Seal of Dane County County of Dane
Dane County Land & Water Resources Department

Dane County Winter Recreation

December 19, 2012
Darren Marsh, Director Dane County Parks 608-224-3730 Duane Meyers, President Council of Snowmobile Clubs 608-235-5010
Land & Water Resources

The first large snowfall of the season is predicted for tonight through tomorrow, motivating outdoors enthusiasts to begin gearing-up for winter activities including snowmobiling, cross-country skiing, skating, sledding and ice fishing.  Many park patrons are excited and ready for a traditional Wisconsin winter where they can actually count on having good snow and ice conditions throughout the winter months. All of these activities are available within Dane County.


Dane County Parks Director Darren Marsh said that with the predicted snowfall it appears the county snowmobile trail system will open.  The county has over 500 miles of marked snowmobile trails developed and managed by 18 local snowmobile clubs.  Duane Meyers, President of the Dane Council of Snowmobile Trails, said the trails are ready to go for the season, but emphasized that over 90% percent of the trail system is located on private lands; lands made available to snowmobilers by the generosity of the landowner.  He reminds snowmobilers to stay on marked trails and follow all trail rules.  Meyers encourages snowmobilers to become involved locally with a club. The trails are signed and maintained by volunteers that donate a tremendous amount of time each year providing the large network of trails. He noted that the county snowmobile trail system follows a protocol for opening and closing the trails - 6 inches of snow and steady below-freezing temperatures. 


Marsh is pleased that the county is able to provide winter recreation services early in the season, but also warned that it may be too early for certain activities. “First ice” also draws hikers, skaters and ice-fishing anglers and every year there are a few who fall through thin ice.  He notes that the snow is good for most activities, but it also has an insulating factor and that steady, cold temperatures needed to form good ice conditions have not yet been present.  He urges extreme caution for activities around any body of water.  There maybe some smaller ponds within the area that have started to freeze over, but in most instances will not support any weight. 


According to Marsh, there will be many opportunities for winter recreation once the snow arrives and parking areas have been cleared.  Besides the miles of snowmobile trails, the county provides over 20 miles of groomed and maintained cross-country ski trails (a Dane County/City of Madison Ski Pass is required), sledding hills, and snowshoeing and hiking opportunities.  Our popular dog parks are also open year-round.  Many municipalities offer sledding hills, and Marsh suggests that people look locally for the best opportunities in their area.


For the latest on winter activities information and trail conditions, please call the Dane County Parks 24-hour information line at 608-242-4576 or visit