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cross country skiing

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 >

First things first: packed powder conditions, skiing is great, especially in the classic track set this past weekend; and on the skate deck where touch up grooming was performed Tuesday evening (January 28th). Don't let the East Side logging operation scare you away. We are currently grooming 17 km of trails on the East Side, 9.6 km on the West Side. As an example, if you ski all the trails on the West Side, it'll add up to 14 km by the time you're done.

Snow Rollers, a pretty amazing natural phenomenon. We noticed one while skiing the Hemlock Canyon trail on Wednesday the 29th.

Here's our latest 'Gator Tale'. A true example of rolling with the punches...

  • A few days ago we performed scheduled maintenance on our Gator. Oil change, check fluids, lube the Camoplast tracks, and check tightness of the hub bolts that secure the bearings and hold the tracks in place.
  • Three of the four hub bearing bolts were a bit loose (that's why we check them). We removed and replaced two bolts.
  • Shockingly, when removing the third bolt it snapped off. Now what??? (photos below show a partially removed bolt and washer on the left; snapped off bolt is shown on the right).
  • We had access to the tools needed to extract the broken bolt. But we decided to enlist the help of a professional machinist from CPH Enterprises on County Hwy O, located just 3 miles away. With a bit of begging, one of their pros came out to the trailhead to help us out.
  • These bolts are held in place using red Loctite. Removal of the broken bolt required drilling a hole in the center of the bolt, inserting an extractor (a special tool), and repeatedly heating the bolt with a torch while trying to extract it. The heat helps loosen the Loctite.
  • After many attempts, the broken bolt seemed to move slightly - but at that point the extractor snapped off. Another 'Now What???' moment. Those might not have been the exact words we used.
  • Next step? We were stuck. Late afternoon on Tuesday. Next step would require the use of a generator to weld a nut on the end of the broken bolt and use that nut to back out the bolt. This was set up for Wednesday morning.
  • When cautiously trying to move the Gator from the shed to the parking lot on Wednesday morning, the bearing mechanism on the right rear track started shifting - which meant the entire hub assembly and track could fall off - with possible serious mechanical damage to various components.
  • The crew of two that was working on the Gator on Wednesday was able to use several ratchet straps to secure the Camoplast track enough that it was moved to the parking lot.
  • A nut was welded onto the end of the broken bolt; then with difficulty, the bolt was removed and replaced with new parts.
  • The last challenge? Prior to the welding operation, the Gator battery needed to be disconnected by removing the positive lead. When doing that, the battery terminal broke off (a bit rusted). This meant a trip to Ladysmith to buy a new battery terminal (connector), then returning to the trailhead to repair the positive battery lead and tuck the Gator in the shed.

All set for some Friday evening grooming of the skate lane if all goes as planned. Should be a great weekend in the Hills!

A reminder....
When you're out enjoying a groomed ski trail, give special thanks to the groomers and volunteers that are so integral to cross country skiing on groomed trails.

photo of snow roller adjacent to the ski trail
Snow roller adjacent to the Hemlock Canyon trail
nice grooming on the Blue Hills Trail
January 29, 2020 - Hemlock Canyon trail near #25
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 >

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 >

A cold month of February is forgotten, pushed aside by an early March warm-up. However the great cross country skiing conditions the past couple months are well etched in skiers' memories. The Blue Hills microclimate was fortunate to receive adequate snowfall while nearby areas were snow starved. Temps skyrocketed beginning March 8, we looked at the weather forecast and then groomed one last time on March 11. Grooming equipment went to summer storage on March 13, and our skis did likewise. Here’s a bit of a recap:

  • Fundraising in April 2014 allowed the purchase of a John Deere Gator with Camoplast tracks for use pulling our mowing and grooming implements. This past winter, groomers thoroughly enjoyed the Gator's ability to navigate the various challenges offered by the trail terrain and weather. And no one complained about operating in a heated cab.
  • With an early heavy snowstorm followed by a cold month of November, we started grooming earlier than ever on November 11th, & skied in the Hills fairly regularly since then (120 consecutive days with groomed trails available). The summer and autumn of 2014 were very wet, many of the trails couldn't be groomed in November and December due to underlying unfrozen ground and/or eroded sections - but we did have 14 km of nicely groomed trails for mid-winter skiing in mid-November!
  • We groomed a total of 58 times (probably a record for us).
  • We survived a prolonged spell of warm, damp weather in mid December that melted much of the accumulated base. When wintry weather suddenly returned in late December, our groomers eagerly put our new John Deere Gator through its tracks and we were skiing on very good conditions by the New Year Holiday.
  • After January 1, we received only 14 additional inches of snow prior to the season ending warm-up that began March 8. The snowfalls came in small amounts, just often enough to freshen the trails and help level the base. Despite a fairly dry winter, we had just enough base to maintain great conditions while pleasing the many visitors from snow starved areas to the northwest, west and south.
  • The limited snowfall actually worked to the advantage of skate skiers. The skate lane was solid and fast most of the winter.
  • February was persistently cold and both classic and skate skiing were consistently good.
  • This year's "Blue Hills Trail Fun Day" was perfectly timed: a potluck moonlight ski event on Friday March 6 was very well attended. The previous day saw temps of -25 degrees F that morning; the evening of the moonlight ski we enjoyed temps in the 20s, a roaring campfire, great food, camaraderie, and perfect skiing conditions under the stars and a full moon.
  • Despite the frequent grooming, we stayed well within budget, and had fun sharing the Blue Hills Trail with a record number of visitors.  Thanks to everybody that helps spread the word regarding the beauty of this trail system.

A huge 'shout out' to our groomers. Once again, equipment break downs and mechanical problems were handled efficiently and never compromised the grooming.  Thank you to our primary grooming team of Steve Gest, Jesse Wimer, & Adam Brockman for giving us great memories this winter of 2014-15! A sincere thank you to our diverse group of members, volunteers and supporters - your help this past year has been extremely rewarding.

early January 2015 cross country ski trail at Blue Hills Trail
9 January 2015
early March 2015 great cross country skiing at Blue Hills Trail
4 March 2015
skier ran into a tree
6 March 2015
happy young skier at the Blue Hills Trail
7 March 2015
Read more >

It's cold outside, there's lots of snow on the ground, now's a good time to get psyched for skiing. Check out the following slide show video showing ten years of fun on the Blue Hills Trail. Get your skis waxed, come ski the Hills!

How to view the video: on the lower right corner of the video screen, choose one of two different resolutions - for those of you with a slower internet connection, select the 360p mode; for faster connections choose either 360p or 480p or 720p HD. Pause and play buttons are available, as well as volume control. When the control buttons disappear, hover your mouse over the video to find the controls. Just give the various control options a try - be sure to try the full screen view (the rectangle on the lower right). Enjoy the show!

Grab a cup of coffee or hot chocolate, adjust your volume control, then sit back and follow the fun. See anyone you know?

Read more >

News Flash! Knowing he had a lot of work ahead of him, the infamous Blue Hills Bill set his anti-hibernation alarm for an early awakening today. Eager to get a start on things, he munched a quick breakfast, and started digging. With near-record deep snows, he dug & dug & dug... and dug & dug & dug... and just in the nick of time, he crawled out of his burrow at 7:25 this morning and delivered his annual prognostication to the awaiting crowd in downtown Bruce, WI. Read on...

Ice in early December,

Brought branches and trees crashing down;

Then snows like none could remember,

Polar winds making hardy folks frown.

Said Bill, "Time's a wastin' - Go play!

"Record snowfall's your ticket to fun;

Ski the Hills now, day after day,

No shadow! when snowbanks block sun!

Comments from the crowd

  • 2/2: This winter won't last forever, bundle up the kids, we're heading to the Blue Hills Trail right away! --Bruce, WI
  • 2/2: Bill says Spring's coming early!  So what if it's cold now, this makes for easy waxing, mint conditions, great classic skiing.  Time to get our kicks! --Rice Lake, WI
  • 2/2: Thanks for the advice, Bill.  So much snow, so little time... --Ladysmith, WI
  • 2/2: Better ship some of this extra snow to our friends in Folsom, CA. --Sprinter Gypsy Camp, TX
classic skier enjoying the Blue Hills Trail in northern Wisconsin
February 1st, 2014: East Side of the Blue Hills Trail
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A generous snowfall one week ago (February 22nd) initially created 'too soft' conditions despite abundant grooming. Several days later, sunshine and  freeze thaw cycles created an icy glaze, 'too hard'. With the immaculate grooming performed yesterday (Feb. 28), the trails were 'just right'. Goldilocks is pleased. Should be a great weekend in the Hills, give those skis another go-around!

Recent comments from the logbook in the warming house

  • 2/18: Loved it!  --Cadott, WI
  • 2/18: Enjoyed snowshoe trail. --Eau Claire, WI
  • 2/18: Me & my honey. --Rio de Janero, Brazil
  • 2/18: Nice day, good snow. --Hudson, FL
  • 2/18: Loved the snowshoe trail!  Beautiful 38 degree day!  Thank you for the warm welcome. --Hudson, WI
  • 2/20: Best conditions I've skied this winter.  Right up there with the Methow Valley in Washington State. --Sumner, WA
  • 2/21: Super grooming! --Madison, WI
  • 2/23: Avoiding Birkie crowd in Hayward.  It's just us & the groomer! --Minneapolis, MN
  • 2/23: Silence of the North - it's deafening! --Ladysmith, WI
  • 2/23: Ahhhh!  The Blue Hills Trail - where the grooming is swoon worthy.  Where every skier can imagine they've won the Birkie!  Thanks to the groomers. --Ladysmith, WI
  • 2/23: I'm so blessed!  Wonderful trails - This IS the Life :-)  3 hours of  solitude & beauty. --Chetek, WI
  • 2/23: We are so Lucky to have such Great trails!  Thanks to ALL involved! --Ladysmith, WI
  • 2/23: The trails are great!  Thanks so much for all your hard work! --Madison, WI
  • 2/25: Skate deck firming up nicely.  My last Midwest ski for year :-(  Back to the Cascade concrete.  Hope the snow here holds out thru March. --Sumner, WA
  • 2/26: "Spring skiing" is here!  Cool nights, mild days, soft breezes, & fresh corduroy in the Hills - thanks again groomers!!!--Ladysmith, WI
  • 2/26: Great skiing today!  It's good to get back here! --Barron, WI
  • 2/26: Excellent classic tracks!  The conditions don't get any better. --Exeland, WI
  • 2/26: The speed on the skate deck sped up nicely after the sun went down.  Nice post Birkie ski. --Bruce, WI
  • 2/28: Waiting all year for a ski like today's!  Totally under control when screaming fast coming around the curve at the bottom of Rut Road.  Yeeee Hawww! --Ladysmith, WI
great grooming on 'Gravel Road' at the Blue Hills Trail
1 March 2013 Great grooming on the East Side 'Gravel Road'
March 1, 2013 skiing on the Blue Hills Trail
early March 2013, what fun!
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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