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Jack Lake ski trails groomed, but there still is a demand for plenty more snow
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Langlade County recreation officials are urging patience as the winter season gets into swing.

Although it seems as though winter started early, the white stuff has been light and fluffy and temperatures have been exceptionally frigid, not the ideal ingredients for cooking up a great batch of skiing and snowmobiling.

Snowmobile trails in the wooded areas of the county are opening tonight while Kettlebowl will fire up the tow ropes a week from today, weather permitting. And the county’s main cross-country ski trails are open.

But no one should expect ideal, mid-winter conditions.

“For the most part, people understand early season limitations,” Erik Rantala, Langlade County forest administrator, said. “We do the best we can certainly, but there are challenges that come with limited snow early in the season.”

Jack Lake has a well-deserved reputation as the area’s premier cross-country system, but until enough snow falls for the big Pisten Bully to be fired up, grooming must take place the old-fashioned way, on a Ski-Doo Skandic towing an array of rollers and packers over the 20 miles of loops

That’s a slow process.

“Getting the whole trail packed takes days and days,” Tom Lazers, whose duties as the Veterans Memorial Park caretaker includes trail grooming duties at Jack lake and Kettebowl. “There is a tremendous amount of time involved just in getting the trail started.”

Lazers generally grooms at Jack Lake daily, Tuesdays through Thursdays, and spends Fridays at Kettlebowl. Problems can arise when late Thursday and Friday snowfalls hit, blurring the trails for the weekend, when skiers really want to get out and enjoy them. Rantala said his department is working to address those issues with extra manpower for grooming duties when needed.

Lazers said the trail needs an additional six to eight inches of snow, and then the big machinery can be fired up, reducing trail grooming time from days to hours.

“You’ve got to have a good base or you’ll wreck the trail and wreck the machine,” he said. “By mid-January, this trail will be unbelievable, but it takes a long time to get there.”

The county’s shorter systems, operated by volunteers at Gartzke Flowage and Moccasin Lake, have a shorter turn-around time for packing and grooming, but early season conditions still exist.

At Moccasin Lake, the trail will be fine for classical skiing this weekend, but equipment problems will delay a new round of grooming and packing until sometime next week.

Gartzke Flowage volunteers have been grooming and combing the trails and tracks may be set for the weekend.

The city of Antigo’s in-town trail has been packed, but not tracked, while in eastern Langlade County, the Maranatha trail system at Silver Birch Ranch is expected to be open for Christmas if the snow cooperates.

Langlade County does not require passes for trail use, instead relying on volunteers. Donation boxes are located at the entrances of the Moccasin and Gartzke trails and volunteers are always welcome to join the Elcho Cross-Country Ski Club and the Antigo Bike and Ski Club, which operate the systems.

At Jack Lake, instead of always plugging the donation box, the county is again encouraging regular skiers to buy zipper pulls to wear on their ski jackets. The brightly-colored pulls read “I Ski Langlade County: Jack Lake 2013-14” and are available for $25 from the forestry office located at the fairgrounds. People may also send in their donations to the office located at 1633 Neva Rd. and have the tags mailed to them.


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Tom Lazers takes the Ski-Doo Skandic and groomer past the entrance to the Jack Lake trail. More snow is needed before the more efficient, Pisten Bully grooming equipment, can be fired up.
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ANTIGO DAILY
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Mail to: Fred Berner
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