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The Sports of Silence: Antigo Bike and Ski Club Swooshes On

February 19, 2021

Author:  
Brandon Kieper

Source:  
Antigo Daily Journal

Regardless of the season, the Antigo Bike and Ski Club is taking care of, and taking advantage of, the County of Trails.

The Antigo Bike and Ski Club traces its roots to the early 1980s, when a group of young local adults with enthusiasm for silent sports was training for various cross-country ski races, including the famous Birkebeiner.

With the group training and racing together, and an impetus to develop trails closer to town, the notion to form a club gradually came into focus. The club started with about 20 members and has grown to more than 80 today. 

Becky Frisch was one of those founding members and remains active in the club.

“As we formed as a social organization, it was decided that we didn’t want to have meetings every month,” Frisch explained. “Many of us worked and went to meetings all day long, so we decided to have club meetings only twice a year. That is still true 40 years later.”

Antigo Bike and Ski Club members are excited for a trek around the Gartzke Flowage cross-country ski trails.
From left, are Becky Frisch, Mary Lu Paulsen, Andrea Medo and Mary Jo Filbrandt; the enthusiastic young skier in front is Jed Medo.

The club’s formation was closely tied to the development of the Gartzke Flowage ski trail. In 1985, the trail near Rabes Creek was only 2 miles and rarely groomed. A substantial clearing effort was undertaken by club members, assisted by the county forestry department, Civilian Conservation Corps, and Green Thumb workers. 

A walking bridge over the 60-foot wide creek was constructed, and by December 1986 the trail doubled to 4.1 miles, including the opening of the previously landlocked section across the creek.

One of the club’s most important volunteer activities continues to be maintaining those Gartzke trails. Trail maintenance work days in the fall typically draw at least 30 members, busy clearing and raking the trails, performing maintenance, and other tasks.

Once the cold weather sets in, a dedicated core group of about six people are directly involved with grooming and maintenance. Two of those members putting in many hours over recent years have been Don Belanger, keeping kindling and chopped wood available and shoveling snow at the cabin, and trail manager Mike Winski, leading the crew with his machinery expertise.

Brady Koss is the current club president and has been involved with the board of directors for six years.

“It has been a joy to see the club grow and help promote silent sports in the county. The club’s community involvement has led to more recreational opportunities in the county, from mountain biking, skiing and support of the youth Nordic ski club,” he said. “We always welcome new members to join in on the fun and enjoy the trails that Langlade County has to offer.”

Koss’ outlook on the club seems to fit with that of most members: parallel opportunities to stay active outdoors, and give back to the community.

“Volunteering and being involved is important to any community and to every organization,” Koss said. “Volunteering with the club helps provide recreational resources to individuals and families, and provides opportunities for all to get outside and enjoy a ride or glide on the many county trails. Volunteering is a worthwhile experience every individual should feel at least once in their lives.”

Enjoying a beautiful day swooshing along the Gartzke Flowage cross-country ski trails are Antigo Bike and Ski Club members,
from left, Mary Jo Filbrandt, Mary Lu Paulsen, John Medo, Tammy Medo and Becky Frisch.
And yes, this photo was taken before the polar vortex arrived.

During the bicycling season, the club hosts various weekly (and sometimes even more frequent) group rides, including a ladies ride, a Geezer ride, and long distance road rides.

The Antigo Bike and Ski Club has benefited from support from local foundations, including the Remington and Community Health foundations.

A recent winter development for the club has been the support of the Antigo Area Youth Nordic Ski Club, which meets Mondays at 4 p.m. throughout the winter months. Participation is free and equipment is available for use.

The club has also organized weekend moonlight cross-country ski and snowshoe outings when the weather and sky is just right, and has sponsored a ski outing including a waffle breakfast around the holidays to promote skiing at Gartzke.

The Geezer group also organizes snowshoe outings, weekly and sometimes even more often as weather permits.

Along with the club’s local events, members also often organize for more ambitious outings. Over the past three-plus decades, club members have journeyed to other regions of Wisconsin for camping and bicycling weekends, taking advantage of the many state trail systems.

Those adventures have included the Elroy-Sparta trail, one of the first “rails to trails” systems in the nation that features three railroad tunnels, and a bit closer to home, the paved trail system around Boulder Junction.

Frisch says there’s no big secret to the club’s staying power.

“The club is very family oriented, it truly is for people who love all forms of biking, cross country skiing, and in recent years snowshoeing has really taken off,” she said. “We promote and advocate for non-motorized outdoor recreation, and to enjoy all the natural resources we have here in Langlade County, including the rural roads and trail systems. That’s our lifestyle, doing things outdoors, all those silent sports.

“We are an organization of volunteers, maintaining a property (like Gartzke) is a different ballgame than just sponsoring events. We couldn’t do it without all our volunteers, and those who donate at the trail.”

Annual membership in the Antigo Bike and Ski Club is $10 per individual or $20 for a family. Guests are welcome to attend all events. Interested parties can find out more at antigobikeandskiclub.com or the club’s Facebook page.

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