Skiing in Madison, Wis.? Now That's a Capital Idea

Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL), October 25, 1998 | Go to article overview

Skiing in Madison, Wis.? Now That's a Capital Idea


Byline: Mike Michaelson

There's no hibernating when winter arrives at Madison, Wis., not with the campus of the University of Wisconsin in full swing and with a busy calendar of arts and entertainment and a variety of outdoor recreation.

Built on an isthmus between lakes Monona and Mendota, the Wisconsin capital, population about 200,000, is nestled among five lakes and threaded by more than 200 parks that provide a variety of opportunities for ice fishing, ice boating, skating, sledding and cross-country skiing - including lighted trails for night skiing.

In the event that the coming winter season doesn't provide the snow-starved conditions of last year, one of Madison's hot spots for Nordic skiing will be Elver Park on the city's West Side. As the premier Nordic-ski destination in Madison's extensive park system, Elver Park offers 10 kilometers of groomed trails ranging from easy to advanced with 6 kilometers lighted for night use.

Trails are groomed for both the classical "striding" and the "skating" styles of skiing. A warming shelter and an abundance of trees help protect skiers from the wind. A $2-a-day trail-use fee was instituted last year. Elver also makes a popular destination for sledding, with a long slope, and offers lighted skating and hockey.

Another favorite with local skiers, Odana Golf Course, also requires a $2-a-day fee. It offers 5.7 kilometers of easy trails groomed for skating/diagonal skiing. A clubhouse sells snacks and rents skis on weekends.

Other groomed trails in city parks include: Owen Park, 2.6 kilometers of intermediate skiing across prairie and woodland (diagonal grooming only); Monona Golf Course, 3.6 miles of easy skiing across gently rolling terrain (skating/diagonal grooming); Cherokee Marsh (South Unit), 5 kilometers of easy-to-intermediate skiing across woodlands and marsh (diagonal grooming only); and Olin-Turville Park, 5 kilometers of easy-to-intermediate skiing through wooded areas that offer scenic lake vistas (diagonal grooming only).

Nordic skiers also head for state parks in the Madison area. These include: Governor Nelson State Park, 4.5 miles over flat hilly terrain, with the course marked, groomed and tracked; Blue Mound State Park, 14 miles of rolling, hilly trails; and Glacial Drumlin State Trail, a 47-mile trail developed on an abandoned railroad grade.

You'll find boundless opportunities for apres-ski fun in the Madison area. Visitors in search of potables can imbibe at an array of brew pubs, micro-breweries and wineries and enjoy a lively night life. The Great Dane Pub and Brewing Company, just a block from Capitol Square, is a microbrewery offering about a dozen handcrafted brews made on the premises. It also is a popular spot for casual dining with a menu that features a variety of burgers and hot sandwiches as well as fish and chips, brats and mash, and chicken pot pie.

More upscale is the Brownstone Grille, housed in a former bank building that the restaurant shares with law offices. Start with shrimp-and-apple quesadilla or tuna carpaccio followed by roast chicken breast with blue jalapeno corn bread or baked salmon with a ginger and black peppercorn crust.

Another elegant spot, the Opera House Restaurant and Wine Bar, features regional cuisine made with seasonally available ingredients.

Culturally, Madison offers a resident orchestra, opera, repertory theater and a full performing-arts schedule at the University of Wisconsin. The coming holiday season brings productions of "A Christmas Carol" (Nov. 27-Dec. 23) and "The Nutcracker" (Dec. 11-20), both at Madison Civic Center.

Downtown's Museum Mile includes the State Historical Museum, Madison Children's Museum, Madison Art Center, the University's Elvehjem Art Museum and the Wisconsin Veteran's Museum. The latter uses dioramas to chronicle American military activities from the Civil War through the Persian Gulf conflict. …

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