Written by Jamie Polley
Grab your mittens, hats, and boots — It’s time to get outside with friends and family and enjoy the beautiful winter wonderland we live in!
The Wausau/Marathon County Parks, Recreation & Forestry Department would like to wish you all a happy holiday season and remind you of some wonderful outdoor activities you can partake in on lands and grounds that the County maintains.
This season, may we suggest that you choose of from the following 6 urban outdoor adventures that might make you appreciate our Wisconsin winters a bit more…
1. Go Tubing at Sylvan Hill.
Sylvan Tubing Hill is open Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays from December 14, 2019, to March 8, 2020, with additional holiday hours from December 23 to January 1. The hill offers 6 groomed tubing runs with twists and turns to make folks of all ages smile. Warm up between runs in the chalet, which offers concessions and a warm retreat.
I encourage you to take literally 1 minute out of your day to see an AMAZING ariel view of Marathon County in the winter. At the 4:42 mark in the video below, you can watch drone video footage (shot from 150 feet up) of the snowy ride down “The Big Drop” at Sylvan Hill.
REMEMBER: Tubing “gift certificate” coupons can be purchased at the Park Office or Sylvan Hill. They make a great holiday gift idea! Learn more at the County’s Sylvan Hill webpage.
2. Cross-Country Ski at Sylvan Hill or on the Lighted Trails at Nine-Mile County Forest.
Sylvan Hill Skiing
Sylvan Hill’s cross-country ski trails are groomed throughout the northern part of the park and venture on through a portion of Tribute golf course. Beginner to intermediate trails are available (download a trail map here). No trail pass is required, but a minimum $3 adult/$1.50 child donation is encouraged at the trailhead.
Nine Mile County Forest & Recreation Area has 30 km of groomed trails, including 5.6 km of lighted trails programmed to go on at dusk until 9 p.m. daily during the ski season — A wonderful way to spend some time in the snow-covered woods under the stars.
Amenities include signed trails, parking, ski chalet with fireplace, ski and snowshoe rentals, restrooms, and changing rooms. Trails range from beginner to expert level and are open December 16, 2019, through mid-March 2020, snow conditions permitting. A daily trail fee is required at Nine-Mile County Forest Recreation Area trails. Click here to view 2019–2020 cross-country ski fees and chalet hours.
FREE Adult Cross-Country Ski Lessons
They also have Snow Striders — a children’s ski-lesson program on Sundays, beginning January 5, 2020, for ages 4 through 9. The goal of the program is to get children outside having fun at Nine-Mile Park while they learn to cross-country ski. Pre-registration is required. Click here for details. Once children reach 9 years of age, they can transition into Night Gliders — a competitive ski team for ages 9 to 14. Lessons are held at Nine-Mile County Forest & Recreation Area.
3. Snowshoe at Nine-Mile County Forest or a County Park.
If snowshoes are preferred over skis, Nine-Mile County Forest & Recreation Area has 10.75 km of snowshoe trails.
Or, we invite you to “blaze your own trail” in any of the 34,000+ acres of Country Forest lands. Download a map here of our 10 Marathon County Forest units.
4. Ice-Skate Indoors at Marathon County Ice Arena or at an Outdoor Rink.
Boots, skis, and snowshoes are a few of the ways we can play in the winter. But if they’re not enough, strap on a pair of ice skates and skate indoors or out — whichever you prefer. We can accommodate BOTH!
Indoor Ice Arena
Marathon Park Ice Arena in Wausau offers a variety of open skating times:
- Mondays–Fridays 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.
- Wednesdays 7:00–9:00 p.m.
- Sundays 2:00–5:00 p.m.
Don’t have your own skates? Rentals are available for $3.00/session at the rink.
Or, take in a Wausau RiverWolves hockey game at the Marathon Park Ice Arena. They’re part of the North American Tier III Hockey League (NA3HL) and always deliver an exciting night for audiences.
Tickets (from $5–$10) are available by phone at 715.869.3132 or in person at the RiverWolves office inside the Marathon Park Ice Arena at Marathon Park (1201 Stewart Ave.).
Outdoor Skating Rinks
Weather permitting, outdoor rinks maintained by the Wausau/Marathon County Parks, Forestry, & Recreation Department will be available at:
- 400 Block, Downtown Wausau (Skates can be rented from Shephard & Schaller, across the street from the ice rink.)
- Marathon Park (1201 Stewart Ave., Wausau, near the grandstand)
- Thom Field (N. 13th St., Wausau)
Warming houses will be open Mondays through Fridays from 5:00 to 8:00 p.m. and Saturdays and Sundays from 10:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. — with additional holiday hours December 23–January 1 Monday through Saturday from 1:00 to 8:00 p.m. and Sunday from 1:00 to 4:30 p.m. (Closed December 25 for Christmas Day.)
5. Try Winter-Biking (a.k.a. Fat-Biking) at Big Eau Pleine County Park or the Ringle Trail.
Located just 15 minutes southwest of Mosinee, Big Eau Pleine County Park offers 15+ miles of winter fat-biking trails. Frequent deer and other wildlife sightings can be made while riding on these trails that meander through hardwoods, with periodic views of the Big Eau Pleine Flowage.
Plus, you can try winter biking on the beach — and even right on the Big Eau Pleine Flowage itself — when conditions allow.
About 8–10 miles of the Ringle Trail system are also groomed for fat-biking. The trail is located at the Marathon County Solid Waste Department entrance, about 15 minutes east of Wausau on Highway 29.
The Central Wisconsin Offroad Cycling Coalition (CWOCC) grooms these fat-biking trails in Marathon County throughout the season upon each 5-inch snowfall. Visit http://cwocc.org/ for winter bike trail condition updates.
While trail fees for fat-biking are free, I invite you to visit CWOCC’s Facebook page or website to learn how to help sponsor or support the important work they do grooming and maintaining local bike trails throughout Marathon County.
Or you can become a member of the International Mountain Biking Association (IMBA) and choose CWOCC as your local chapter. The majority of your membership revenue is returned to CWOCC for local trail development!
Snow-biking is allowed through the winter season until March 15, or when the spring thaw arrives, whichever comes first.
6. Go Snowmobiling.
For the 2019–2020 season, there are 791 miles of snowmobile trails in Marathon County for residents and visitors to enjoy — all of which are generously maintained by volunteers at dozens of area snowmobile clubs.
What’s more… NONE of it would be possible without the hospitality of 1,100 private landholders, who allow snowmobile trails to cut across and through their farms and forestlands. [Learn more about this important public–private partnership in Karyn Powers’s snowmobiling article from last winter.]
Trail maps are also available at:
- Wausau DNR Service Center, 5301 Rib Mountain Dr, Wausau
- Wausau/Central Wisconsin Convention & Visitors Bureau, 219 Jefferson St., Wausau
- Various local business represented on trail maps
For 24-hour snow & trail conditions: call 1-888-575-SNOW (7669) or 715-261-1550, or visit the County’s snowmobiling webpage for more tips and information and to see a list of the local snowmobile clubs that you can support.
Remember, you must purchase a Wisconsin snowmobile trail pass.
And keep in mind… Many of the snowmobile trails are open to ATV use, too, as long as the temperature is below 29° and snow conditions are favorable. More ATV trail information is included in the Marathon County Snowmobile Trail Map.
Hope to see you out there enjoying winter in Marathon County!
Director | Wausau / Marathon County Parks, Recreation, & Forestry Department
Jamie Polley is the Director of Parks, Recreation, & Forestry for the City of Wausau and Marathon County. She is a native of Marathon County and after living in Minnesota for 11 years, she made her way back home in 2018. Jamie is excited to lead this unique City/County department forward and tell the story of what the Parks, Recreation, & Forestry Department is and does so that all citizens know of the opportunities available to them. Jamie has a bachelor’s degree in Exercise and Sports Science and a master’s degree in Sports Management. Outside of work, Jamie is an avid runner and loves to spend time with her family enjoying the outdoors. Email Jamie Polley.
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Snowmobiling photo by Jarod Lovekamp via Pexels.com.
All other images courtesy of Marathon/County Parks, Forestry, & Recreation Department, unless otherwise noted.