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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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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
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Some equipment information we think will interest you... On a warm day while grooming this past March, the Hyfax slides on our new snowmobile overheated and needed replacement. (The slides are a hard plastic material attached to the metal rail - positioned between the moving rubber track and the metal rail, they shield the metal rail from abrasion - however the slides can overheat if operating in 'dry' conditions).

We've never needed snow scratchers before, but realized this is a must adaptation to help kick up snow/ice and cool the slides when grooming on hardpack snow - i.e. 'dry' conditions. We purchased cable (reversible) snow scratchers locally and earlier this week - after a bit of trial and error - installed them on our Bearcat snowmobile (the scratcher tips are carbide & replaceable). Everything lined up nicely. It's easy to hook the scratchers on the rail when you need them out of the way. Preventing equipment problems keeps our ski trail groomers happy and on the go.

With that task completed, we decided to check the state of the snowmobile battery, drive belt, and driven belt sheaves. First we used our lever lift stand to elevate the Bearcat's rear end. After napping for 6 months, the 'Cat fired up on the 2nd turn of the key, purred like a kitten, then roared as the track turned a few revolutions quite nicely. We again disconnected the battery and put her back to sleep -- waiting for snow!

Lastly, a modification that was installed a couple weeks ago... During the grooming season, the Bearcat sleeps in a shipping container where ice tends to build up under its track. To make entry and exit less harrowing for the operator, we placed an eyebolt in the threshold; then created an easily removable setup where we can secure a piece of salvaged snowmobile track to the threshold so the 'Cat can get a good toe hold. The trails are in great shape, go take a hike!

Bearcat snowmobile in storage
Bearcat snowmobile in storage
entrance ramp for snowmobile
entrance ramp for snowmobile
entrance ramp for snowmobile
entrance ramp
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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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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?

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Two things to report

  1. Thanks to John Kann (Rice Lake) for his enthusiasm and hard work laying out and clearing a snowshoe trail as part of the Blue Hills Trail system. The trail starts just behind the warming house, and heads north through the tall pines. It then loops to the east before returning to the warming house via a different route. The trail is well marked. Once you've used this trail, feedback is welcome.
  2. It looks like a brown Christmas in Ladysmith. However, despite the warm weather and rain during the past week, there is still enough snow in the Hills to provide a semblance of cross country skiing. 1/2" of granular snow sits on top of the base; the base is thin but adequate; and where groomed on December 5th, the base is quite solid. Skate skiing was OK on the grassy trails today, and actually quite good on the gravel road (1-22-33-21-29). Based on my experience today, I think most of the trail system can be skied if you use rock skis, and exercise extra care on downhills. I'd avoid the back loops on the Eastside until we have more snow. If in doubt on downhills, remove your skis and walk down the side of the trail. Check out the photos to get a better idea of current conditions.
thin base provides early season skiing December 11, 2011
December 20, 2011. Thin but skiable base on select segments of the Blue Hills Trail.
Blue Hills Trail snowshoe trail was developed fall of 2011
Our dedicated snowshoe trail(s) start next to the warming house. This is new the winter of 2011-12.
thin base provides early season skiing December 11, 2011
December 20, 2011 - 'Gravel Road' on the East Side of the trail system
thin base provides early season skiing December 11, 2011
December 20, 2011 - skate skiing on the 'Gravel Road'
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Blue Hills Trail

instagram updates
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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