It's December 29, and where, south of Wausau, is there snow in Wisconsin?
With fewer and fewer days remaining before the Birkie in late February, my brother-in-law Adam Dowling and I, out of desperation, made the one-hour drive from Madison to Lapham Peak, in the Town of Delafield, Thursday morning. Skiing on man-made snow was preferable, we agreed, to being on roller skis or CAT Skis this late in the season, and certainly better than having to submit to the NordicTrack machines in our basements.
Arriving at Lapham Peak by 10 a.m., we found a dozen or more skiers already striding and skating up a .2-mile ribbon of sugary artificial snow and back down. From pre-K skate skiers, to veteran striders and students shadowing an instructor, the crowd ran the gamut.
As classic skiers, Adam and I stuck to the tracks, alternating between double poling and striding with and without poles. The tracks got slushier as the temperature rose to 45 degrees and the sun blazed. I noticeably started to drag as the yellow Fast Wax paste I hastily applied to the tips and tails of my otherwise waxless skis began to wear thin.
In the nearly 75 minutes we spent tracking back and forth on that thin white line between sanity and silly, we skied about eight miles.
A year ago, the snow makers had created a 1.2-mile loop -- or "gerbil trail," and made it skiable before Christmas.
Alas, that has not been possible this season.
Man-made snow, with its high moisture content, needs to sit and drain a bit before it can be rolled out and groomed, explained two park employees attending to the snow-making equipment. They said it wouldn't be cold enough to do that or produce more snow until Saturday night.
A .7K loop will take shape, however, by 8 a.m., Sunday, Jan. 1, when Lapham Peak Nordic Ski Club members and others will begin "skiing in the new year", according to the recording on the trail conditions hotline for the Kettle Moraine State Forest—Lapham Peak Unit (262-646-4421). The goal is to collectively break the 1,000K record set last New Year's Day.
I'm not eager to return to help log that many kilometers on so short a track. But if it doesn't snow soon, I could easily swallow the monotony and make the best of the only on-snow option in the region that Lapham now provides.
My thanks to Joel Patenaude, the editor of Silent Sports Magazine, for a great description of skiing on the ribbon at Lapham Peak.