Upper Midwest a haven for cross-country skiers | VailDaily.com

Upper Midwest a haven for cross-country skiers

Roger Schneider
Associated Press
Vail, CO Colorado
Ron Kuenstler/APJennifer Damm, left, and her husband, Chris, buckle their children Chloe and Sylvie in a ski fitted chariot, before they begin to ski the trails at Lapham Peak in the Kettle Moraine State Forest in Delafield, Wis. on Dec. 8.

DELAFIELD, Wis. ” If you can walk, you can cross-country ski, enthusiasts of the activity often say.

A corollary to that is if you can get to the Upper Midwest, you’re never far from a cross-country ski trail.

Jennifer and Chris Damm discovered that when they hit the trails of Lapham Peak just 30 minutes west of downtown Milwaukee after early season snows the first week of December.

“It’s so easy to get to,” said Jennifer Damm. The couple and their two children, Chloe, 3, and Sylvie, 1, live in the Milwaukee suburb of Shorewood. “This is a great way to get us all out there together. You’re enjoying an active lifestyle at the same time.”

Access and exercise are reasons many people take up the family friendly activity over downhill skiing, which is more costly and crowded. And Wisconsin, Minnesota and Upper Michigan make it almost too easy not to take up the winter sport.

Look no farther than the Web site http://www.skinnyski.com and you get and idea just how huge cross-country skiing is in these parts. The site lists conditions and characteristics for more than 300 places to cross-country ski in Minnesota and Wisconsin, as well as a few dozen in Upper Michigan, Iowa and Canada.

The site is the brainchild of Bruce and Margaret Adelsman, who started their two boys, Bjorn, 13, and Owen, 9, early.

“Not long after they were beginning to walk we had them on skis,” Bruce Adelsman said. “I feel like it’s a family hike, an outing, an adventure. It’s an easy enough sport for the whole family.”

Web site users help drive its popularity by submitting their reports on conditions, which is especially important given the vagaries of winter snowfall.

“The biggest thing about the sport is knowing where to ski, especially this time of year, finding out where the snow is,” Adelsman said.

Once that’s figured out, it’s time to get started. With so many choices it can be difficult for the novice to know where to take the family.

Adelsman suggested a few simple guidelines for a successful cross-country outing.

The first thing, especially for people with young children or first-timers, is to keep it simple. Rent the skis and don’t plan a marathon.

“Look for a trail system that offers short loops and a building that you can warm up in and get a candy bar or something,” he said. “When skiing with kids, don’t have any expectations that you’re going to go out for very long. Try to keep it short and make sure they have fun.”

He said beginners might want to get started by using the classical technique, go out a few times to get used to being on skis and then take lessons. As they become more proficient, they may want to consider skate-skiing, he said.

Leslie Maclin and Bill McCrory of suburban Chicago like to take their children, Carlie, 11, and William, 8, to Minocqua Winter Park in far northeastern Wisconsin. They, too, started them early.

“As soon as they could walk,” Maclin said. “Now it’s a matter of keeping them interested in the midst of all the high-tech toys.”

Minocqua is the quintessential family destination. It offers lessons and rentals for those who want a taste of the activity. Its base loop is short and with just enough terrain to keep it interesting for children and beginners.

A highlight for the youngsters, Maclin said, was an award given by the park: “I did my first base loop.”

Winter Park, with more than 45 miles of trails groomed for classical and skating, also has its share of challenging trails for advanced skiers.

Keeping Carlie and William interested as they grow older requires different strategies, Maclin said.

Carlie wants to bring a friend to ski with and William “wants to ski faster.”

Other family friendly areas that Adelsman recommended included ABR near Ironwood in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, which often gets the season started early because it receives a heavy dose of lake-effect snow from Lake Superior; Telemark Resort in Cable, Wis., which is best known as the home to North America’s largest cross-country ski race, the American Birkebeiner; Maplelag, a destination cross-country ski resort in northwestern Minnesota, and Trollhaugen near Dresser, Wis., which offers downhill and cross-country skiing and makes snow for both.

Snowmaking, once almost exclusively done for downhill skiing, is becoming more common for cross-country skiing.

Lapham Peak started in recent years to make snow, which can help extend the season when the weather refuses to cooperate. Lapham Peak is part of the Wisconsin state parks and forest system, which grooms and maintains trails throughout the state.

For now, Jennifer Damm is glad to see the real stuff and hopes it sticks around. The couple skied with Chloe and Sylvie in tow in a ski-fitted chariot. No worries there.

“They fell asleep within five minutes,” Jennifer Damm said. “They slept the whole time.”

CROSS-COUNTRY SKIING: http://www.skinnyskiing.com. Information on cross-country skiing in the Upper Midwest.

MINOCQUA WINTER PARK: 12375 Scotchman Lake Rd., Minocqua, Wis.; http://www.skimwp.org or 715-356-3309.

TROLLHAUGEN SKI AREA: 2232 100th Ave., Dresser, Wis.; http://www.trollhaugen.com or 715-755-2955.

MAPLELAG: 30501 Maplelag Road, Callaway, Minn.; http://www.maplelag.com or 218-375-4466.

TELEMARK RESORT: 42225 Telemark Road, Cable, Wis.; http://www.telemarkresort.com or 715-798-3999.

ABR: West Pioneer and South Range roads, Ironwood, Mich.; http://www.abrski.com or 906-932-3502.

WISCONSIN STATE SYSTEM: http://www.dnr.state.wi.us/org/land/parks.

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