After an unseasonal detainment, the snowy and cold portion of the year is finally upon us. Winter enthusiasts have had to wait a bit longer than usual to enjoy the activities that are provided during the frigid months, but now the frost-bitten ground seems to be here to stay for its appointed season.
As much fun as it can be to snowshoe or cross-country ski, not all conditions for winter are created equal. This time of year it is helpful to have some guidance on which activities are best to pursue depending on the quantity and quality of snow.
“Cross-country skiing is compromised right now but the conditions are still good for snowshoeing and fat biking (an off-road bicycle with oversized tires),” says Eugene Kastenson of the Door County Silent Sports Alliance (DCSSA).
Kastenson has been involved with the DCSSA for five years and is a member of their Board of Directors. He chairs the Cross-Country Ski Committee as well.
The DCSSA is a nonprofit organization that started 15 years ago and has played an important role in the promotion of silent sports and physical fitness across the Door Peninsula.
What are silent sports? Silent sports are aerobic activities such as running, bicycling, swimming, and, this time of year, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and hiking.
DCSSA aids in the support and encouragement of these activities by helping to “identify the various venues in Door County where these activities are best performed and to promote those venues by advertising organized events for the various activities and then volunteering at the venues at the state parks and at the Crossroads at Big Creek to help make sure these facilities have enough participation to provide for the general public,” Kastenson said.
Case in point, Crossroads at Big Creek had a very successful venture last week when they were able to provide cross-country ski equipment to large quantity adventure-seeking skiers.
“We had a couple days where 80 people showed up in a period of 2.5 hours and fortunately we had enough equipment to outfit them all and get them out on the trails,” Kastenson said.
Unfortunately, the recent thaw has made it difficult for cross-country skiing and the complications aren’t strictly due to the temperatures. A problem thus far has been that people are hiking on trails reserved for skiers and causing damage to the trails.
“We have multi-use trails at Crossroads and even though there are signs directing the hikers to avoid the ski trails, we still have people walking on the ski trails,” Kastenson said.
“It degrades the trails because hikers walk on the trails and if the snow’s deep enough and it’s wet enough, they put a footprint in it that will typically freeze overnight and that footprint makes it difficult for someone with skis on to ski over that.”
Kastenson says that Potawatomi State Park and Whitefish Dunes are still suitable for skiing but the rest of the county will have to wait for more snow before gliding through a winter wonderland.
The necessary amount of snow for cross-country skiing consists of a “couple inches for base and at least six more inches to pack it down and track it for skiing,” Kastenson said.
It’s a much different situation for those looking to get their exercise through more simplified excursions such as snowshoeing or hiking. Minimal snow is needed for hiking as this can be done with just an inch or two on the ground. The few inches we’ve received this week are ideal for hiking especially with the thaw that happened last week.
In the same vein, snowshoeing can be done on lightly covered ground but heavier snowfalls are suited for this activity as well.
“Snowshoeing is something that can be done on the hiking trails, and that’s one of the benefits to snowshoers and hikers is that they can share the same trail and it doesn’t degrade the trail for either person,” Kastenson said. “A snowshoer can go over deep, unpacked snow or a snowshoer can walk over rough terrain with a minimal amount of snow like a hiker can.”
Crossroads at Big Creek will host a moonlight ski event on Jan. 24 from 6 – 10pm, conditions permitting. Warm refreshments will be served afterwards and equipment will be available for those who don’t have their own.