 - late afternoon near the 'Roundabout' intersection on the East Side of the Blue Hills Trail
snowman viewed through warming house window
January 27, 2020 - view from the warming house
unusual snow conditions created a snow roller
January 29, 2020 - perfect conditions for mother nature to create a snow roller
beautifully groomed trail on the Blue Hills Trail ridge line
February 4, 2020 - near intersection #9 on the Core Loop of the Blue Hills Trail
skate skiing on Excelsior Road as part of the Blue Hills Trail
February 8, 2020 - fast and fun skiing on Excelsior Road
Blue Hills Trail snowshoe trail in northern Wisconsin
February 19, 2020 - snowshoeing the Nordic Pines loop of the Blue Hills Trail in northern Wisconsin
great cross country ski conditions at the Blue Hills Trail
February 21, 2020 - great conditions on the East Side 'Gravel Road'
great cross country ski conditions at the Blue Hills Trail
February 26, 2020 - approaching the wide open Roundabout intersection
volunteers helped move equipment into storage
March 17, 2020 - volunteers socially distancing as they help move equipment into storage
still skiing on the Blue Hills Trail in late March 2020
March 27, 2020 - winter is hanging on near intersection #25 of the Core Loop
winter is coming to an end as snow disappears March 31
March 31, 2020 - time to say goodbye to a great winter


Read more >

Skiers February 12th enjoyed wonderful conditions. Following the arrival of 2" of fresh snow on February 9th, our head groomer worked the evenings of February 9/10/11 and created some of the finest grooming of the winter. Firm trails, wide flat skate lane with corduroy that was often seamless across the skate deck, and a solid classic track with great pole plants. The photos with this message were taken February 12th on the West Side trails.

Next grooming is anticipated either Friday evening (Feb.14) or Saturday morning - probably touching up the most heavily skied trails so Saturday's skiers will be able to enjoy primo conditions.

Freshly groomed cross country ski trail on Blue Hills Trail Core Loop
February 12, 2020: Excelsior Road (West Side)
beautifully groomed cross country ski trail on the West Side of the Blue Hills Trail
February 12, 2020: West Side trails near Letter D
Read more >

News Flash!

Knowing he had a lot of work ahead of him, the infamous Blue Hills Bill rolled out of bed early today. Eager to get a start on things, he munched a quick breakfast, and started digging. With loads of snow cover, he dug & dug & dug… and dug & dug & dug… and just in the nick of time, he crawled out of his burrow at 7:26 this morning and delivered his annual prognostication to the awaiting crowd in downtown Bruce, WI. Read on…

     Blue Hills Bill
      Awoke from his slumber;
       Winter started early
        Too many days to number.

     His shadow distinct
      Bill scurried away;
       6 more weeks of winter
        Lots of time to play!

Comments from the crowd

  • 2/2: Never know when another big storm is gonna head our way. Better ski when the trails are firm! -Eau Claire, WI
  • 2/2: This winter in southern Wisconsin has been crummy, pull the kids out of school, we’re staying in the Blue Hills. –Madison, WI
  • 2/2: Bill says winter’s gonna stick around. I like the cold, it makes for easy waxing, great classic skiing. More time to get our kicks! –Rice Lake, WI
  • 2/2: Thanks for the advice, Bill. So much snow, so little time, never enough winter… –Sumner, WA

Thanks to Kate P for dressing our snowperson (photos below) for February.

Blue Hills Bill sees his shadow
snow lady outside the warming house of the Blue Hills Trail
snow lady as seen from the warming house


Read more >

Big snowfalls (10+ inches on November 27, 7+ inches on December 1, 4+ inches December 9) have kept our groomers busy. Early December hasn't provided this type of wintry weather in recent memory. Groomers worked 66 man-hours wrestling the heavy snow into shape for the weekend of December 7/8 when conditions ranged from fair-good-excellent.

A couple news worthy items...

  • WE NOW ARE GROOMING EXCELSIOR ROAD up to and well beyond Letter A on the West Side. There's great skiing available out to the end of Excelsior Road, 3 km in one direction if you start at the Firelane Road. Either park along Firelane Road (well to the side of potential logging traffic), or at the warming house. Please do NOT try to drive on Excelsior Road up to Letter A, that's where we plan on grooming. Look at the modified West Side map (below) to better understand this change.
  • If the beginning of Excelsior Road is rutted (hunters may be driving there until the gun deer hunts are completed December 15), you can enjoy the West Side trails by starting at the warming house on the East Side and skiing the trail that crosses from East to West at Letter L. Or you can park at Letter L - just be sure to leave plenty of room for logging trucks.
  • Loggers have been working on the northwest part of the East Side this fall - along Rut Road in the vicinity of intersections 20-21-22 and Hemlock Canyon Trail between 21 & A - avoid this area until they're done. Images below include an East Side map that shows trails that are groomed, and how to avoid the logging activity.

Picture(s) with this message were taken the first week of December.

good cross country skiing in early December 2019 at the Blue Hills Trail in northern Wisconsin
December 7, 2019 - East Side 'Core Loop' near #5
good cross country skiing in early December 2019 at the Blue Hills Trail
December 7, 2019
Read more >

A gorgeous day in the Hills! What a nice way to cap off our winter. This morning's grooming began at 5:30 with the temps around 15 degrees F. By the time skiers started arriving at 8 a.m. the East Side Core Loop had a nicely scratched up sugar snow surface that gave great edge control on the rocket fast trails. Thrilling!

At 10 a.m. an enthusiastic group of volunteers pitched in to make quick work of tucking the grooming implements into their summer lodging (our 40-foot shipping container). It went like this:

  • We mounted special wheels to our 8-foot Tidd Tech grooming implement, and it was backed into the shipping container with an assist from the Gator.
  • We switched the wheels to our 9-foot Tidd Tech grooming implement and backed it in with the Gator getting credit for another assist. 
  • Our blue trail compactor was moved into the shipping container using human power alone! 
  • We placed our two rollers in the shipping container, and called it a wrap.

Let's not forget how really strange this roller coaster winter was. Here's a quick summary:

  • The first part of the winter - up until February 5th - delivered very little snow, 4 separate meltdown events, 5 separate rain events, with a Polar Vortex thrown in for variety. Despite all that, we found enough snow to groom 13 times and periodically enjoyed some pretty good skiing. Audie Flowage served as a beautiful alternative to trail skiing.
  • Then on February 5th the Snowmaggedon hit! I recorded about 53" of snow between February 5th and March 9th. (Click here to check out our snowfall summary since 1999.) To say the least, our groomers were challenged. They groomed 18 times in February, and 10 more times in March. Often it meant long hours spent grooming, frequently in bitter cold temps. In all the deep snow, I lost track of the number of times the groomers needed to use their front-end winches (and multiple lengths of tow straps) to pull themselves out of trouble.
  • During the peak of the snowfalls, we were forced to deal with a couple of major equipment problems with our Gator. Taking the bull by the horns, we completed the repairs in the field ourselves - minimizing down time and keeping labor costs to a minimum.
  • Last point, something definitely worth noting: as of this morning, the snow to the side of the trails has solidified like a rock. On mornings following an overnight freeze, crust skiing can carry you anywhere you want to go. Let your imagination be your guide.

Maple syrup time, Ski the Hills!

New Years Day 2019 skate skiing on the Blue Hills Trail
January 1, 2019 - near Letter C on the West Side
skate skiing on the West Side of the Blue Hills Trail
January 11, 2019 - on the western most loop of the West Side
January 2019 classic skiing on the Blue Hills Trail
January 28, 2019 - on the Hunter-Walker Loop of the East Side
happy skate skier at the Blue Hills Trail
February 2, 2019 - great skiing on the East Side 'Gravel Road'
classic skiers enjoying the 'Gravel Road' at the Blue Hills Trail in northwest Wisconsin
February 16, 2019 - near intersection #3 on the East Side
Blue Hills Trail February 17, 2019 Grouse Trail (East Side) during the snowmageddon
February 17, 2019 - Grouse Trail (East Side) during the snowmageddon
wonderful skating on the East Side 'Up & Down' trail
February 17, 2019 - wonderful skating on the East Side 'Up & Down' trail
excellent cross country skiing on the 'Roundabout' trail
February 19, 2019 - near intersection #A5 on the 'Roundabout' trail
Blue Hills Trail snowshoeing on the 'Ridges' trail
February 21, 2019 Blue Hills Trail snowshoeing on the 'Ridges' trail
snowshoes resting outside the warming house
February 27, 2019 outside the warming house
near the Roundabout intersection on the East Side f the Blue Hills Trail
March 5, 2019 near the Roundabout intersection on the East Side
snowshoeing on the 'Ridges' trail at the Blue Hills Trail in northern Wisconsin
March 11, 2019
Blue Hills Trail volunteers help move equipment into storage
Volunteers help move equipment into storage March 23, 2019
Read more >

Despite the current dry spell and the lack of groomed ski trails, there's decent lake skiing available. Audie Flowage (2 miles northwest of the warming house) has a 2"-3" snow cover in most places. Skiing there today was very enjoyable despite requiring a bit of work -- the snow surface was a bit crusted, with a tendency to punch through the crust. However, the wilderness experience at Audie is definitely worth the effort (notice the otter slides in the photo?). You can access the Lake by parking either at the campground or the boat landing.

On December 3rd we groomed the 2 km length of the Eastside 'GravelRoad'. It's barely skiable, rock skis only, and watch your balance if you catch an edge. We need a few more inches of snow before we can consider grooming the Trails. Until then, feel free to bushwhack the trails, hike the trails, and hike the snowshoe trails.

The furnace in the warming house is on, stop by and thaw out.

Cross country skiing on Audie Flowage near the Blue Hills Trail in northwest Wisconsin
Fun times skiing on Audie Flowage near the Blue Hills Trail in northwest Wisconsin
Lake skiing on Audie Flowage in northwest Rusk County
Just enough snow on Audie Flowage for great lake skiing
Otter slides on Audie Flowage
Otters out having fun sliding around on December 10, 2018
Read more >

This is it! This is what we work for during summer trail maintenance, and wait for as we watch the weather forecasts in November and December. The weather changed in late November, colder temps finally arrived and the very wet trails began freezing as we began grooming in early December. We started skiing December 10th after grooming some of the trails closest to the warming house. By mid December, cold weather allowed more grooming and we've enjoyed surprisingly good skiing for this early in the season.The weekend of December 23-26 (and the following week) became a groomer's challenge. We were all set to groom late the evening of December 23rd. That evening the Hills received 2" of very sticky snow, and the forecast called for lots of rain on December 25th. By group consensus, we decided to avoid grooming the December 23rd snowfall, let it sit and hope it would absorb the forecast rain. Mild temps all that weekend culminated in 0.7" rain the evening of Christmas Day, followed by falling temps and A MAJOR WINDSTORM on December 26th. We're glad we allowed the December 23rd snowfall to rest without grooming. It magically absorbed the December 25th rainfall. After the December 26th windstorm, temps fell the week of December 26th, and our groomers spent loads of hours clearing tree-falls and branches. And skiers helped by flicking and flicking and flicking the sticks. As the New Years weekend approached the trails were in good shape, and skiers from near and far marveled at the quality of the skiing in the Hills.

early December 2016 grooming challenges at the Blue Hills Trail
Early December 2016 grooming of the Blue Hills Trail
kids skiing at the Blue Hills Trail in Wisconsin
Nice conditions near the warming house in late December 2016
Read more >

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Blue Hills Trail

instagram updates
@bluehillstrailwisconsin
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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