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Consider These Wisconsin Sites For Winter Fun

Statewide, There Are Plenty Of Places To Go And Resources To Get You There

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Granite Peak, Wausau, mountain, skiing
Granite Peak Ski Area in Wausau. vxla (CC BY 2.0)

If anything, Wisconsin’s winter weather is fickle. And its massive snow dumpings, polar vortexes and occasional above-freezing temperatures can mean planned winter activities are just as subject to change.

Stephanie Klett has plenty ideas for activities to do during the winter, and she’s got the tools to keep you on top of any winter weather surprises that might spring up.

During a recent interview on WPR’s “The Morning Show” on what happened to be her last day as secretary of tourism for the state, Klett plugged Travel Wisconsin’s Snow Report — a comprehensive look at each county’s conditions related to snowmobiling, skiing and snowboarding that details whether trails are groomed, what the conditions are, how many inches of snow there is and what current temperatures are.

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The site is fed by more than 100 reporters in all counties who collaborate with state parks, trail groomers, ski areas, snowmobile clubs and others to ensure the site is updated frequently.

Keep that resource in mind, Klett suggested, as you get out and explore the snow-covered state this winter season, including some of Klett’s personal recommendations:

Outdoor Locales

When it comes to outdoor activities during the winter, Klett said it’s hard to beat what Wausau has to offer.

Granite Peak Ski Area, which has been active for about 70 years, is one of the nation’s oldest ski hills. Some family-friendly features here include 75 runs, four terrain parks, two high-speed chairlifts and the largest vertical descent in the state.

“In the winter they have live music, they do bonfires — it is a party atmosphere,” she said.


Nine Mile County Forest Recreation Area. Photo courtesy of Emily Dohms

Nine Mile Forest Recreation Area features 20 miles of groomed cross-country ski trails and is one of the few places that is lit at night, Klett said.

According to Marathon County Parks, Recreation and Forestry Department, the park has more than 4,900 acres and is maintained for mountain biking, hiking, snowmobiling and snowshoeing during winter.

Sunburst Winter Sports Park in Kewaskum is one of the nation’s largest tubing parks and is located 5 miles north of West Bend.

“If you’re not a skier and you’re not as active as you want to be, hit some of our snow tubing hills,” Klett said of Sunburst, which also offers space to ski and snowboard.

Sylvan Hill in Wausau holds the record for longest run in the state at 1,200 feet, and is another option for those looking for places to go tubing.


Candlelight skiing in Walworth. Sandor Weisz (CC BY-NC 2.0)

The Lake Geneva Ice Castle might be a fitting option for those who want to gaze a little longer at winter creations.

The ice castle in Lake Geneva is one of six built in the United States each year using thousands of icicles that are placed by professional artists. The castles take about two months to build and can weigh more than 25 million pounds.


Cave of the Mounds. Anna Hesser (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Indoor Activities

Cave of the Mounds is a national, natural landmark that stays at a cool 50 degrees all year-round, Klett said, which can feel balmy on an arctic day.

This site is 30 miles west of Madison, and was discovered by accident in 1939 by quarry workers who were blasting near the cave.

This is a great option for kids, Klett said, because apart from the one-hour guided tour, there are gemstone mines and fossil digs, a museum rock shop, a discovery center and winter enrichment programs for kids.

Wisconsin Dells is another winter option with its indoor water parks and live show and theater performances all year, such as the Rick Wilcox 90-minute magic show.

If you’re in the mood for a natural tan, try the Wilderness Resort. In one of the four indoor water parks, the Wild WaterDome, there’s a transparent roof that allows natural sunlight in that tans visitors and feeds tropical plants.

Nearby is the Kalahari Resort — the state’s largest indoor water park with looping water slides, a lazy river and plenty of non-water options such as a bowling alley and Ferris wheel inside of an arcade center.

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