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Willow River State Park open for winter activities

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Feeling a little supersized after massive doses of holiday delicacies? How about some outdoor fun at Willow River State Park in Hudson to firm up that silhouette?

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Your choices include Ice fishing, cross country skiing, sledding and winter camping. Trails maps can be snagged at the park office or at boxes around the park.

Pets need some fresh air, too. Leashed pets are allowed on all multiple-use trails except the Hidden Ponds nature trail behind the Nature Center.

Ski trails are limited to skiing and no pets. Because the trails are maintained by volunteers, no trail pass is required; only vehicle admission.

Cross country ski trails (14 km) have been packed and tracked for both skate and classic styles of skiing. Trails vary from flat to roller coaster down hills with an "S" turn between the drops.

The Willow River Nordic Ski Association offers adult skiing lessons from 9 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. Jan. 10 and 24, and Feb. 14. Students will need to provide their own equipment. Fees are $10 per session per person. Call the park office to sign up in advance at (715) 386-5931.

Tuesdays and Thursdays the WRN skiers train at 5:30 p.m., meeting at the Purple trail head. Most trainers have skate and classic gear along so the group can choose their technique.

A skiing trail requires a specific surface in order for it to work properly for the skiers. "Skaters" ski down the center of the trail while "Striders" ski in the slots (track) cut out to the side. A ski trail is like a layer cake of packed snow. It's most solid at the bottom and gradually gets softer toward the surface. Once that surface is prepared, body weight that is not widely distributed by a ski (or a snow shoe hiker crossing the trail) will cause damage.

Footprints eventually melt to bare ground while a ski trail is still in skiing condition. The deterioration accelerates and skiing ends before the season is actually over.

Many hours of volunteer work are donated maintaining the winter trails. The same volunteers have worked very hard raising funds and donations to acquire the specialized equipment needed for ski trail maintenance. Volunteers clear brush throughout the year. They also pack the multiple use trails for use primarily by hikers. Mostly the work is done after dark.

Other trails for hikers are available. Many hikers enter the park from the parking lot at River Road. Bypassing the overlooks, it is about 1-3/4 miles to Willow Falls. It is a hilly route.

The short way to the falls is the parking lot off County Road. A. This route is all hills.

The Hidden Ponds trail behind the Nature Center is short, flat, and generally out of the wind. Snow shoe hikers are welcome off trail when snow conditions allow.

More winter use options for foot travel include the park road, the Mound Trail, the disc golf course, off trail snow shoeing, and the area the anglers use at the Willow River Race.

The disc golf course and the Mound Trail receive no winter maintenance so you break trail there. Your leashed pet is welcome on these lesser known hiking options.

For other hiking-snow shoeing off trail, another underused option is the angler's access parking at the Willow River Race. The anglers have worn paths all along the island.

Anglers should park at the RV lot on the side not used for camping, or at the boat launch lot. Anglers are reminded of the 10 fish limit on pan fish.

Winter camping involves carrying a tent in to the main campground or RV parking at the beach area which has electric hookup.

Candlelight Ski and Hike has been canceled due to budget limitations.

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