By Carla Minsky
Special to TravelWisconsin.com
If there is one state that takes frosty winter weather and turns it into something fun, it would be Wisconsin. It’s the state where snowmobiling was born after all, and where small villages pop up on frozen lakes with the sole purpose of fishing through the ice. So it really should come as no surprise Wisconsinites are now biking in the snow, skijoring with their dogs and cross-country skiing under the stars. To borrow from a warm weather expression: jump in, the snow’s fine.
Winterize Your Bicycle
No need to bid adieu to your bicycle until spring. Enter fat bikes, with four to five-inch tires to help you float across snowy trails and frozen lakes. Plus, there’s the added bonus that you needn’t worry much about falling, and even if you do you’re rarely going too fast and the snow offers a nice landing spot.
CAMBA, short for Chequamegon Area Mountain Bike Association, maintains upwards of 60 miles of groomed trails in the far Northwoods, running the spectrum from easy for families with beginners to challenging technical single-track for more experienced riders. If you’re not ready to commit to a fat bike purchase, renting is a great way to give it a whirl. The New Moon and Riverbrook bike and ski shops, both in Hayward, offer rentals.
As for competitive events, the Fat Bike Birkie takes 1,200 riders out on the professionally groomed ski trails of the American Birkebeiner. The event, now in its fifth year, spans three days to fit in all the fun, including guided rides on the Birkie’s super snow highway through the forest, plus bike demos and a post-race party. Another fat bike winter event is the Sweaty Yeti, staged in Levis Mound Recreational Area in Clark County. There will be group rides and bonfires, with winter camping available.
At the Bayfield Winter Festival, riders get the chance to bike across the famous ice road from Bayfield to Madeline Island. Other activities include ice golf and a winter obstacle course. There’s also the Hugh Jass Fat Bike Series held at various locations in the Milwaukee area with events running through the beginning of March.
Ski by Candlelight
There’s another way to glide over trails in Wisconsin, namely with cross-country skis strapped on and ski poles in hand. A popular twist is to ski at night with candles to guide you through the woods. Candlelight ski events continue to grow in popularity, so much so that the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources has started posting in real time on social media when events start filling up.
Most of these under-the-stars ski gatherings are hosted by friends groups of the various state parks, and there are lots to choose from. For those who’ve been to a candlelight ski in the past, try exploring a new park this year, like the Red Cedar State Trail in Menomonie, which runs along sandstone bluff outcroppings, or head to the Kettle Moraine State Forest.
We have the Scandinavians to thank for the sport of skijoring, where the skier is connected to a dog via a harness for a fast form of cross-country skiing. Given the pet-friendly nature of Wisconsin, this is a natural for the state. Give skijoring a try at Minocqua Winter Park in Minocqua, or plan a stay at Justin Trails B&B Resort in Sparta where the owners will be happy to introduce you to the sport.
Get out and enjoy all that a Wisconsin winter has to offer before it goes away. Discover all of the winter activities waiting for you!