Free beginning and intermediate cross-country ski lessons for children and adults will be offered at the Afterhours Ski Trail in Douglas County's Brule River State Forest starting at 12:30 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 12.
Participants have two options: classic skiing, where the skis fit into tracks, or skate skiing, which is like skating on ice but with skis.
Rental skis are available to those who preregister. The rental cost is $15 for adults, $5 for children. Children must be registered by a parent or guardian, and ages 8 and under should be accompanied by an adult.
“Like a lot of things, we’re trying to get kids involved in skiing,” said Kevin Feind, Brule River State Forest superintendent. “That’s a struggle with a lot of outdoor activities.”
Don’t let the chilly weather forecast deter you, said Greg St. Onge with the Brule Valley Ski Club.
“You get into the woods and you don’t get the wind that you do out in the open,” he said. “So long as your face and hands and everything is covered, you stay warm when you cross-country ski.”
The ski lessons are sponsored by the Brule Valley Ski Club, Brule River State Forest and Brule Lions. The After Hours trailhead and parking lot are just south of U.S. Highway 2 on After Hours Road, which is the first road west of the Brule River. The parking fee is $5. Or, pick up an annual pass for $25.
Built over decades through a partnership between the state forest and the ski club, the spot offers miles of looping trails and a warming house.
“One of the joys of skiing on the Brule trails is that a portion of the trails do go right along the Brule River. There’s a river trail, there’s a Little Joe Loop that goes right down near Little Joe Rapids,” St. Onge said. “Then a portion of the new Nebagamon Creek Trails also go along the Brule River and there are some beautiful overlooks where you’re up high and looking down toward the river.”
The ski lessons won’t pass by the river, but skiers can explore those loops of the After Hours Trail with their new skills in the future.
“This year has been especially beautiful because the pines that are along the river have been full of snow,” St. Onge said. “It has been gorgeous.”
The 73-year-old Brule man said he makes it a point to ski regularly over the winter, usually three times a week.
The Afterhours Trail was the site of the 25th annual Riverview Loppet Ski Race Jan. 4, also sponsored by the state forest, ski club and Brule Lions Club. The event is the ski club’s biggest fundraiser, with the proceeds poured back into the trail.
“We rely on them heavily on helping with operation costs of the ski trail and new developments,” Feind said. “This year we actually put in over 2 miles of new trail at After Hours, and that was funded by them.”
The event attracted 125 racers. Following the race, organizer St. Onge was honored for coordinating the event all 25 years.
“He was completely taken by surprise and received a standing ovation by the crowd,” Feind said.