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snowshoeing

We're trying to make the best of a warm, dry winter (2023-24) at the Blue Hills Trail in northern Wisconsin.

November and December were disappointing months for those of us that enjoy winter. To top off the record high temps in December, Christmas was wet (1.5" rainfall) and the ground was bare. Finally in early January some cooler weather moved in, and by mid month we counted several snowfalls amounting to 6 inches. Just enough to groom our 20+ miles of ski trails -- and enough to entice folks to break out their snowshoes and their 'rock' skis.

The warming house has been quiet at a time of year it's usually overflowing with smiling faces. But at least for now we have a little taste of winter.

The following photos show conditions during a week of cold temps in the middle of January. Catch it while you can, the weatherman predicts another blast of hot air.

Ridges Snowshoe Trail
Snowshoeing January 20, 2024
Near the Rope-A-Dope Loop
January 20, 2024: Sunny, cold day on the snowshoe trail at the Blue Hills Trail in northern Wisconsin
22 January 2024: just enough snow to ski on a grassy trail
22 January 2024: bridge crossing near intersection #25
22 January 2024: thin layer of snow was still skiable near intersection #22
22 January 2024: grassy trails sure could use more snow
22 January 2024: thin base but decent skiing on Rut Road (East Side trails)
22 January 2024: Rut Road near intersection #20
22 January 2024: near intersection #17 heading down the Otter Slide
22 January 2024: rough section of the Far East section of trail near intersection C5
22 January 2024: Otter Slide Trail heading toward intersection #6
22 January 2024: enjoyable skiing near intersection #3
Read more >

The Year That Was (2022-2023):

At our annual fundraising banquet (November 4, 2023) our 'State of the Trails' summary was a year to review our recovery from a devastating December 2022 ice storm:

Ice storm, record snowfall, and equipment issues – what an incredible challenge!

  • November 2022 we graveled the first 200 feet inside the gate at the warming house. This did away with an area that had been perpetually muddy and limited access to our equipment in all but very dry conditions. November snowfall = 12".
  • December 2022 early snowfalls were encouraging. We were able to groom & ski the new trail on the West Side once before the mid-December ice storm (ice + 16" of heavy tree crushing snow) devastated the trails. It took about a week to open the access road to the trailhead. Then we rented heavy equipment and operated it for 3 days at a cost of about $7000. This opened up a shortened version of the East Side Core Loop and our groomers created good skiing. When almost done with the rental equipment, the cab of the backhoe was slammed by a tree with damage that totaled out the backhoe – fortunately we had purchased short term insurance that covered the damage. December snowfall = 28".
  • In early January a group of our volunteers worked in deep snow to clear another important section of the East Side trail. The snow kept coming, temps were mild, we kept grooming and enjoyed good skiing on the limited number of open trails. In mid January, the forestry department hired heavy equipment to open Excelsior Road on the West Side, then we groomed it and enjoyed it. The rest of the West Side had too much ice storm damage to open more trails. In late January, our Honda UTV acted up by mysteriously shattering its fan blade – a quick trip to the shop in Rice Lake fixed that problem. January snowfall = 16".
  • February skiing conditions remained very good with mild temps and timely snowfalls. In mid-February, a team of our volunteers worked in deep snow to remove ice storm damage from the East Side ‘Washout Trail’. This created a connection with Rut Road that included more of the Core Loop. Meanwhile, John Kann worked overtime to add two new snowshoe loops that were well tromped. Hats off to John Kann! Our 2017 Arctic Cat Bearcat Groomers’ Special snowmobile is a big workhorse, powerful and maneuverable. It nicely complements the Honda Pioneer. Unfortunately, the Bearcat overheated on multiple occasions the past two winters, presenting a diagnostic challenge that we finally solved in February. A $4 fuse (a circuit breaker fuse) was the culprit! February snowfall = 13".
  • March remained snowy, and we kept on grooming. In early March, the rear tracks on the Honda showed signs of failing rubber – perhaps due to the incredibly hard work required to groom the chunky condensed snow after the heavy equipment operated in December. We ordered replacement rubber tracks, and the day after the new tracks arrived the left rear track ‘failed’ and we replaced the rubber track in the parking lot. Truly a wrestling match replacing that track! Even though we still had a deep base, because the forecast showed warmup & rain, we decided to move grooming equipment to storage after the final grooming on March 20th. In late March, good crust skiing was available throughout! March snowfall = 20".
  • April 1st delivered 12" of dense snow in the form of a blizzard! Then a week later, good crust skiing was available again. The next surprise? Ttemps soared into the 80s for 5 days, followed by 3" of heavy snow, followed by 1.5" of rain that melted most of the remaining snow. In late April we assembled a work crew to remove the mess of damaged trees around the warming house. April snowfall = 15".
  • Total snowfall for the winter set a record for the 25 years we’ve kept records: 104 inches! The previous record was 89 inches during the winter of 2013-14.
  • During the first half of May, on four occasions we assembled work crews and cleared more of the ice damaged trees. At that point, thick clouds of mosquitoes and gnats chased us out of the woods. In late May we were also able to install large vents in the storage container where our snowmobile sleeps – hopefully this will reduce the potential of condensation & moisture damage to its electronics (recall the corroded circuit breaker fuse?)
  • In late June, we began our summer trail mowing. However, during hot weather, the Honda UTV developed several problems that were likely related to a faulty speed sensor. During the month that it took for the repair, trail work was on hold. 
  • In July and August, we hired a crew from the Flambeau Correctional Center to help clear ice storm damaged trees. They did a fantastic job clearing many of the West Side trails, and several East Side trails. Money ($2000) well spent! Another oddity this summer was the heavy growth of burdock – thick forests of burdock 6 feet tall.
  • As the bugs became tolerable in late July, our own volunteers again worked to remove damaged trees on several more occasions. By September 1st, the entire trail system was (mostly) clear of the ice damage. All told, probably more than 3500 damaged trees – about 100 trees per kilometer – were removed from our 35 km of trails.
  • Our annual fall workday on October 1st was lightly attended on a day with temps in the upper 80s. Despite the heat, a lot of important trail work was accomplished that day.
  • Despite a dry, hot summer, the fall colors were very good and hung on longer than usual.
  • What A Year!!! Many thanks to all our volunteers & donors – the trails are now in great shape for winter.

Here are some specific thank yous…

  • Thanks to everyone attending our fundraising banquet, and to everyone that helped with trail work this past year. Your support in the form of donated time and money makes it all possible.
  • Thanks to our volunteers for removing downed trees & their 45+ hours of mowing this past summer. An incredible team effort!
  • Thanks to John Waldron & Geary Searfoss for serving as officers. They bring boundless energy and wonderfully creative ideas. World’s best volunteers!
  • Thanks to last year’s grooming team for creating great skiing conditions despite the incredible challenges resulting from the ice storm.
  • Thanks to Jan Paulsen for photos from the banquet, and for decorating the banquet site. Leaves, acorns etc from a recent hike on the ski trails.
  • Thanks to Kirk Paulsen for donating his engineering skills in designing the new trail maps several years ago, and for updating them as the trails evolve. His maps are highly accurate & informative. NOTE: thanks to Kirk’s engineering tech skills, you can visit our website & easily place our maps on your phone for use with the App called Avenza Maps. You’ll be able to take advantage of satellites to follow your location in real time. Very useful.
  • Thanks to Kristine Paulsen for her ongoing involvement with our website – what a great portal she has provided us!!
  • Thanks to John Kann & Dan Bjugstad who continue maintaining our network of dedicated snowshoe trails – after the December 2022 ice storm, John almost single handedly opened two new loops through the downed trees.
  • Thanks to the Rusk County Forestry department for mowing most of the West Side, and parts of the East Side. With them, we have a great partnership maintaining the Blue Hills Trail.
  • The distant loop on the West Side (C-D-F-G-H-I) remains beaver territory. For now, we think we can 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. Because that loop is so difficult to groom – and because we now have more & better trails on the West Side – that loop will receive minimal grooming and be considered a wilderness loop. We’ll groom it if/when conditions permit.
  • The big timber sale that was cut last fall on the Far East Trails still has lots of wood (400 cords of wood = 40 truckloads) that needs hauling. Markets for hardwood pulp logs have been poor this year – the loggers will try more hauling in November 2023 if they can find a market. The loggers realize we plan on grooming in early-mid December and should be done using Rut Road (part of our East Side Core Loop) by that time.
  • One West Side timber sale was cut during June, a clear cut where the new trail (between intersections Y to Z)  joins Excelsior Road. It’s already growing back quickly, don’t let its appearance shock you.
  • The trail system has two timber sales that have been bid out and await logging – one on the East, one on the West.
  • 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:

Thanks for your financial support. Despite the unanticipated large amount of money spent this past year on clearing ice storm debris (approaching $10,000), we're in good shape financially, and the equipment is running well. If you'd like to send a donation our way, follow this link.

Whenever you can, please thank the many businesses and individuals that support the Blue Hills Trail Association Inc.

Near disaster at the warming house following the December 2022 ice storm
Our amazing volunteers: in the process of clearing storm damaged trees in early January 2023. Tough work!
We have dedicated snowshoe trails, but also allow snowshoeing on the ski trail if you stay to the side.
A unique view of Excelsior Road (entrance to the West Side Trails)
Wonderful skiing on the East Side Ridgeline in mid February 2023
These visitors from central Washington State enjoyed our trails when the Birkie Trail was closed
Record snowfall challenged the individuals that maintain our snowshoe trails
The East Side Core Loop measures 11 km, and has kilometer markers every 1K
Mid March on the Roundabout Trail in the record setting winter of 2022-23
Volunteers to the rescue: early May 2023 and a good time to remove more of the damage from the 2022 December ice storm
Early July 2023: an example of December 2022 ice storm damage in need of removal
Bob W carefully assessed this mess of a downed tree top before sawing it in late July 2023
Early September 2023: all the trails are cleared of ice storm damage (AMAZING!!!) and the trails are in great shape
Banquet Fundraiser 2023: making up for lost time
You should see the other guy
Analyzing their bidding options
Fun folks from Rusk County
Good opportunity to renew acquaintances
A well deserved opportunity to relax
Youthful silent sports enthusiasts
New members enjoying their first Blue Hills Trail banquet
Engineering an evening of fun
Mother daughter smiles
Plotting to win some silent auction items
Good friends sharing memories
Looking forward to the winter ski season
Howard enjoys the storytelling
Plenty of laughs at the banquet
Did you see the great buffet that's coming our way?
Blue Hills Trail Assn vice president (Geary Searfoss) gladly relayed the message that the "trails are in great shape!"
Visiting from Portland (Oregon), our talented mapmaker enjoyed the guest speaker
Guest speaker Dan Woll shared his passion of time spent in the outdoors, and the importance of trails in nourishing our inner spirit
Dan Woll climbing 'El Cap' in the 1970s
Read more >

After the December 2022 ice storm brought down an incredible number of trees throughout our 20+ miles of trails, spring of 2023 our officers weren't confident we'd be able to remove all the damage before the winter of 2023-24. At best, we hoped to clear the damage from our favorite trails. But guess what? As of September 1st 2023, 100% of the trail system has been cleared of downed and leaning trees. Amazing! Amazing!! Amazing!!!

Here's a time capsule of the removal of the storm damage...

  • Late December we spent close to $7500 when we rented and operated heavy equipment (backhoe and skidsteer) to clear about 40% of the East Side Trails. Good skiing followed.
  • Early January the Rusk Forestry Department contracted removal of downed trees from Excelsior Road on the West Side. And we thoroughly enjoyed skiing that segment.
  • January/February BHTA volunteers (Blue Hills Trail Assn) spent several days clearing a few important trails on the East Side. Really tough work removing ice encrusted tree tops buried in 2+ feet of snow.
  • We enjoyed some mighty fine skiing on the open trails -- and enjoyed the overall record snowfall and winter that wouldn't quit.
  • In May, our volunteers provided 4 separate sessions of tree removal that buoyed our spirits. Then the bugs moved in.
  • During June/July/August, we hired an affordable work crew from the Flambeau Correctional Center to clear most of the West Side trails, and several important loops on the East Side. They worked 7 full days for us! And did a great job in prepping for winter (removing not only the downed trees, but also the leaners that would block the trails when snow loaded).
  • Once the bugs backed off in August, we organized several mornings for our volunteers to continue chainsaw work on the East Side. The last session was August 30th as we cleared the 'Far East' trails.

I think this is a fair estimate of the degree of damage we dealt with this past 9 months: 100 trees removed per km, 10 trees removed each 100 meters. That's an average, some areas weren't too bad, other areas were an unbelievable tangled mess. We removed many small trees, many medium size trees, occasional very big trees. For our 35+ km of non-motorized trails, that amounts to 3500 trees cleared to make way for our hunters, bikers, snowshoers, and skiers.

In between sessions to clear trees, we've found time to mow most of the East Side of the trail system. Those trails are in great shape, just in time for fall weather. The Rusk County Forestry Department is handling most of the mowing of the West Side - hopefully that mowing will soon start.

When you ski the Blue Hills Trail this winter, pause and reflect on not only the beauty, but the work involved. If you'd like to help us financially, here's the link where you can donate.

Happy Labor Day!

Read more >

The past couple weeks, John Kann (our Snowshoe Superman) has been busy laying out a new snowshoe trail, and improving the existing Ridges Snowshoe Trail. Here are the details:

  • First he added more ropes to the existing northwest loop of the Ridges Trail – human tow ropes – to help ascend/descend steep hillsides. With the addition of these ropes, he decided to name that trail segment the “Rope-A-Dope Loop". Find it on the map photo(s) below.
  • Then John created a great new loop that branches off the existing Ridges Trail – it measures about 2 km in length, heads to the northeast, climbs to the east side ridgeline near intersection #12, then descends back to its origin. John named it the “Highland Loop". Look carefully at the images below.
  • The snowshoe trails are marked with a variety of yellow symbols. To find your way, look for yellow snowshoe symbols, yellow signs, plastic yellow tags, or yellow paint on trees.
  • Some time soon, our official map designer will add the Highland Loop to our online maps. Until then, go explore the woods and follow the yellow stick road.
Our snowshoe trails are marked with yellow symbols
Visitors from Milwaukee - the first official stompers on the Highland Loop. Cheers!
Read more >

A very destructive 2022 ice storm (December 14/15) initially shut down our skiing & snowshoeing by dropping a shocking amount of trees, limbs and branches on our ski trails (not to mention area power lines and houses). The storm began with rain, then switched to ice, followed by 6 inches of very wet snow. The storm abated for 12 hours, then returned with 10+ inches of VERY dense damp snow. This second snowfall clung to the ice coating the trees, and created a once-in-a-generation swath of tree damage to area trees.

Area residents dealt with power outages lasting up to 5 days or more. It took more than a week before the access road to the ski trail was cleared of trees and plowed and we could reach our trailhead. Then the hard work began.

December 26-28 we rented – and our groomers operated – heavy equipment to remove debris from a select part of the East Side trails – and we began grooming the ski trails. On January 12th the Rusk County Forestry Department cleared trees from Excelsior Road (West Side of the trail system). We then groomed Excelsior Road so it could be enjoyed right away.

Initially, the amount of ice damage gave thought to the idea of closing the ski trails for the winter. But we decided to try to save winter in the Hills. Although the number of open trails is limited, we have very good skiing on 14 km of some of our favorite trails. 46% (11 km) of the East Side trails – plus Excelsior Road (3 km in length on the West Side) – have been cleared of downed trees. Weather permitting, we have plans to open more of the trails. Feel free to bushwhack any of the ungroomed trails.

Snowshoers: the entire Ridges Snowshoe Trail has been cleared of ice damage. We prefer you use that trail as your first option. If snowshoeing on the groomed ski trail, please snowshoe well to the side.

If interested in helping the Blue Hills Trail financially, click here for information regarding donations and membership.

Looks pretty now, but it sure took a lot of work to get this trail opened.
Ice storm damage blocking the gate at the warming house at the trailhead
Mature red pines dropped like match sticks - and just missed the warming house
A mess of red pines at the northwest corner of the warming house
Ice storm damage laying on the northwest corner of the warming house roof
Men’s pit toilet
That's supposed to be a ski trail
Ice storm damage next to one of the storage buildings at the trailhead
Ice storm damage blocks the beginning of the East Side 'Core Loop' (Johns Creek Road)
Ice storm damage blocks the point where the grooming equipment accesses the East Side 'Core Loop"
Women’s pit toilet
Men’s pit toilet
Ice storm damage blocks the East Side 'Core Loop' (Johns Creek Road) near the trailhead
Ice storm damage on the 'Core Loop' (Johns Creek Road 1/2 km from the trailhead)
December 26th: heavy equipment was rented to remove ice storm damage from the East Side Trails
We rented a backhoe and a skid steer (it's in the background) to clear the extensive tree damage
December 28th: Johns Creek Road (East Side 'Core Loop') after removing tree debris, and initial grooming
December 28th: Johns Creek Road (East Side 'Core Loop') after removing tree debris, and initial grooming
Warming house after backhoe cleared some of the damaged trees
Ice storm debris after moving it to the side of the groomed ski trail
Groomed ski trail - ice storm debris is hidden by another heavy snowfall
Ice storm debris after moving it to the side of the groomed ski trail
Ice storm debris after moving it to the side of the groomed ski trail
Ice storm debris after moving it to the side of the groomed ski trail
Chainsaw work January 2nd
Read more >

Winter 2021-22 was a roller coaster weather ride. The thrills really took off with the 14-inch snowfall on December 10th. On December 11th our groomers worked 20 hours and skiers enjoyed really nice conditions -- for a couple days. But a few days later record warm temps were accompanied by rain and tornadic winds, and almost all that snow disappeared by December 15th. How cruel!!!

Just after Christmas, wintry weather returned, and we had decent skiing conditions by New Years. The rest of the winter, temps fluctuated between subzero cold and temps in the teens and twenties. Precipitation often was in the form of dry snow. Following that nasty rain event in mid December, it didn't rain again until March 5th. As a result, we experienced good skiing without icy conditions for most of the winter - pretty unusual.

We groomed a total of 49 times this past winter. Here’s the breakdown: 13 times in December, 16 times in January, 17 times in February, and 3 times in March. Our groomers worked approximately 350 hours during that time. Much of the grooming was in the dark of night, during cold temps, and challenging weather. Hats off to our groomers!

Overall, it was a fairly long winter with very good skiing and snowshoeing in the Blue Hills. Good skiing lasted until mid March. The last grooming of the season on March 19th created rocket fast conditions on the East Side Core Loop, a great way to say goodbye to winter. We hope the following photos trigger some good memories.

December 12, 2021: Jim Sirek shovels a path to the warming house
December 12, 2021: Jim Sirek shovels a path to the warming house
December 12, 2021: visitors from Madison on East Side Core Loop
December 30, 2021 - East Side 'Gravel Road'
January 2, 2022 - new options for the Roundabout intersection (East Side)
January 3, 2022 near #4 on the East Side Core Loop
January 3, 2022 near #4 on the East Side Core Loop
January 15, 2022 on the East Side 'Gravel Road'
January 15, 2022 near #6 on the East Side Core Loop
January 15, 2022 on the Grouse Trail (East Side)
January 15, 2022 on the Crow Trail (East Side)
New bench - courtesy of Jim Sirek
January 21, 2022 - Letter G on the West Side
January 21, 2022 - Letter J on the West Side
January 22, 2022 - East Side Core Loop at #9 on the Ridgeline
January 24, 2022 - 300 meters north of the warming house on the Core Loop
February 6, 2022 on the Fox Trail (East Side)
February 13, 2022 near #4 on the East Side Core Loop
February 13, 2022 - gnome home on the Shady Way Trail (East Side)
February 13, 2022 on the Elevator Trail (East Side)
February 14, 2022 - Excelsior Road (West Side) near Letter A
Our 2020 Honda Pioneer handles a lot of the grooming
Our 2017 Arctic Cat Bearcat is a workhorse snowmobile
February 23, 2022 - teaming up
February 23, 2022 at the trailhead
February 23, 2022 on the Nordic Pines snowshoe trail
February 24, 2022 - Roundabout Trail (East Side)
March 1, 2022 - Excelsior Road (West Side)
March 1, 2022 - near Letter E (the Lollipop Loop on the West Side)
March 5, 2022 on the Ridges snowshoe trail
March 5, 2022 - near #5 on the East Side Core Loop
March 16, 2022 - Far East Trail (East Side)
March 27, 2022 - work crew quickly moved grooming equipment into storage
Read more >

Weather forecasters predicted a narrow band of heavy snow for northwest Wisconsin. For our area, we were hoping for a nice 4" snowfall to add to our early season thin base. As the storm moved in, late the evening of Friday (December 10th) we measured 7", and awoke Saturday to snow accumulations guesstimated at 14"-18" in the vicinity of the Blue Hills Trail. WooHoo! Biggest snowfall in YEARS! First double digit snowfall since a 10-inch snowfall November 10, 2014.

At that point, the grooming challenge begins for two tough guys: fight your way to the trailhead while the snowplows are out working the main highways; use our Honda Pioneer UTV and Arctic Cat Bearcat to bust through the deep snow as you start to open some select trails; return home for a change of dry clothes; come to the rescue of the local plow operator when his big snowplow truck got stuck in the ditch near the trailhead; grab some hot food from town (10 miles away) because the grooming wouldn't end anytime soon; deal with dry slick snow that made it difficult for the grooming machines to climb the hills without the tracks slipping (note: there are lots of hills in the Blue Hills); burn up gas like it's going out of style; stop and remove snow sticking to the rollers; after sunset enjoy the clear skies and a winter wonderland. And hope skiers the following day would appreciate your efforts.

Just a couple weeks ago we were out hiking bare ground. Skiers on Sunday (December 12th) enjoyed a wintry wonderland. The select trails that were groomed on the 11th weren't in top shape, but they provided loads of fun. The 14" snowfall (dry snow!) compressed into a 2" base that was thick enough to allow the use of good skis. Sure, skiing wasn't perfect today, but who's complaining? Take a look at the following photos of happy skiers as we begin winter 2021-2022.

Jim creates a path to the warming house
Big snowfall December 12, 2021
Unique snow sculptures
Skiing the East Side Core Loop near #3
The East Side Core Loop near #3
Happy skier enjoying deep snow in early December
Relaxing on a gentle downhill
Climbing the East Side Core Loop at #5
Big snowfall sitting on the bench at #17
Plenty of snow on Rut Road near #21 on the Core Loop
Visitors from down south (Madison) enjoying family fun near #26 on the East Side Core Loop
Happy kids!
Fresh snow, worth the drive!
Read more >

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'
Read more >

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Blue Hills Trail

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@bluehillstrailwisconsin
Another rare taste of winter. Bare ground is covered by a 4.5” dry snowfall that was groomed February 15. Skied (toured) the Core Loop on waxless classic skis February 16. Mostly enjoyable skiing despite the thin base and soft conditions. EXTRA CAUTION needed on the steeper downhills with bare spots. Find more info by visiting website (link in bio ⬆️) and looking at Trail Conditions. #lostwinter #xcskiing #ruskcountywi #birkiefever
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After an incredibly warm, dry start to the winter, we finally have just enough snow for some grooming and skiing. For more information, visit the website and look at ‘Trail Conditions’ top center of each page. #ruskcountywi
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Congrats to Birkie participants - skiers, family members & friends, and volunteers. You did it! The first photo shows young Logan (Wenatchee, WA) enjoying the Blue Hills Trail — after racing in the Barnebirkie 2 days earlier. Before you know it, Logan will be going the distance. #barnebirkie #ruskcountywi #winterinwisconsin
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Welcome to our new snowshoe trail! The past couple weeks, our ‘snowshoe trail Superman’ (John Kann from Rice Lake, WI) has added a fantastic loop to our ‘Ridges Snowshoe Trail’. It’s challenging, but meant for anyone out to explore our trails. Follow the yellow signs and yellow tree blazes. The first photo shows a couple from Milwaukee that had the opportunity to christen the ‘Highland Loop’ of the Ridges Trail today. With cold weather arriving tonight, now’s a good time to stomp these trails. #bluehillstrailwisconsin #snowshoewisconsin #ruskcountywi
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All our visitors enjoyed this weekend’s great conditions following the mid-December destructive ice storm. Lots of happy faces yesterday. #bluehillstrailwisconsin #wisconsinwinter
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Beautiful day to ‘Ski the Hills’. Excelsior Road was cleared of ice storm debris two days ago, then groomed REPEATEDLY to get it in shape. #bluehillstrailwisconsin #ruskcountywi #wisconsinwinter
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Saturday evening's grooming set up beautifully, conditions Sunday (January 8) were fantastic! A week ago, dealing with the extensive damage from the mid December ice storm, I never would have dreamed we'd enjoy near perfect skiing at this point in time. Hats off to our groomers! #wisconsinwinter #ruskcountywi #xcountryskiing #bluehillstrailwisconsin
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After the December 15th destructive ice storm shut down our trails, we hired heavy equipment to remove extensive tree damage from our ski trails December 26-28. That allowed us to start grooming about 45% of the East Side trails. Now we’re gradually opening more trails using hand labor. During the 3-day New Years holiday, eleven individuals teamed up on a trail measuring 300 meters in length, and removed dozens & dozens of small saplings, then about 8 sizable trees. Many thanks to ALL the volunteers this past week that have helped clear tree damage. #ruskcountywi #crosscountryskiing
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Rain/ice/heavy snow December 14/15 — shocking amount of tree damage in the surrounding area, with power outages lasting several days. These photos show the impassable road (Fire Lane Road) that provides access to the trailhead of the Blue Hills Trail. Once equipment repairs are successful, the township may be able to start opening this road in several days. #icestorm #ruskcountywi
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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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