Iola Winter Carnival set for Feb. 6-7
By Jane Myhra
Kevin Hoffman is the grand marshal for this weekend’s Iola Winter Carnival.
Hoffman was selected for this honor because of his years of service to the Iola Winter Sports Club (IWSC).
“Kevin has been a long-term board member at IWSC,” said Shelly Kunzman, IWSC board secretary. “Together with his wife, Jackie, he has run a Saturday youth ski program and organizes the IWC hill markers.”
“Most recently, he helped create and helps to maintain the club’s snowshoe trails,” Kunzman said. “He is a great IWSC member.”
Click Iola Winter Carnival here for more information on the event.
The Hoffmans became involved with the Iola Winter Sports Club in the early 1990s. They were looking for outdoor activities for their three young children – Katelyn, Elizabeth and Ben.
“We are outdoors people and cross-country skiing was something we could all do together,” Jackie said.
Skiing is a family tradition.
“We are Norwegian and Norwegians ski,” Kevin said.
When they joined IWSC, Jerry Thompson was running a Saturday morning youth ski program.
After a few years, Thompson decided to concentrate on the high school ski team and volunteered Kevin to take over the Saturday morning program.
Hoffman ran the IWSC youth program for about six years while his children were involved. He retired from coaching when his children moved up to the high school team, so he could attend tournaments.
The Hoffman family continues to cross-country ski, snowshoe and help at the IWSC.
Every member of the family volunteers at the annual ski jumping event, held during the Iola Winter Carnival. For the past 15 years, Kevin has been in charge of placing the hill markers for the downhill ski events. He has also helped to prepare the hill.
“We have a real good crew right now that gets the hill ready,” Kevin said. “I help when needed.”
Preparing the landing hill for ski jumping involves shoveling snow onto and off of the slopes, and packing down the snow.
Kevin uses a chain, hooked to each jump, to set the distance markers. He also marks the desired landing areas on the hill, which can vary due to wind and hill conditions.
Jackie and the girls record statistics and help the judges. Ben coordinates the entries by keeping everyone in order at the top of each jump.
Kevin loves to ski the seven miles of cross-country trails, including four miles of lit trails, at the IWSC complex. As he skis, Jackie snowshoes.
“I like a little more solid ground under my feet,” Jackie said.
They both agree that the new snowshoe trails are a “wonderful addition to the IWSC.”
“They kind of weave around the cross-country ski trails without going on the actual trails,” Jackie said.
“So now there’s a little bit of everything out there if people just want to get outside,” Kevin said. “There are a lot of different opportunities for all age groups.”
Non-members can ski for $10 per day. The cost for an annual IWSC membership is $100 for a family and $75 for a single.
“That’s a very good deal,” Kevin said.
“Cross-country skiing is something you can do for a lifetime,” Jackie said.
Each year, the IWSC selects one of its members as grand marshal of the Iola Winter Carnival, which will be held Feb. 6-7.
“The real neat part is seeing people coming from all over,” Kevin said about the annual event. “You become friends and renew the old friendships every year at the ski hill. And the food at the hill is excellent.”
“It is a big tradition with our family,” Jackie said. “They never want to miss the Iola Winter Carnival. The IWSC is an extension of their home and they love it there.”
In summer, they run on the trails and volunteer at IWSC’s bike events. They also volunteer for the IWSC at the annual Iola Car Show.
Kevin, who has served as an IWSC board member for the past 20 years, competes in the annual Birkebeiner, a cross-country skiing event in Hayward. He has done three of the 30-mile Birkies and three of the 15-mile Kortelopets.
His favorite place to ski will always be IWSC.
“People come from everywhere to ski in Iola,” he said.
The Hoffmans said the reason they enjoy volunteering and spending time at the ski hill is because they are inside all day.
“We love the fresh air, good exercise, nice people and the wonderful ski and snowshoe trails,” they said.
Kevin has worked in customer service at Waupaca Foundry for the past 29 years, and Jackie has worked in human resources for Waupaca County for the past 17 years. They have been married for 29 years.
Their daughter, Liz, is an attorney who resides in Middleton with her husband Paul (a medical resident) and their 7-month-old son Walter. They are looking forward to taking Walter out on the IWSC trails this year in a pulk sled.
Daughter Katelyn is currently teaching English in Madison, while Ben works at Waupaca Foundry and lives in Iola with his wife Ana, who is a student at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point.