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Winter came to a sudden halt in northern Wisconsin at the Blue Hills Trail

28 Feb

The roller coaster winter of 2016-17 came to a very early end during the last two weeks of February. Preceded by fluctuating cycles of cold/warm temperatures and snow/rain precipitation, this winter included three major warm rain events that took their toll on the cross country ski trails. When considering the overall snow total was very low, it’s amazing that the skiing was often very good during December-January-February.

Our last day of serious grooming was February 19 when conditions were still bordering on excellent despite a very thin base. Skiers were giddy with excitement after enjoying the fun skate skiing conditions over the previous several days. The next day it rained 1″ and along with several days of warm temperatures, this destroyed the thin base on the trails.

A 2.5″ damp snowfall on February 24 (the day prior to the Birkie) allowed one last attempt at grooming – but there wasn’t enough residual base to make the attempted grooming worthwhile. Up in Hayward, the Birkie was canceled and switched to a short foot race. Here at the Blue Hills Trail, we enjoyed some residual skiing on rock skis, then switched to use of the snowshoe trails to enjoy the little bit of winter that hung around.

This was the earliest end to winter that we recall since our organization started in 1987. We hope next winter repays us with snow and persistent cold, good skiing and snowshoeing.

Recent comments from the logbook in the warming house are included in the picture gallery that follows. Find comments from Wisconsin (Cameron, Holmen, Eau Claire, La Crosse, Ladysmith, Madison, Milwaukee, Prairie Farm, Rice Lake), Michigan (Marquette), Minnesota (Duluth) …

How to view images: To see larger versions of the thumbnail photos, view each picture individually by clicking on the thumbnail; or you can “show as slideshow” by clicking the link above the images. To move quickly through the slideshow click the photos themselves. For either option, if you want to save the image for yourself, simply right click the full size image to obtain the original; higher quality images are available by contacting our website.  To avoid copyright infringement, reprints must credit the Blue Hills Trail Association, Inc.

Snow drought, endangered wood turtle, another heat wave: the Blue Hills Trail provides great cross country skiing despite many obstacles.

15 Feb

Hats off to our groomers. The first half of February 2017 continued to provide excellent skiing at the Blue Hills Trail despite several major challenges:

  • Logging of an Eastside timber sale removed access to the nicest part of the core loop. This timber sale could only be logged in the winter while the endangered wood turtle is asleep. Skiers begrudgingly found other trails to their liking. This disruption of the trail system actually introduced many skiers to several very nice trails they would have otherwise overlooked.
  • Seasonal temperatures were accompanied by a snow drought. There was no significant snowfall between February 1st and the middle of the month, with none in the immediate forecast.
  • The weather forecast for the week preceding the American Birkebeiner ski race on February 25 was disturbing — with almost a solid week of temperatures in the 50’s and a day with significant rain forecast. Recognizing this meant a serious meltdown, groomers worked almost daily to generate fresh corduroy from an icy crusty surface. Amazingly fun fast controllable skate skiing was the result.

A highlight of the winter took place on Friday, February 10th when a full moon potluck event drew skiers and snowshoers to the warming house. They enjoyed good food, a warm camp fire, temps near 30 degrees F, and a near cloudless evening sky while viewing the full moon, a penumbral lunar eclipse, a brilliant shooting star, and many visible constellations (despite the bright moon). Many thanks to Dan Bjugstad for guiding a snowshoe outing on the newly opened trail that joins the other two snowshoe trails developed by Dan B and John Kann. These trails start close to the warming house.

Recent comments from the logbook in the warming house are included in the picture gallery that follows. Find comments from Wisconsin (Bruce, Cameron, Chetek, Chippewa Falls, Eau Claire, Ladysmith, Milwaukee, Prairie Farm, Rice Lake), Minnesota (Minneapolis, Owatanna), Illinois (Blue Island), Washington (Sumner), Switzerland …

How to view images: To see larger versions of the thumbnail photos, view each picture individually by clicking on the thumbnail; or you can “show as slideshow” by clicking the link above the images. To move quickly through the slideshow click the photos themselves. For either option, if you want to save the image for yourself, simply right click the full size image to obtain the original; higher quality images are available by contacting our website.  To avoid copyright infringement, reprints must credit the Blue Hills Trail Association, Inc.

January thaw? More like a January heat wave! The Blue Hills Trail in northern Wisconsin withstood the onslaught.

31 Jan

Beginning January 18, when it should have been the coldest week of the winter, the temperatures remained above freezing for one week. During that week, 0.6″ of rain saturated the ski trails on January 20/21. Skiers kindly stayed off the trails when they were soft, and sub-freezing temperatures returned on the 26th. After receiving several inches of new snow at the end of the month, grooming resumed and cross country skiers again enjoyed excellent conditions on the Blue Hills Trail.

Recent comments from the logbook in the warming house are included in the picture gallery that follows. Find comments from Wisconsin (Bruce, Cameron, Chetek, Cumberland, Ladysmith, Prairie Farm, Rice Lake)…

How to view images: To see larger versions of the thumbnail photos, view each picture individually by clicking on the thumbnail; or you can “show as slideshow” by clicking the link above the images. To move quickly through the slideshow click the photos themselves. For either option, if you want to save the image for yourself, simply right click the full size image to obtain the original; higher quality images are available by contacting our website.  To avoid copyright infringement, reprints must credit the Blue Hills Trail Association, Inc.

A bit of snow, a bit of cold, good cross country skiing on the Blue Hills Trail.

15 Jan

Temps the first half of January 2017 have been somewhat mild, and snowfall has been decent. As a result, cross country skiing has been excellent at the Blue Hills Trail in Rusk County. The photos below tell it all.

Recent comments from the logbook in the warming house are included in the picture gallery that follows. Find comments from Wisconsin (Bruce, Cameron, Eau Claire, Ladysmith, Madison, Prairie Farm, Rice Lake, Two Rivers, Weyerhaeuser), Minnesota (Apple Valley, Minneapolis), Iowa (Clive), Michigan (Grosse Point)…

How to view images: To see larger versions of the thumbnail photos, view each picture individually by clicking on the thumbnail; or you can “show as slideshow” by clicking the link above the images. To move quickly through the slideshow click the photos themselves. For either option, if you want to save the image for yourself, simply right click the full size image to obtain the original; higher quality images are available by contacting our website.  To avoid copyright infringement, reprints must credit the Blue Hills Trail Association, Inc.

Winter is here, early season cross country skiing conditions are very good on the Blue Hills Trail in northern Wisconsin.

31 Dec

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.

Recent comments from the logbook in the warming house are included in the picture gallery that follows. Find comments from Wisconsin (Bruce, Cameron, Eau Claire, Exeland, Hudson, Ladysmith, Milwaukee, Prairie Farm, Rice Lake, Two Rivers), Minnesota (Apple Valley, Minneapolis), Des Moines (Iowa), Missoula (Montana)…

How to view images: To see larger versions of the thumbnail photos, view each picture individually by clicking on the thumbnail; or you can “show as slideshow” by clicking the link above the images. To move quickly through the slideshow click the photos themselves. For either option, if you want to save the image for yourself, simply right click the full size image to obtain the original; higher quality images are available by contacting our website.  To avoid copyright infringement, reprints must credit the Blue Hills Trail Association, Inc.