Although our winter only gave us a little more than the minimum snow to operate our two northern Iron County trails, the snows that did find their way up here came at just about the most perfect times.
The Rangers’ goal this season was to provide the best ski/snowshoe trails for everyone (including their 4-footed family members) at any given time. We feel providing a place for people to get out of their houses and into some fresh air was one of the most important tools to combat the woes inherent with the pandemic.
We spent extra time on the trails starting in the fall. More brush was cut on Uller and Montreal than any other year we can remember; primarily because of the late arrival of deeper snow. We were also able to move some dirt into low spots and even install a culvert where one has been sorely needed since the beginning. The dirt work was done completely by hand with picks, shovels and wheelbarrows. Dirt moved by hand is particularly appreciated once it settles in. Grooming started just after Christmas and continues today. Our equipment worked very well with only minimal break-downs through the ski season. We noticed after February passed that we had used every piece of ski trail gear we’ve ever bought or built this season. The mild weather and low snow-pack allowed us to get a head start on construction of an old connector trail on Uller that allows skiers to continue East, on into Pence. The trail is ‘old school’ and will need extensive work this summer; but it was opened in mid February, and has had many skiers risking their lives on the Pence Palisades Switchback.
With the arrival of some new trail stewards and the cooperation of the old members, the Rangers launched a webpage: www.penokeerangers.com. With that new tool, we were able to increase our public awareness by 1000%. Pictures of our grooming mishaps and victories, videos of sections of trail, and a trail journal has made this website a little on the special side. We’ve also been sharing on our social media: Instagram and Facebook
In January, we were awarded a substantial grant from Gogebic Range Health Foundation to support our goal of extra grooming and trail improvements. We are in the process of writing a grant application from the Sisu Ski Foundation due at the end of March. We also received much needed money from the Town of Pence and the City of Montreal. Our work and equipment could not have been at our current level without this type of local financial support.
Throughout the winter the Iron County Forestry Department (ICF) has stood by our efforts and taken an active role in grooming Uller. Without ICF, Uller would not be the most remote ski-able trail in Wisconsin, and perhaps the lake states.
The nominal finale of our season has been the NICER sponsored “Hygge Hike” on Montreal Trails. This year’s Hike had to be completely re-envisioned. The folks from NICER came through with a “full moon Hygge Hike at Night.” Three bonfires, hot chocolate, 600 candle luminaries, 60 illuminated ice orbs, glow-sticks, fire dancers, and glimpses of the full moon were enjoyed by over 200 people on an evening in the mid 20º temperatures. We just couldn’t have asked for more. More coverage on that event here.
We realize this trail report is a little long. It has been that kind of year, however. There’s a lot on the clipboard for summer and fall. If you want to come along for the ride and help us try to make the ‘new normal’ the way it is, visit our webpage and send your thoughts or hop on when we launch to move some dirt or build a bridge. You will be among friends. Ski freely.
C. E. Zinsmaster
Chief of Trails