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best cross country skiing Wisconsin

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
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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
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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
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Freeze-thaw cycles have created a crusty hardpack base.  With temps starting at 14° F, grooming was a challenge early this morning - tough to penetrate that frozen surface.  Almost the entire Eastside skate lane yielded to the knives on the grooming implement, producing enough of a loose surface for skate skiers to ski with abandon.  Rocket fast skating lasted throughout the morning, slightly sticky conditions didn't show until about noon.

Looking at the parking lot by the warming house, this was the place to be! Nice to know that all those skiers don't find themselves crowded while exploring this lovely trail system - they just seem to disappear among the many different loops. If we groom it, will they come? More grooming planned for tomorrow morning!

Recent comments from the logbook in the warming house

  • 1/29: Beautiful day & trails were so nice!  We especially appreciated the tasty caramel corn! :)  --Chetek, WI
  • 1/31: I came to see your wonderful forest! and ski track! --Switzerland
  • 1/31: Beautiful grooming!  The Westside was outstanding! --Ladysmith, WI
  • 1/31: Skijoured the Westside/team effort/excellent snow! --Rice Lake, WI
  • 2/2: That infamous groundhog - BLUE HILLS BILL - couldn't find his shadow anywhere!  Better ski while you can.  Great fun today! --Ladysmith, WI
  • 2/2: Very nice.  1st time. --St. Croix Falls, WI
  • 2/2: Amazingly good skiing!  Thanks. --author's location unknown
  • 2/3: Back again today for some great skiing! --Amery, WI
  • 2/3: A little icy at the start, but great "spring" skiing as the sun came out.  Great job groomers, we appreciate your hard work. --Apple Valley, MN
  • 2/4: Possible the BEST ski of the season - perhaps my life!  Woo Hoo!  The best line of the week: Groomer replying to person asking how he made the grooming so good, "I could tell you but then I'd have to kill you."  Thank you groomers for scratching up the surface. --Ladysmith, WI
  • 2/4: Wow!  Good edge control and blazing fast!  Thanks to everybody that makes these trails GO! --Ladysmith, WI
a group of skate skiers enjoying the Blue Hills Trail February 2012
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Blue Hills Trail

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@bluehillstrailwisconsin
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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