Plentiful snow a boon for winter sports lovers this season
Tired of the snow yet? Maybe not if you're an outdoor winter snow sports enthusiast.
Stat check: The National Weather Service reports that southern Wisconsin has seen measurable snowfall on 14 days since Dec. 21, the official start of winter. During the last month, 22 days have seen at least periods of snowfall.
During the same period last year, measurable snow fell just five days.
All the snow has been bad for driving and tiresome for those with a large driveway and no snowblower. Yet, for anyone who got a brand new pair of snowshoes or skis for Christmas, the winter season thus far has been very, very good.
Area cross-country skiing and snowshoeing areas are boasting a thick snow base that's been repeatedly refreshed by nearly constant snowfalls. The consistent cold weather in recent weeks also has been a boon for area ice-skating rinks, where officials say the biggest conundrum has been the near-daily removal of snow from the ice.
If you're an old pro at the sports of winter and haven't gotten out on the trails or the ice, or if you're a novice looking to strap on skis, skates or snowshoes for the first time, you're definitely in luck this winter—at least for now.
The last few winters have been tricky for cross-country skiing, but this year has been different. Obviously, snow helps. But the snow came early this year, and it has stayed put.
Paul Sandgren, State Department of Natural Resources Forest Superintendent at Kettle Moraine State Park South Unit, said snow bases on cross-country trails in the park near Eagle have been several inches deep.
The ski area has had more than a dozen good ski days in the park's December to February ski season. Compare that to last year when there were 17 ski days all season.
A few thaws and rains early this month glazed the ski trails, which can mean fast downhill runs for cross-country skiers but and tricky uphill climbs.
But repeated snows in the past few weeks have improved conditions, and Sandgren said there's likely enough of a base to pull the skiing season through February, barring a major thaw.
“If we keep getting fresh snow, it looks like we'll have a trend of good temperatures to keep the snow at a decent ski-able state. For the most part, It'll be warm enough to get out and enjoy it,” he said.
The DNR grooms and tracks several sets of cross country skiing trails at the park.
Kettle Moraine State Park South Unit's Scuppernong trails off County ZZ are a mix of leisurely, flat runs for beginning skiers and semi-challenging hills for those who like a cardio workout and a few exhilarating downhill runs.
Trail loops vary from 2 to 5 miles, taking skiers through a mix of tall pine stands and hardwood forests. Skiers can call the trail hotline at 262-594-6202 for ski conditions.
Rock County Parks Community Coordinator Dave Hoffman says a deep freeze and thaw cycle earlier this month turned some county snowshoeing trails to a thick glaze, but several measurable snowfalls in the last week have built up a powdery base. That's made conditions ideal for trekking on snowshoes.
“Despite a few thaws, the trails have remained decent for snowshoeing since December. They're actually ideal right now,” he said.
For newbies, the county rents snowshoes by the day or the weekend. People can pick up a pair at the county parks office at 3715 Newville Road, Janesville.
Here are a few snowshoeing treks to try:
Magnolia Bluff: The county park at Highway 59 and Croak Road is one of the highest points in Rock County. The top of the bluff offers vistas with some of the best views in the county. There are 6 miles of snowshoeing trails. Snowshoers can park at the lower parking area and trek from the bottom of the bluff to the top.
Beckman Mill and Sportsman's Park: The county will host candlelight snowshoe treks at both parks. The trek at Sportsman's Park at 3441 N. Highway 51 is slated for 5 to 8 p.m. Friday, Feb. 7. The trek at Beckman Mill, which is at 11450 S. County H, is slated for 5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. Friday, Feb. 14. Both events will be held, weather permitting, and offer free snowshoe rentals for children and adults.
The Air Products Ice Rink in Milton has led to smooth skating most of this winter. The rink, which is at Hilltop and Municipal drives across from the Milton Post Office, has been in place for about a year.
It's getting good use this year, thanks to icy-cold weather. Inga Cushman, assistant to the city administrator, coordinates the rink's use. She said the biggest problem is that city crews have had to clear snow off the ice almost daily.
Cushman said about 20 people a day have been using the rink.
If your pirouette is more like a flounce or you're into slapping around a hockey puck, there's more than enough room to spread out. The rink is about 40,000 square feet, according to city estimates.
The rink rents skates and is open from 4 to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday and from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. weekends.