New Snowshoe Trails Designated at Elver Park! – by Brock Woods, Trails Committee
Hey, Madnorskis, I bet you’re wondering, “Since I’m a skier, why should I care about this?”
Walkers and snowshoers (often with their dogs) have been a recurring nuisance on ski trails at the park for years. And more are to be expected as the surrounding community grows and expects to use the park year round. So, your Trails Committee supported giving them winter routes of their own to follow, hoping it will greatly reduce this problem.
We also got involved because the initial proposal by Madison Parks included converting to walking-only the sinuous downhill trail on the unlit side of the park that many skilled skiers have long treasured as the most fun—and challenging–downhill ski run in the park! By suggesting and eventually setting up alternative routes, we’ve ensured this fun run has been “saved”—for the present.
This year that trail will not be shown on the official park map (though I have drawn it in red on the map below), and will have “warning signs at the top to let people know it is ungroomed, unofficial and “ski at your own risk,” according to Paul Quinlan from Madison Parks. But in future it could be turned into an official walking route only if unused or unsuitable for skiing. Thus, we need you to tell us how you feel about keeping it open for skiing so we can advise Parks.
Last, I got heavily involved in setting up these “snowshoe” trails for other reasons, too. I have also been a snowshoer for many years (yes, I admit it) because it’s a different way to experience the wonder of nature in winter in our northland. And the new trails for it are a real opportunity. At a much slower pace than most of our skiing, snowshoeing can foster a greater intimacy with our land and companion plants and animals that have to find ways to live through the cold, ice and snow of winter.
Walking/hiking can do the same, though less easily in deep snow. Deep snow or not, snowshoeing is also special somehow, perhaps as a connection to the pioneer times or earlier when people here lived closer to the land, travel was difficult, even hazardous and of uncertain outcome.
All of this is to encourage you at some point this winter to snowshoe (or even just hike depending on snow) the new routes to see how they direct walkers away from our ski trails—and only cross them twice!
But more than that, you’ll see new parts of the park and different habitats in a way you don’t on your skis. As you go, look for diverse native plants you’ve likely never noticed while skiing, such as the prairie’s Bee Balm with its brown “pioneer pepper shaker” heads. Notice invasive plants like buckthorn that strip the land of the wonderfully diverse native species that support our state’s economy. Scour the sky for the park’s resident red-tail hawks often soaring overhead. And scan the brush for a glimpse of local cottontails, or even a rarer fox out to hunt them. There’s lots to see out there!
Snowshoeing these new trails or just walking them, no matter how we do it, won’t bring the same incredible thrill that good rhythmic XC skiing often sends deep into our bones, but perhaps it will help give us a more important, deeper understanding of life here in the North where we live.