Two words are on the lips of every skier and snowmobiler in Langlade County, and across much of the northwoods.
A lack of significant snow has put the brakes on many outdoor activities. And while couch potatoes are loving the moderate to mild temperatures, winter enthusiasts are hoping for some cold and snow to heat the sports action.
“We know people are anxious to ride,” Tammy Kubiaczyk, the Langlade County Forestry Department’s recreation coordinator, said. “But there’s just not enough snow.”
Kubiaczyk said that snowmobile clubs have been packing and padding the trails with the snow that is there, but several more inches are needed to make for a safe and pleasurable ride.
And she stressed that snowmobiles, all-terrain vehicles and four-wheel drive trucks are not allowed on closed trails under county ordinance, although a few find there way onto the closed systems, often doing significant damage, every year.
“We’re asking everyone to stay off those trails,” she said.
For silent sports enthusiasts, the news is only slightly better.
The Moccasin Lake ski trail, located west of Elcho off Moccasin Lake Road, is open, groomed and tracked, and Chuck Wetzel of the Elcho Cross Country Ski Club reported “good to very good” conditions for both classical and skate skiers.
The trail is located in a heavily wooded highland and traditionally holds its snow a bit better than those closer to Antigo.
Closer to town, the Jack Lake system has been packed but not track set, something that may happen later this week depending on weather conditions. Tom Lazers, who handles the grooming there for the forestry department, said it is “skiable but not in good condition.”
“It’s a start,” he said.
And to the east, at Gartzke Flowage, Mike Winski of the Antigo Bike and Ski Club reported that the trail is packed but no tracks have been set.
“The best trails will be in the grass areas and swamp areas are still quite rough,” he said.
Trails at Bear Paw Outdoor Recreation Resort, Silver Birch Ranch and in the city of Antigo are all awaiting more snow.
Those anxious to hit the slopes at Kettlebowl are also waiting, although Gordie Schofield of the Antigo Ski Club, which maintains the hill northeast of Antigo, said it is not uncommon for the recreational area to still be closed.”
“We’ve had this before,” Schofield said. “We’ve had many years where we haven’t opened until well into January.”
Schofield said that with Kettlebowl’s limited base, snowboarders and skiers would be running on dirt after just a few hours, and that would be unsafe as well as lacking in fun.
“We just don’t have the base yet,” he said. “We need another four to six inches of snow before we can even think about opening.”
There are winter sports opportunities for those willing to travel.
Snowmobiles trails are open, although certainly not in ideal condition, in Oneida, Vilas, Iron and Price counties and Lincoln plans to open the gates on a portion of its system north of highways J and 86, on Thursday.
Winter lovers are adapting.
The Antigo Bike and Ski Club went ahead with its breakfast at Gartzke Flowage over the weekend, encouraging those wearing hiking boots rather than snowshoes or skis to enjoy the trails.
And the Department of Natural Resources to make some changes to upcoming candlelight ski events scheduled in January and February at state parks, forests, trails and recreation areas, beginning with five events Saturday. The DNR said if there isn’t enough snow the events will be held as candlelight hikes or may be canceled if frozen ground is hazardous to hiking.
The forecast is not promising. A January thaw is predicted over the next couple days, with the mercury approaching 40 degrees by Friday. It will stay fairly warm as well, with temperatures in the 30s well into next week. As for snow, nary a flake.