Cross-country skiers will have another option this winter when it comes to hitting local trails.
The Iola Winter Sports Club has expanded its cross-country ski trail system on newly acquired land adjacent to the property.
“When the property became available to purchase, we just could not pass it up,” said Gary Weier, who coaches Iola-Scandinavia’ High School ski team. “This was a chance of a lifetime.”
According to Weier, the land is perfect for designing world-class ski trails.
“You’ve got to ski it to believe it,” he said. “The glaciated land offered us a wonderful opportunity to build a trail that flowed with terrain changes and are both challenging and fun to ski.”
The new trail does just that.
“Initially, we built a short 1K loop on the parcel,” Weier said. “The new trail will be ready for this winter.”
This is only the first stage for the new land. There are plans to build three times as many trails than exist now.
IWSC board member Phil Johnsrud estimated 300-plus hours of volunteer work has already been put into the project, with additional hours spent on logging and excavation.
“The brush was so thick while marking the proposed trail, you could not see the other person 10 feet from you,” he said. “The trail was roughed out with a large backhoe and a logging company came in and harvested the wood. John Lashua then came to level, grade, bank and sculpt the trail bed.
“John has built so many ski trails for us that he is starting to think like a skier,” he added. “Now, we just wait for snow.”
The club’s property, located northwest of Iola on County Trunk MM, currently has 11 miles of trails, four of which have lighting.
“To the best of our knowledge, this is the largest lit trail network in the lower 48 states,” Weier said.
The land is spread over 240 acres in Waupaca and Portage counties.
“Right now, our biggest group of people comes from the Portage County area,” Weier said. “We are hoping to get the word out about these great facilities so we see our numbers go up. I think this is Iola’s best kept secret.”
In addition to cross-country skiing, the club offers snowshoeing and hiking trails and ski jumping facilities and hosts a variety of special events.
“We have a Youth Ski League for the younger kids and a defending high school state champion ski team for skiers from fifth grade through high school,” Weier said.
Family and individual memberships cost $100 and $75, respectively.
Daily passes are available for $10 for adults, $7 for ages 13-18, $6 for ages 5-12. Children under 4 are admitted for free.
Cross-country skis and snowshoes are available to rent and the club also rents its chalet to the public.
Visit iolawintersportsclub.org or call 715-445-3411 for more information.