It’s looking better every day for outdoor recreation and fun in the Northwoods this Christmas season. For those of you who are holding back and wondering, is there snow, is the ice good, are the trail groomers out, the answer is yes, yes, and yes.
I’m on the banks of the Turtle Flambeau; the Springstead side. And since my three adult children and grandchild are on their way “upnorth”, I have to find some outdoor recreation for them in order to keep them out of everyone’s hair. Normally, that is not hard to do in Northern Wisconsin. But these last few Christmas’s have been “iffy”.
That extra 9-10 inches of snow that we got last night was a blessing. Total snow depth is now about 26” in the woods. That’s plenty for riding on a groomed trail. However, we’re having the same problem with the groomers that we have every year at this time. Early measurable snow insulates the swamps and lowlands and prevents them from freezing. Even though our evening temps were -20 wind chill for four days and have been in the single digits otherwise, the swamps are questionable at this point. Groomers are out, but having problems.
The Flowage has been traversed by sleds from Springstead to the Hide-Away. There’s at least a half foot of ice out there with new ice being built every night. The first big storm that we had, which carried 30 mph winds, blew a lot of the snow into 3’-4’ drifts along the shoreline. However, the majority of the ice is still snow-covered with minor slushy spots where water has leaked up through a crevice.
Expect above average ice heaving this year. What does that mean for you? Potential slush piles and you may need to travel around any big crevices. Be careful. It’s been a wet year. Xcel Energy, in cooperation with the DNR, tried to draw the water level down 2.5 feet before the freeze. They managed only 1.5 feet. So the dam is now passing close to 700 cfs; twice the summer discharge rate at the dam. This drops the level of the pool. And since there is no where for the ice cap to go, it heaves.
Lastly, the trails across the TFF have not been marked. They were scheduled to be marked last Saturday but the plan for manpower didn’t come together. My take on this is – if the crew wants to mark the trails, they consider ice conditions to be safe. If they consider it too early to mark the trails, best to stay off the Flowage with sleds and ATVs. Historically the TFF trails are marked the day after Christmas. So conditions are a bit early this year.
You’re good to ride! Just be real careful in the swamps and realize that the groomers are in catch-up mode. With consistent snow and ice conditions continuing as they are, this should be an excellent snowmobile season in Wisconsin’s Northwoods! Get out there and enjoy it.