SILENT SPORTS ACTION by: Matt Ostrander
XC skiing: Nordic skiing is a huge part of our community. Kids start as toddlers in the Nordic Kids program. The MS and HS program has always been strong, with several state championships. The American Birkebeiner is part of the elite Worldloppet ski series; last year it drew 13,500 skiers from 47 states and 25 countries to our little town. The people at the American Birkebeiner Ski Foundation are geniuses at organizing all kinds of events, but they couldn’t do it without the amazing volunteer spirit that exists in Hayward. Within 20 miles of Hayward, there are at least 90 miles of groomed ski trails, in all degrees of difficulty. You can buy or rent ski gear, and get trail recommendations or waxing service, at New Moon Ski and Bike or Riverbrook Bike and Ski. If you want to know more about skiing options and trail conditions, I’d recommend birkie.com, spelled B-I-R-K-I-E, and skinnyski.com
Fat biking: This is a sport that is really coming on strong. We’re seeing a lot of people come from the Twin Cities and even up from the Milwaukee and Chicago areas just to enjoy our groomed fat bike trails. CAMBA, the Chequamegon Area Mountain Bike Association, gets most of the credit for that. They have created and maintain about 400 miles of mountain bike trails, and over 50 miles of those get groomed for fat bikes in the winter. Their trails range from easy, flow-style trails for the beginner to longer trails with challenging hills and features for the experienced rider. You’ll find tons of information about that on cambatrails.org. Also, the American Birkebeiner Ski Foundation hosts the Fat Bike Birkie in March on the world-famous Birkie Trail, with racing options of 47K, 21K, and a fun, untimed 10K event. That’s all described on birkie.com.
Snowshoeing: This is an activity that’s near and dear to me—I’ve been an avid snowshoer for 35 years. Several area parks offer snowshoeing trails, but most notably the Hayward Hospital grounds, Hatchery Creek County Park, and the Town of Hayward Recreational Forest. Or, if you’re like me, you can just strike out into thousands of acres of county forest and make your own trail. The great thing about snowshoeing is that no matter how deep you go into the woods, you can always find your way back. Just dress in layers and bring something to eat and drink, because it’s hard work and you’ll want to stay out all day. A lot of people like to snowshoe with fancy trekking poles, but I’m usually carrying either a camera or a shotgun. If you want to just try snowshoeing for a day and see if you like it, you can rent a pair of shoes from New Moon Ski and Bike for $20 per day.
Hiking: If the snow’s not too deep, all of the places I just mentioned are also hiking opportunities. If it does get too deep to hike in the woods, you can always enjoy the six-mile paved recreational trail that encircles Hayward. It’s mostly plowed in the winter, and where it’s not, there are adjacent streets you can follow.
Other: When I’m entertaining family from out of town, I love to take them sledding at the Town of Hayward Recreational Forest. It’s a big hill with parking right next to it, and a pavilion and bathroom close by. There are also opportunities for ice skating in town, at the Hayward Sport Center, the Tot Lot playground, or Shue’s Pond. Many area runners go all through the winter, either running in town or using some of our well-plowed Sawyer county roads. My coldest run in Hayward was in 30-below weather, with a wind chill of -50. As cross-country coach and Birkie skier Dave Landgraf said, “There is no bad weather, just bad clothing.”
Lodging and Hospitality: Within the city of Hayward, you can find a supper club, a steakhouse, Chinese food, Mexican restaurants, pizza, and bar-and-grill establishments. If you’re willing to drive less than 15 miles outside of Hayward, you’ll find dozens more supper clubs, bar-and-grills, fish fries, breakfast-and-lunch diners, Italian and German restaurants, you name it.
In the Hayward Lakes area, there are dozens of resorts on lake shores, many of which are open year-round. In addition, there are many private vacation homes and a B&B for rent, and several hotels and motels right in town. You can check out your restaurant and lodging options by going to haywardlakes.com and clicking on “Where to Eat” or “Where to Stay.”
You can find updated trail conditions and maps for all of these sports–plus snowmobiling–at our website, haywardlakes.com. Hayward is really heaven on earth for silent sports enthusiasts, who know that winter can be the most exciting time of year. Remember: “It’s only cold if you’re standing still!”