Your guide to skiing Door County
Tired of being stuck inside this winter? Cross-country skiing offers a new experience at your favorite parks and natural areas. Find your stride on any number of groomed – and ungroomed – trails throughout the county.
1. Crossroads at Big Creek
2041 Michigan St. in Sturgeon Bay • 920.746.5895
What: Crossroads offers five miles of ski trails maintained for Nordic skiing, with both classic and skate lanes. Nick Lutzke, Crossroads’ land and facilities manager, grooms the trails with Yellowstone equipment: a pull-behind Ginzugroomer, new last season.
Gretchen Schmelzer, who oversees the ski program, said the trails are easy to access.
“They provide level terrain for beginners with a few hills for a challenge, along with the added interest of crossing wooden bridges and exploring multiple habitats,” she said.
And for the utmost in convenience, free skis, snowshoes and kicksleds are available to borrow on Saturday and Sunday at the trailhead (see below).
When: The miles of groomed trails are open 24/7. The trails can also be explored at no charge on Saturdays, 9:30 am – 3:30 pm, and Sundays, 12:30-3:30 pm, as conditions allow. No reservations are needed. Trail conditions, closings and other updates are posted by 8 am at crossroadsatbigcreek.org on Ski for Free weekends.
Where: The Ski for Free program operates out of the workshop at Crossroads’ main parking lot, 2041 Michigan St. in Sturgeon Bay. Skiers who have their own equipment may want to park at the Astronomy Center, 2200 Utah St., for access to less-traveled trails.
Trail Traits: Ski for Free began when Crossroads was a school forest and seventh-graders sold Beanie Babies to raise money for a grant match to buy skis and store them in the seventh-grade social-studies room, said Coggin Heeringa, Crossroads’ program director and naturalist.
Today, the volunteer Friends of Crossroads group runs the Ski for Free program, with skis, boots, poles and snowshoes in all sizes available for families, groups and individuals – all for free, though donations are cheerfully accepted and appreciated. Volunteers help fit each skier with the proper equipment.
Trail Etiquette: Walkers and snowshoers should stay far to the side on all tracked trails. Skiers should be aware of the stride track and should inform others when they’re approaching. Say the word “track” as a request for the right of way, and yield the track if asked to do so.
2. Newport State Park
475 Cty NP in Ellison Bay
What: Maury Brancamp is the lead volunteer trail groomer at Newport State Park, tasked with grooming 18-20 miles of the park’s 26 miles of trail that are available for cross-country skiing. Rolling terrain that passes through hardwood forests and upland meadows along Lake Michigan provides skiers with a picturesque backdrop and plenty of opportunities to observe the local wildlife.
When: Skiing is available during regular park hours. Don’t forget the state park vehicle-admission sticker if you plan to park your car near the trailhead.
Trail Traits: With nearly 20 miles of groomed trails – plus ungroomed sections where skiers can set their own tracks – there is plenty of opportunity here for both novice and experienced skiers.
Trail Etiquette: Although it may seem like warmer, above-freezing days are ideal for hitting the trails and enjoying the outdoors, Brancamp said it’s actually a recipe for trail disaster.
“When it gets warm like that, it’s best to stay off the trails completely,” he said. “Every time someone steps on the trail when the snow is soft, it packs the snow down even more. Then, when it freezes again, that surface can become very dangerous.”
3. Peninsula State Park
9462 Shore Road in Fish Creek
What: Peninsula State Park offers six cross-country ski trails that are identified by a color-coded system. The Orange and Yellow loops are designated for classic only and groomed with two sets of side-by-side tracks, allowing two skiers to ski together. The Purple loop is groomed with one set of classic tracks next to a wider skate deck. The Red, Green and Blue loops are extensions of the other trails, accessible by either the Purple trail or the Yellow and Orange trails.
When: Skiing is available during regular park hours, and a state trail pass is required. Daily ($5) and annual ($25) state trail passes are available at the park office or self-registration station. A state park vehicle-admission sticker is required on all vehicles stopping in the park.
Trail Traits: Trail-grooming volunteer Rachel Stollenwerk said the exact mileage of ski trails can vary depending on conditions, but in total, skiers can expect about 12 miles of groomed trails. That leaves some opportunity for more experienced skiers to set their own tracks.
“Some skiers like to set their own tracks, so they like having the mix of groomed and ungroomed trails,” Stollenwerk said. “It all adds up to plenty of variety for all levels of skiing.”
4. Potawatomi State Park
3740 Park Dr. in Sturgeon Bay
What: Gently rolling terrain bordered by rugged limestone cliffs and steep slopes sets the stage for nine miles of classic-groomed trails and eight miles of skate-groomed trails. A warming shelter is also available.
When: Access the ski trails during regular park hours. A state park vehicle-admission sticker is also required on all vehicles stopping in the park.
Trail Traits: The Blue, Black and Red trails are groomed for both classic and skate skiing, and the Green trail is reserved for classic skiing only.
Trail Etiquette: Access the trails from the trailhead located at the Group Camp. Also, as fun as it might sound to take Fido along for the day, pets are not allowed on the ski trails.
5. Whitefish Dunes State Park
3275 Clark Lake Road in Sturgeon Bay
What: Though Whitefish Dunes State Park doesn’t offer the largest network of cross-country ski trails, it does offer those who are looking to perfect their technique ample opportunity to do so with three trails totaling nine miles of classic-only groomed trails.
The varying distances of the park’s three ski trails allow skiers to build up their mileage or connect to all three for a longer experience. Each also offers a variety of landscapes, from lowland areas featuring white pine and hemlocks to wooded dunes.
When: Hit the trails anytime during regular park hours. You’ll need a state park vehicle-admission sticker if you leave your vehicle in the park while you ski.
Trail Traits: This year, to accommodate the increased interest in winter outdoor activities, the park introduced a multi-use trail that’s open to hikers, snowshoers and skiers.
“There are two areas in the park where the trail is relatively wide, so we are offering – with abundant signage – groomed ski trails on one side of the trail and allowing snowshoeing and hikers on the other,” said Rich Dirks, one of the volunteer trail groomers at Whitefish Dunes State Park. “Trail etiquette and staying off the groomed trails if you’re not skiing is so important, but we’ve had moderate success with this.”