The Black River Falls State Forest provides several trails of varying difficulty, groomed several times a week. Photo courtesy of the Black River Falls Chamber of Commerce

The Black River Falls State Forest provides several trails of varying difficulty, groomed several times a week. Photo courtesy of the Black River Falls Chamber of Commerce

This past summer, English teacher Suzanne Shaw accomplished 248 hours of exercise through running and biking at the Bike Across Iowa Ragbrai. As the seasons change, she doesn’t let cold weather and ice-covered roads get in the way of fitness. Cross country skiing provides her aerobic exercise and a way to enjoy the winter weather.

“I think cross country skiing is a good exercise because it works your arms and your legs simultaneously.  It’s a good for your core because you’re working on your balance, and also, it’s a mental exercise. It’s [a] really good release,” said Shaw.

There are many locations in or near Black River Falls for beginners and experts to experience cross country skiing. The Black River State Forest offers two different trails with different levels of intensity ranging from beginner to expert.

“We have two parking lot trailheads; the Wildcat parking lot and the other one is Smrekar lot. Both of those are in the southern part of the forest. We do have one easier trail at the Black River State Forest. A lot of the other trails are intermediate, but we also have some difficult to expert level trails,” said Emily Alf, Visitor Service Associate at the Black River Falls State Forest.

Plan to spend $4 for a day pass or $20 for  an annual pass at the State Forest, unless your are 16 years or younger. The Black River State Forest has a winter event called, Candlelight Ski event. This year the event is on February 1 starting at the Smrekar Warming Shelter from 6-9 P.M.

“The trail is all level, of course, for safety purposes. The pathway is lit with tiki torches or candles every few yards. Some years the event corresponds with a full moon making the course event brighter,” said Shaw.

Besides the State Forest, there is a range of locations for cross country skiing.

“I usually go down to Millston to ski. I like their trails at Grandma Smackers. I’ve also been out to Levis Mound and the trails out there are also beautiful as well,” said Shaw.

Shaw uses the trails around Millston restaurant Grandma Smuckers for skiing. She then stops in for a mid afternoon snack.

“When I go out it is probably a minimum of an hour, but I could make an afternoon of it. Usually I stop, hydrate and eat, then go out again,” said Shaw.

Another trail Shaw mentioned is a scenic trail located 16 miles outside of Black River Falls is the Levis Mound trail. These trails offer 25 miles of trails and many scenic outlooks and a variety of winter life. Deer, turkeys, coyote and even a stray wolf can be spotted among the forested 300 foot tall sandstone bluffs, according to the Levis Mound website.

Besides those trails, skiing is available for free around the golf course and at the Wazee lake trails.

“Neither of these locations are groomed: but they are available for people to break themselves. Both of those trails are scenic and are great for varying difficulty in trails,” said Barbara Brower, Executive Director at the Chamber of Commerce.

Overall, there many trails and locations for cross country skiing; Black River Falls State Forest, Levis Mound, Millston trails, Wazee Lake trails, and even around your own home.