OPINION Winter is a season to celebrate, although some lifelong Wisconsinites may disagree because of the snow and freezing temperatures. The change of season and anticipation of the first snowfall can be joyous. Maybe after months of green grass and empty treetops, a white blanket of snow brightens our view once again.
Winter is a truly magical season. Rather than being stuck in the house there’s a whole new world outdoors to enjoy, especially here in our beautiful state. We’ve grown accustomed to making the most out of any situation in 2020; this season won’t be any different. But we can still celebrate Wisconsin’s role in pioneering some of the most well-known winter activities. We can also enjoy all that Wisconsin has to offer during these winter months, even while following proper precautions to stop the spread of COVID-19.
When I was a youngster living on the north side of Eau Claire, and wasn’t building snow forts or sliding down the big hills with friends, I’d sling my skates over my shoulder and hike down to the city park. The park’s skating rink was full of friends and a bonfire to warm us. If we were feeling really ambitious, we’d catch a ride to Half Moon Lake to punch holes in the ice and take our chances at hooking some fish to bring home.
Once I reached my teen years, my dad bought a snowmobile. We spent many days and nights exploring the trails. Once I was able to drive and load our machines, we rode trails that took us through woods and up hills I’d never been before. While downhill skiing came later for me, it added to my love of winter. When I got a wood-burning stove in my home, I had even more reason to love winter.
The list of activities one can do on a Wisconsin winter day is endless. The outdoor recreational opportunities in Wisconsin have continued growing since I was young. It’s more common than ever to strap on a pair of snowshoes to hike the trails. Cross-country skiing has become one of the most popular sports for so many and has put Wisconsin on the map.
The American Birkebeiner has become one of the most extraordinary events in the nation and it takes place right here in Wisconsin from Cable to Hayward. An event first held in 1973 with 35 skiers has now become a classic. In a good snow year it’ll attract thousands from all around the world. With varying lengths and difficulties, it’s a race for anyone who can manage a pair of skis.
Earlier in our state’s history, Wisconsinites developed the concept of snowmobiles. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Wisconsinites experimented with modified winter snow machines – like bicycles, sleighs and even Model T Fords. Eventually snowmobiles as we know them now caught on as a fun winter activity, as well as a dependable form of winter transportation.
With almost 15,000 lakes in Wisconsin, and fishing an obsession for so many, winter isn’t a time to give the fish a break. In fact for some it’s the time of year to become serious. Once the ice is thick and safe to walk on, there will be holes drilled, tip-ups set and shanties dotting the ice.
Although the Birkebeiner, snowmobiling and ice-fishing traditions will be different than in years past, there are still many opportunities to be outdoors, enjoying the season safely with members of your own household.
Hikers can enjoy the trails throughout the beautiful Driftless landscape. With a pair of snowshoes anyone can walk those snowy trails to enjoy the fresh beauty of the winter scenery. The activities give an entirely different perspective of the wonders of our Wisconsin.
For anyone dreading the coming of winter, think again. Wisconsin is truly a wonderland of all seasons. The lake, hills and trees admired in the summer will thrill one again in the winter. Bundle up and enjoy Wisconsin all over again.
Jeff Smith of Brunswick represents the 31st District of Wisconsin as a member of the Democratic Party.