Naturalist Chris gives us a tour of the fun winter sports offered at Upham Woods:
Newly fallen snow has covered the Upham Woods landscape in a blanket of white, and the banks of the Wisconsin River have turned into shelves of ice. It is winter now in Wisconsin, a time that is bleak and dreary to some but to others it is the most magical season of all. In my experience, the best way to release this magic is to get outside and participate in winter sports and recreation opportunities.
Three of the outdoor activities that are taught at Upham Woods during the winter are cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and broomball.
The first of these winter activities is cross-country skiing. Also called Nordic Skiing, this activity was first invented over 5000 years ago in Scandanavia. At that time, all skis were the same. Now there are several different kinds of skis. The most common are cross-country and downhill. Cross-country skis are used in areas that are mostly flat with few obstacles. Downhill skis are shorter, wider, and less flexible, but are easier to control at high speeds. Downhill skis are made for steep terrain with many obstacles. The original purpose of skis was not for recreation, but instead for transportation over terrain that was sometimes flat and sometimes very steep.
During the long Scandanavian winter, large amounts of snow can accumulate. Have you tried walking through snow several feet deep? If so, you probably sank all the way to the ground. When you are standing on skis your weight is spread over an area much larger than if you were just wearing your snow boots. This means that you won’t sink far at all! This lets you travel on top of the snow, instead of sinking through the snow.
Today, skis are mostly used for fun. Here at Upham Woods we have a blast skiing with groups that visit during the winter. We have over 50 pairs of skis that we use on our groomed cross-country ski trail. This trail covers the perimeter of the sand field and forms a loop through the woods behind the Nature Center. The next time you visit Upham Woods during the winter, make sure you sign up for our cross-country skiing lesson. It is a great way to experience the magic of a Wisconsin winter!