Tag Archives: trails

Vail Resorts buys Wilmot ski resort in Wisconsin

Vail Resorts says it has acquired the Wilmot Mountain ski area in Wisconsin, between Milwaukee and Chicago.

The Broomfield, Colorado-based company said it plans to improve terrain parks, instruction, dining, snowmaking, parking and other aspects of the resort.

The price of the sale wasn’t disclosed.

Wilmot is 50 miles southwest of Milwaukee and 65 miles north of Chicago. Vail Resorts says Wilmot currently has 25 trails, four terrain parks, a tubing hill, a ski and snowboard school and a ski racing program.

Wilmot will be included in the company’s Epic Pass and Epic Local Pass for the 2016-2017 season.

Vail Resorts owns two other urban resorts, Afton Alps near Minneapolis-St. Paul and Mount Brighton near Detroit.

Vail has eight mountain resorts in California, Colorado, Nevada and Utah.

Happy trails: More campers using state parks this year

New figures show a record number of campers visited Wisconsin state parks this year.

More than 159,000 campsites were used according to registrations by the state Department of Natural Resources through the first weekend of October. DNR section chief Chris Pedretti says that includes more than 388,000 nights of camping in state parks. The numbers beat previous records set in 2012.

The numbers don’t include the Columbus Day weekend when campers are enjoying the fall colors. The State Journal  says the numbers for registration and nights stayed include about 5,000 campsites in 54 state parks and southern forests. 

Experts say good weather and a weak economy fueled the rise in campers this year. 

Amtrak bike service takes passengers from rails to trails

Bicyclists from major cities between Washington, D.C. and Chicago who want to bike the C&O Canal towpath or Great Allegheny Passage can now take the rails to their preferred trails with Amtrak’s new roll-on bicycle service.

The bicycle service, which began earlier last month, is available on Amtrak’s Capitol Limited line, which runs from Washington, D.C. to Chicago with many stops in between, including the train stations in Cumberland, Maryland, Martinsburg and Harpers Ferry. The service is available to passengers seven days a week.

Christopher Craig, owner of a bed and breakfast in Harpers Ferry who is also a member of the Trail and Town Alliance, said the bicycle service is simple to use. When passengers make a reservation to ride on the Capitol Limited, they can also choose to reserve space for a bicycle. The train can accommodate eight bicycles at a time, but the service is based on available space.

“Amtrak carries little commuter traffic. It’s mostly for tourists,” Craig said. “This bike service opens up many possibilities to explore the region. Trail activists, like the Trail and Town Alliance, got involved in pushing for this service because there are hundreds of thousands of bicyclists who travel the C&O Canal and Great Allegheny Passage each year. Most of them start in Pittsburgh or Cumberland for long-distance rides, but not every cyclist wants to do that.”

Prior to the bicycle service, Craig said, passengers could only bring their bikes onto the train at Amtrak stations with baggage service. To return home from a ride, cyclists would have to arrange a ride back to a train station to get home.

John Noel, deputy superintendent with the C&O Canal National Historical Park, said cyclists are the primary users of the park.

“This new service Amtrak is providing is one we’ve worked for a number of years to make available to users. Many visitors to the park have requested something like this,” Noel said. “It’s been a long-standing issue for folks who want to cycle, whether they begin in D.C. or Cumberland-Once your ride is done, how do you get back home?”

Craig said Amtrak had considered starting a bicycle service in the past, but part of the delay stemmed from a funding issue.

“Like many things, Amtrak is not flush with cash right now. It took a group of people pushing for (this service) and encouraging them. There’s even a national committee that has a goal to get bikes on all trains,” he said.

Noel said he expects an increase in the number of bicyclists using the C&O Canal National Historical Park now that the bicycle service is in place.

“It’s pretty early to tell, but I expect to see an increase in bicyclists on the C&O Canal based on the number of requests we got from people who wanted to use this service,” he said.

Craig said the Amtrak bicycle service is part of a larger, regional movement to promote intermodal transportation. Whether it’s for leisure, fitness or commuting, many individuals and groups want to make it easier to walk, bike and take public transit, he said.

Locally, the EPTA now has bike racks on its buses, and Craig said the EPTA has expressed interest in working with Amtrak on the bike service and similar initiatives.

On the Web…

For more information about Amtrak’s Capitol Limited bicycle service, including locations, rates and availability, visit www.amtrak.com/capitol-limited-train.

Editor’s note: Available through AP’s member exchange.

Stability, extra grip make fat-tire biking a hit

There’s a new trend in mountain biking: Big, puffy tires that look like something NASA developed in case someone ever wanted to ride on the moon.

Yes, they look a little strange, but these fat-tire bikes have a smooth ride, even over the toughest terrain, and are an awful lot of fun to ride.

“You look at them and go, they’re kind of goofy, but once you ride one, it’s kind of hard to go back to a traditional mountain bike because of the additional stability and grip that you get,” said Greg Smith, an enthusiast who started the website Fat-Bike.com.

Fat-tire bikes have been around for decades; photos from a 1982 Iditasport race in Alaska show a bike with two wheels welded together for an easier ride over the snow.

The bikes started to become popular in the early 2000s in places where riders wanted to combat the snow, like Alaska and the Midwest, particularly Wisconsin, Michigan and Minnesota. Riders also took up fat-tire riding in sandy areas of New Mexico, Texas and Colorado.

The trend has spread across the country, spurred by major manufacturers jumping into fat-bikes around 2010.

Now the puffy-tired rides are the fastest-growing segment of the bicycle industry and can be found from the deserts of Arizona to the beaches of Florida. “It’s the ultimate adventure bike,” said Billy Koitzsch of Arctic Cycles in Anchorage, Alaska. “It’s just a lot of a fun being able to go over more obstacles. Your height and width profile are going to be able to get you over rocks with more ease.”

Stability is the key component.

Regular mountain bikes have tires 2 1-2 inches or less in diameter, which works well on trails or dirt paths. But those tires also tend to slide out from under riders on corners when there’s anything loose on the trail like gravel or sand. They also get bogged down when the terrain gets softer, as with snow or heavy sand.

Fat-bike tires are 4 to 5 inches in diameter, looking like someone put dirt-bike tires on a mountain bike. The wider base puts more rubber on the ground, providing extra stability and traction. Fat-bike riders also use lower pressures in the tires, which adds balance and grip.

“It’s like a mountain bike on steroids,” said Smith, who lives in Milwaukee. “You can’t just put these tires on a traditional mountain bike because there isn’t enough clearance, but the basic mechanics are the same, just enlarged to take that bigger tire.”

In the early days, fat-tire bikes were homemade contraptions by riding enthusiasts who sewed tires together and welded or pinned regular rims into one bigger one. They also took welding torches to frames and forks, creating extra space to accommodate the puffy treads.

The fat-bike industry took a big leap forward in 2005, when Surly introduced the purple Puglsey, which had 65-millimeter rims and the 3.7-inch Endomorph tire.

By 2010, nearly every major bike manufacturer had a fat bike on the market. Now, there are three-wheeled varieties, smaller versions for kids — the aptly-named Fatboy — and even fat-tire unicycles.

Riding groups have taken up the fat-bike craze, often riding in large groups along beaches or across the snow, and there are fat-bike races, including 1,000-mile Iditasport races across the snowy tundra of Alaska.

“It brings people back to cycling: `Oh, I used to do that, that was fun,”’ said Koitzsch, who has been offering guided fat-bike rides since 1996.

On the Web …



Cyclists riding out winter, gearing up for funding fights

One recent morning while motorists were scrapping ice off their windshields, Bill Hartz hopped on his Schwinn hybrid and rode the scenic route to work. “I took the long way and went down by the lake to watch the sun rise,” said Hartz, who lives in Riverwest and works at Marquette University.

That same morning, Paula Schewe cycled 4 miles into work on her Surley fat-bike, stopping on the way at the Shorewood Colectivo for coffee and granola bars with some biking buddies. “I get to work on a riding high, there’s really nothing like it,” said Schewe, who works at a retail shop on Milwaukee’s Capitol Drive.

And on that icy morning, Steve Czerwinski daydreamed about the arrival of spring, about pumping up the tires on his Trek Bike and cruising on the Capital City State Trail.

Wisconsin is one of the best biking states and Madison is one of the 10 best biking cities in the country, said Czerwinski, a cycling enthusiast since his sixth birthday, when he got a BMX bike coveted by every kid in his neighborhood. “In a couple of weeks, with spring, everyone will see why. For cyclists, this is just a superb time of year to be in Wisconsin.”

March madness exhilarates cyclists. Warm-weather riders tune up their bikes, register for tours and update their gear. Four-season cyclists change out their rides or their tires, and also their clothes, as they shift from winter to spring. 

Schewe has cycled, literally, through 12 Milwaukee winters. “The first year, my friends thought I was crazy and my parents thought it was because I didn’t have enough money for a car — which was kinda true,” she said. “But it’s just a way of life for me. If you know how to dress, and you learn how to ride, and you take care of your bike, it’s all good.”

Bike retailers, mechanics and association members report a recent uptick in winter bicycling in Wisconsin. The explanations: refinements in cold-weather gear, attention to infrastructure, the popularity of fat-bikes with jumbo tires that seem to float on snow, rising gasoline prices and environmental awareness.

Hartz said he’s long cycled in warm weather to work, where he’d otherwise have to pay $65 a month to park a car. “A few years back, I decided to see how far into winter I could go,” he said. “It turns out — all the way through to spring. This is my third winter.”

Cycling, he said, is “far cheaper than a car, less crowded than a bus and gets you out in the fresh air for exercise year-round.”

And it’s also a way of life, Czerwinski would add.

Czerwinski doesn’t ride through the winter, but he thinks about riding all winter. And he saves what he can from tips to kickoff the spring season at regional bike expos. “There’s Bike-o-Rama, that’s big,” he said. “And Wheel and Sprocket, that’s the biggest. Everyone goes.” This year, Czerwinski is considering trading up his bike, an opportunity offered by the Wheel & Sprocket Bike Expo Sale at the Wisconsin State Fair Park next month.

Six years ago, the university student and barista relocated from Kentucky, ranked No. 48 on the League of American Bicyclists’ list of bike-friendly states to Wisconsin, ranked No. 3.

He’d like to see Wisconsin reach No. 1. So Czerwinski is taking an interest in political goings on at the capitals — in Madison and in Washington, D.C.

Gearing up for funding fights

Conservative Republicans at the state and federal levels this year launched initiatives to weaken biking programs. So the National Bike Summit this month was bringing bike advocates to Capitol Hill to: 

• Encourage federal lawmakers to co-sponsor the Vision Zero Act to prevent traffic fatalities and the Transportation Alternative Program Improvement Act to provide more local control on transportation priorities and funding decisions.

• Counter a campaign to strip bicycle funding from the transportation bill. Congress could vote in May on the anti-cycling initiative, which is backed by right-wing groups with strong ties to the fossil fuel industry and billionaires David and Charles Koch. 

“Despite billions in Highway Trust Fund shortfalls, Washington continues to spend federal dollars on projects that have nothing to do with roads like bike paths and transit,” read a letter signed by representatives of Tea Party Nation, the Heartland Institute, Club for Growth, American Energy Alliance and Americans for Prosperity seeking to eliminate federal transportation money for cycling programs.

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who has strong political and financial ties to those in this conservative coalition, is at the forefront of the campaign to puncture the state’s bicycling program.

Earlier this winter, at the start of his second term as governor and an apparent run for the White House, Walker offered a budget that proposed: 

• Cutting $2 million from the Transportation Alternatives Program.

• Gutting the Stewardship Fund used to buy and preserve conservation and recreational land for the public.

• Repealing the Complete Streets Law mandating that bicyclists and pedestrians be considered whenever a road is built or rebuilt.

State Sen. Chris Larson, in a statement responding to Walker’s proposals, said repealing the Complete Streets Law “jeopardizes pedestrian and bicyclist safety, resulting in fewer safe places for our neighbors to bike.” Larson added that cutting TAP “will result in fewer pro-bike projects, some of which seek to create more safe ways for children to get to their schools.”

Larson said, “The governor’s budget lacks a long-term, sustainable vision for our state. In fact, at the same time the governor is seeking to curb the growth and popularity of cycling in the state of Wisconsin, he is also borrowing $1.3 billion to pay for large highway projects. Each day, I grow more amazed by how backward Walker’s priorities are for Wisconsin.”

Dave Cieslewicz, executive director of Wisconsin Bike Fed, has described Walker’s budget as “a direct assault on biking.”

Bike Fed is collaborating with many organizations and lawmakers to protect the programs, according to Cieslewicz, who served two terms as mayor in Madison.

Czerwinski said he plans to get involved in the pro-biking push.

“Maybe there will be a bike-in,” said Georgia Cramer, of Kenosha, who also is interested in crusading for cycling.

Cramer, interviewed by WiG via Facebook, is a recreational rider — bicycling is a family activity on the weekends. But she wants to see bicycling opportunities expanded in Wisconsin. Like a majority of bicyclists, Cramer said she’d ride more if she felt safer on the roads, and she’d allow her children to ride more if she felt more secure in their safety.

Biking for all

“I love riding. And some of my fondest childhood memories are of riding my bike in the summer,” she said. “Government should do more, not less.”

Earlier this month, the nonprofit People For Bikes released a study showing 34 percent of Americans ages 3 and older rode a bike at least once in the last year and, of those who ride, 70 percent rode six days or more.

The survey also found that a majority worry about being injured on the road and 48 percent of adults in the U.S. don’t have access to an operational bicycle. The statistics are higher for people of color, according to a groundbreaking report, “The New Majority: Pedaling Towards Equity,” from the Sierra Club and the League of American Bicyclists. The research, for example, showed that efforts to improve infrastructure for cycling can skirt communities of color, contributing to a higher fatality rate for Hispanic and African-American riders.

The study also outlined the benefits of bicycle access and examined transportation costs. The average family with an income of less than $50,000 spends about 28 percent of its annual income on housing and 30 percent on transportation. The average yearly cost of operating a car is $8,220; the average yearly cost of operating a bike is $308.

Such statistics and real-life situations motivate Wisconsin cyclists to promote projects such as Bublr Bikes, the Milwaukee bike rental program, and participate in efforts such as Milwaukee’s Vulture Space, a nonprofit do-it-yourself bike shop that redistributes repaired bikes in the community; the Milwaukee Bicycle Collective, which educates and encourages the re-use and recycling of old bikes; and DreamBikes in Madison and Milwaukee, which since 2008 has employed and trained dozens of teens while refurbishing and returning more than 10,000 bikes to the community.

“I’m for a bike for everyone, because biking is just good for your health, mind, for the environment and it’s economical,” said Czerwinski, the guy who spent that recent icy morning daydreaming about riding out winter and cycling into spring.

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Hidden gems: Lesser-known state parks for camping, hiking and swimming

Wisconsin’s state park system is so well-known, so well-publicized and so widely admired that it might seem impossible that a few individual parks don’t get the credit they deserve.

Yet, there are definitely less-traveled places offering great trails, views, camping and swimming. Some recommendations:

Camping out

Perrot State Park: Consists of more than 1,200 acres of land surrounded by bluffs. This is where the Mississippi and Trempealeau Rivers meet, and it is a perfect place to set up camp. The park offers a multitude of activities and amenities, including biking, canoeing and hiking. Be sure to hike to Brady’s Bluff for the views of the Mississippi River and Trempealeau Mountain. Or canoe in the calm waters of Trempealeau Bay. W26247 Sullivan Road, Trempealeau.

Rock Island: For a rustic camping experience in Door County, take the ferry from Washington Island to Rock Island. There are no bikes. There are no cars. But there are 40 campsites. The park also features 10 miles of hiking trails and 5,000 feet of beach. 1924 Indian Point Road, Washington.

Hiking along

Amnicon Falls State Park: The park has nearly 2 miles of hiking trails along the river. Amnicon Falls’ stunning geologic formations are the result of earthquakes from a half billion years ago. Along with the prehistoric rock formations, hikers can see evidence of the ancient ocean that once covered Wisconsin, as well as volcanic material. The river trail hike features mini-pools, cascades and waterfalls. The Thimbleberry Nature Trail is a great place to enjoy the forested natural setting of the park. Expect to see wildlife and unique vegetation, including deer, coyote, thimbleberries and Indian Pipe. 4279 County Road U, South Range.

Willow River State Park: The park offers camping, fishing, canoeing and swimming, but its 13 miles of hiking trails showcase the park’s magnificent views. The park has four overlooks with views of the waterfalls and the Willow River gorge. 1034 County Road A, Hudson.

Diving in

Big Foot Beach State Park: The park consists of more than 270 acres, with campsites wooded by tall oaks and a sandy beach with a 100-foot swimming area. The water in Lake Geneva is among Wisconsin’s finest. The park also has a large picnic area, a lagoon for fishing and more than 5 miles of meadow and forest hiking trails. 1452 S Wells St, Lake Geneva.

Source: Travel Wisconsin