Enjoy the winter scenery, get healthy exercise and have some fun by cross-country skiing on nearly 700 miles of groomed trails.
Have some winter fun
Plus support green business while you do it!
Shelly Allness and Lisa Marshall
Lifelong residents of Wisconsin know that an extended winter is all part of living in a four season Midwest state. The good news is that Wisconsin does winter right; celebrating the natural beauty of snow-covered trails and trees, taking advantage of frozen lakes for ice fishing, and safe passage on skis from shore to shore. Winter hiking and snowshoeing in a quiet forest takes on a peaceful and serene quality this time of year.
Visitors and residents seeking outdoor silent sport recreation keep the state's tourism industry humming January through March. Most travelers discover that a winter escape also means lower prices and smaller crowds compared to the peak summer season. In addition, silent sports enthusiasts will find they share a deep appreciation for the state's natural resources with the more than 365 Travel Green Wisconsin (TGW)™ certified tourism businesses. Read on for highlights of just a few TGW businesses anxiously awaiting your visit.
For travelers seeking rest and relaxation away from home that is easy on the environment, Travel Green Wisconsin™ makes that pursuit an easy one. For the past six years, TGW has been leading Wisconsin's tourism industry towards a more sustainable future. TGW encourages and recognizes tourism businesses that are taking steps to use less energy, reduce waste, protect our fish and wildlife, and keep our air and water clean. All while providing visitors with excellent customer service and a fun and memorable vacation experience.
Wolfsong Adventures in Mushing is one such winter tourism business. Located in Bayfield, Wolfsong has been providing premier dog sled tour experiences since 1997. Adventures range from a four-hour hands-on dog-focused experience to weekend or overnight camping trips. Learn to drive your own team or ride along with one of the guides.
Avoid the crowds and experience the Lake Superior shoreline from a different vantage — the ice — in the winter.
Bayfield is the perfect escape for travelers who want a vacation that keeps the environment in mind. More businesses are Travel Green Wisconsin™ certified in Bayfield than any other community in the state. Not bad for a town of about 600. Local lodging properties such as the Pinehurst Inn, Hauser's Bayfield Cabin, and Artesian House set the gold standard for the tourism industry with their high scores reflecting their many and innovative green practices.
Many Travel Green Wisconsin™ -certified lodging properties throughout the state embrace winter, some even hang their hat on it by offering activities and rentals to keep guests outdoors, active and playing in the snow. Heartwood Conference Center and Retreat in Trego offers 20 kilometers of cross-country ski trails, snowshoe rentals and sledding. This historic property recently completed a new 20-room hotel to add to their five two-bedroom lake cottages, 10 four bedroom duplexes and conference center.
In Sparta, Justin Trails is not only ecofriendly, they are also pet friendly. If skijoring is your winter sport, this Sparta inn is your place. Bring your own dog or coax George, their Siberian Husky, on the 2K dog trail groomed for either skijoring or skiing with your dog off leash.
Or consider Spur of the Moment Ranch in Oconto County located inside the Nicolet National Forest. Just as its name suggests, this property uses innovative practices to maintain its co-credentials including the use of a large scale Vermi- Composting Center handling up to 200 pounds of compostable manure at its stables.
Skiers can find 22 kilometers of groomed trails at the Lakewoods Cross Country Ski Course just a few miles up the road. Nature centers also keep their doors open for visitors throughout the winter season, imparting a far different perspective on the state's native wildlife, plants and landscape from what some- one might find in July or August. At the Kickapoo Valley Reserve, another Travel Green Wisconsin™-certified attraction, visitors can take an Ice Cave Hike (February 9) to rarely visited ice caves and frozen waterfalls. Guides treat participants to background on the Kickapoo Valley Reserve's geology, biology and history.
Take steps snowshoeing and lessen your carbon footprint when you travel.
At Cave of the Mounds in Blue Mounds, nature's own heating system keeps this National Natural Landmark at a constant comfortable temperature, about 50 degrees, despite the freezing temperatures above ground. This cave is over one million years old, so grab your camera and head underground to the winter warmth. Cave of the Mounds has been a proud member of Travel Green Wisconsin™ since it was initiated in 2006. Bring your skis or snowshoes because nearby Blue Mounds State Park offers 10 miles of groomed trails to explore.
Wisconsin State Parks have long been a home for learning and nature conversation. Currently 65 state parks, forests and trails have attained their TGW certification. They also happen to be a great source for some of the best groomed trails for cross-country skiing in the state. On February 9, strap on your skis and snowshoes and hit the candlelit trails at Lake Kegonsa State Park, Kohler-Andrae State Park and the Kettle Moraine State Forest.
New to cross-country skiing or snowshoeing? Rent first as a low-cost alternative to try it out. Navarino Nature Center in Shiocton rents skis and poles for $5 for those under 15 years and just $10 for adults. With over 12 miles of groomed ski trails you're sure to get the fever for this exhilarating winter sport. Snowshoes are also available for rent at the center. Take them for a spin and experience silent sports at their best. The entire wildlife area is open to snowshoeing.
Skiers and hikers both will find the Travel Wisconsin snow conditions report to be a helpful tool to track the conditions of trails throughout the state. Winter in Wisconsin is a time to get out and enjoy the gift of the state's changing seasons and the fun that a few feet of snow and a drop in temperature bring. Make it a win-win for the tourism industry and the state's natural resources by supporting Travel Green Wisconsin™ certified businesses. To find out who they are, visit TravelWisconsin.com
Shelly Allness and Lisa Marshall work at the Wisconsin Department of Tourism.