cross country skiing

Tim Gillin

A handful of people came up with a bunch of ideas Tuesday to increase the number of visitors to the popular Minocqua Winter Park and Nordic Center located several miles west of Minocqua.

Winter Park already has a good base of attractions: nearly 100 kilometers of cross-country ski trails, a winter tubing hill, snowshoeing trails and a skating pond. But the park gets little use in other seasons.

Natalie Jablonski / WXPR News

Many Northwoods skiers are headed to the American Birkebeiner in Hayward this weekend.  As WXPR’s Natalie Jablonski reports, racers carefully wax their skis in preparation for the more than 30 mile race. 

Ben Koenig, Ski Manager at Mel’s Trading Post Rhinelander, is polishing a coat of glide wax with a brush of horsehair bristles.  As any seasoned cross country skier will tell you, a lot goes into applying and choosing the fastest wax. 

Tim Gillin

Snow cover and relatively mild temperatures having been making for good silent sports conditions.

Minocqua Winter Park says the numbers of skiers, snowshoers and tubers visiting the park are outpacing last year’s figures.

Director Tim Collins says that’s thanks in part to this year’s early snowfall. 

“We have been open almost continuously since early November.  We did close down for the opening of gun deer season, and for a couple of days in December when it rained.  Other than those days, we have enjoyed a deep snow base.”

Opening ceremonies are taking place Friday night for the Paralympic Nordic Ski World Championships in Cable, Wisconsin. 

Events include sprint and distance cross country ski races, and biathlon that combines skiing and target shooting. 

Event support chief and Cable Chamber of Commerce Director James Bolen is expecting thousands of spectators this weekend. 

Andy Arthur

Snowshoers have a chance to hit the trails this weekend in the Snowshoe Hare Run/Walk race.

Rhinelander Area Silent Sports Association, or RASTA spokesperson Suzanne Flory says it’s an event for all ages and levels. 

“We’re hoping for a couple hundred people, each year there’s more participation which is great.  And it’s just – you can really choose whether to walk, or run the whole way, it really is up to you.”

All this snow is likely to make for some good skiing conditions.  Many downhill runs are opening for business, while cross country skiers may have to wait longer for groomed trails. 

Rib Mountain’s Granite Peak is set to open this weekend, while Ski Brule near Iron River, Michigan has already opened a few of its runs.

But Operations Manager Jessica Polich says more snow falling from the sky doesn’t actually make trails open any faster.  Ski Brule just needs cold temperatures to run its snow making machines 24/7.

Natalie Jablonski / WXPR News

The American Birkebeiner is well known for its difficulty and impressive distance: a course more than 30 miles long that takes hours to complete. 

But Birkie weekend hosts other events, including one that celebrates the Nordic roots of cross country skiing: the second annual Nikkerbeiner race on wooden skis.

On the streets of downtown Hayward, it’s easy to spot the Nikkerbeiner skiers among the fray.  They’re the ones wearing woolen knickers, knee socks, and an occasional Vikingish helmet. 

Natalie Jablonski / WXPR News

More than ten thousand skiers competed last weekend in the American Birkebeiner ski race.  A foot of snow leading up to race day made for challenging conditions.

Single digit temperatures and fierce winds made for a cold start line early Saturday morning. Cross country skiers in brightly-colored spandex stretched their limbs and sprinted to make their start time. 

Pam Fashingbauer of Minocqua prepared for her first ever 54 kilometer classic race, after overcoming a shoulder injury from last summer.

Northwoods travelers to this weekend’s American Birkebeiner ski race may face a snowy trip.  

More than ten thousand skiers from 21 countries are flocking to Hayward, many braving significant snow and ice.

Rhinelander resident Joel Knutson delayed his travel plans until Friday morning in hopes of letting the storm pass.  He says the weather just adds another layer of logistics. 

“And then you add that to the already-neurotic pre-race preparation of wax, and lodging and food – it makes for a pretty interesting mental cocktail!”

Jeremy Bronson

A Rhinelander man offers insight into what it’s like to compete in the Olympic games.  Chris Cook was on the United States ski team at the 2006 Torino Olympics. 

Cook describes being on the start-line as a moment of clarity. 

“Everything else about the Olympics is a huge distraction, and pulling you in all sorts of directions.  But at the end of the day when you get to that starting line that’s where you’re comfortable, that’s where you’ve had all the training, all the preparation.” 

Helena Jacoba

Winter brings a special evening opportunity for snow enthusiasts: skiing and snowshoeing by candlelight.

The events are common across the state of Wisconsin, some organized by the DNR and others by independent groups.

MECCA, the Mercer Cross Country Association will host one such event this Saturday night, with hundreds of candles set along a mile-long loop. 

Spokesman Dan Bormann says it’s a lot of work to set up but it’s worth it. 

Tim Gillin

The frigid weather may have kept skiers indoors for a few days…but otherwise this season’s conditions have been prime for cross country skiing. 

Tim Collins, Director of Minocqua Winter Park says the park had its biggest day ever the Saturday after Christmas. 

“We had over a thousand people out at Winter Park, on Saturday December 28.  And the numbers before and after were very close.  So all of our trails, 100 kilometers of ski and snowshoe trails have been groomed to perfection this season.”