After the American Birkebeiner cross-country ski marathon takes place in Hayward, Wisconsin, a noticeable decline takes place in people skiing. This occurs for two reasons; one, the snow conditions become shaky in late February and early March; and two, without the motivation of training for the Birkebeiner, many skiers pack it in for the season.
Two years ago, I skied my first American Birkebeiner and finished in just under 6 hours. You would have thought six hours of skiing on a weekend would get the activity out of my system. I drove home the next day and passed through Millston, Wisconsin close to sunset. I got a room close by and skied for a couple of hours in the Black River State Forest.
The next day was a beautiful bright sunny day without a cloud in the sky. It was also pretty warm. Temperatures soared in the forties. I awoke early and returned to the Smrekar warming hut and parking lot just east of Millston.
It was now Monday, and I had the day off. There was not a car in the parking lot. I had the trails completely to myself and enjoyed the quiet solitude after the madness of the Birkebeiner. I took my time and soaked up the quiet of the desolate woods. It was hard to believe just two days prior I had been skiing among 9,000 other skiing enthusiasts.
As the day wore on the sun began to really take its toll on the trail and the skiing became slower and slower. I finally called it quits and got back in the car and headed farther south. During my three to four hours in the woods, I only saw one other person walking his dog. No other skiers ventured out.
This turned out to be the end of the 2010 skiing season as the warming trend continued and snow never came back on the menu. I highly recommend skiers take the Monday after the Birkie off. Skiing after the marathon is a good way to fight off the soreness that is inevitable after skiing 26, 50, or 54 kilometers.
More importantly, it is a great way to reset your frame of mind of why skiing is so awesome. I love the Birkebeiner and look forward to doing it again, but for me cross-country skiing is best done with just me, my skis, and the woods. It is not like a thumb my nose at other skiers if I see them, but I thoroughly enjoy having the woods to myself.
If you take Monday off, go out and hit your favorite skiing place in Wisconsin: snow permitting of course. I have an inkling that you will have the trails all to yourself.
Black River State Forest is part of the wonderful Wisconsin State Park system. There is a fee system to enjoy all of these parks. For more information on the fees click here.
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