I might have quit skiing this winter

A couple of winters ago I learned how to skate ski. Well, let me rephrase that, I started skate skiing. It requires quite a bit of technique to skate ski efficiently and while I had a lot of fun, got some great exercise and enjoyed the trails in the Kettle Moraine State Forest, I didn’t do it enough to get any good at it.

As much as I enjoyed skiing, it was a drag that I had to drive to do it.  Skate skiing requires a groomed trail, and the closest place to find one of those is about 25 miles away at Lapham Peak. My wife and I share one car and, really, about the only reason we have a car is because she and my daughter have a horse in Racine and they need the car to get there.  So, on weekends they often have the car, which leaves me scrounging for rides from friends.

I strapped my skis to my studded tire equipped Waterford and tried biking there a couple of times, but it was a drag riding home all sweaty, exhausted and cold from skiing. As a result of the lack of nearby skating trails, I found myself skiing less and less. Don’t get me wrong, skiing is a blast, but for a Milwaukee guy who lives a car-lite lifestyle, it is just too hard to do. It ended up that about the only exercise I got by the end of last winter was riding my bike for transportation to work, the store and to go out at night.

Me out making Northpaw prints on the mountain bike tails in Wauwatosa. Photo by Russell Jobs.


This winter has been a whole different story, thanks to the great mountain bike trails along the Menomonee River near my house and to my Schlick Northpaw.  Regular readers will remember I broke down and bought a Northpaw in the fall after I saw all the fun people were having doing beach rides. I have done a bit of riding along Lake Michigan right after I got my Northpaw. Beach rides are a great time, but I can ride regular bikes on the road and trails during nice weather.

Thanks to Greg Smith from Schlick Cycles, I am out making ‘paw prints on the Tosa trails about three times a week.  It is fun, doesn’t require me to drive, and is a great exercise. Riding a fatbike though freshly fallen snow is a pretty strenuous workout.  Although I do stop to take photos and just admire the scenery, it takes me almost three hours to ride 16 miles if I am breaking new trail.  It is faster if the trails are packed down a bit, but pedaling those 4 inch tires around the snow, running 8-12 psi, is harder than regular mountain biking no matter what the conditions are.

Angela, rubber side down, on the trails along the Menomonee River. Photo by Russell Jobs.


Group rides are another benefit of joining the fatbike club.  Lots of my neighborhood pals now have fatbikes, so it is pretty easy to find a group to ride with on weekends. It is funny, but Facebook has recommended I “friend” a number of people who I recently met on fatbike rides.

A case in point is Angela Theriault. Facebook has been suggesting I request to be friends with Angela for at least a year.  You know those things that pop up and say you have 41 friends in common?  I may be old-fashioned (or just plain old), but I typically ignore those suggestions until I actually meet someone in person. Today I met Angela on a ride Russell called together.

Slow speeds and soft snow keep the damage to a minimum when you go down on the trails in the snow.


Angela came to ride the trails with us and brought a positive attitude and her Trek Fuel with 26″ regular mountain bike tires. ‘Tosa Trail regulars Coop, Bubba, Russell and I all had fatbikes for the ride. A good sport, Angela proved with a smile that you certainly don’t need a fatbike to have fun riding the mountain bike trails in the snow, but I think she would admit it is not as easy on skinny tires. Angela is a pretty fast racer in her own right, so the only trouble she had keeping up with the big boys on their big toys, was a lack of traction.

Russell showing me why he is the master of the panda.


It was great meeting Angela in person, and I had another great winter ride on the trails. Thanks to Russell for putting together a great group ride. Thanks to Milwaukee’s own Schlick Cycles for making the Northpaw, a fabulous fatbike.  Meanwhile, my skate skis are on long-term loan to a friend who has two cars, but no fatbike.

Anyone else had the same epiphany of winter fun after splurging on a fatbike?

About Dave Schlabowske, Deputy Director

Dave was the first full-time staff member hired to open the Bike Fed's Milwaukee office 15 years ago. A former professional photographer and life-long Milwaukee resident, Dave likes wool, long rides, sour beer, and a good polar vortex once in a while.

6 thoughts on “I might have quit skiing this winter

  1. Hi Dave! I saw this post on the “Silent Sports” FB page. I appreciate your dilemma! Friends and I ran into it also, some years ago. And we solved it in a way that might still interest you: we do “just plain trail skiing.” You’re right: skate skiing requires being umbilically attached to a stinky ol’ groomer and the invasive trailwork needed to make way for it. Trail skiing needs nuttin’ but snow! We love skiing our same old summer singletrack. Skis deliver fitness plus joy, sweet joy. We rarely drive much to ski. There are SO MANY MORE just-plain-trails out there than groomed trails. Our explorations are endless. Plus we do golf courses and meandering networks of wetlands. Our take on skiing is “all skiing is one” but less impact/overhead is more better. And “all outdoor fun is one,” too. Skating is by no means “better” for cycling than trail skiing. It’s all good. And it’s all “fast.” We’re just loving the new-era cuffed tour boots and nimble midlength skis. Great for turning, great for climbing. It’s the mtbike version of skiing! Our motto: “Ski what ya ride!”

    • Hey Jeff,

      I like that motto and that esthetic. I do see a few folks classic skiing out local mtb/hiking trails. And we do have people that ski the golf courses that border some of our mtb trails along the river. Perhaps I will go back to classic and give the mountain biking of skiing a try! Just curious, but I assume this is the same Jeff Potter who was a regular on the iBOB list, oh so long ago?

  2. A couple of winters ago, I took up cross-country skiing. As a beginner, I started off with diagonal skiing. Even though this year, I haven’t been out on my skis, I’d still find that as a diagonal skier, I can still cut my own path as necessary parallel to the Oak Leaf Trail starting from near Brady St. I believe that Brown Deer Park may have a groomed trail for skate skiing which is accessable via the #12 bus. Also the #30 Florist bus stops by Havenwoods State Park.

    • Barry, Brown Deer Park is a good suggestion. I did ski there a couple times last year, but the bus does not get you very close. I think the 12 and the 30 leave you with a walk of about a mile.

      • Dave — I feel the same way about the long drives 0ut to Lapham, or up to Green Bush, to get ready for the Birkie. I am certainly looking forward to the winter of 2013-14, when hopefully (1) we’ll have greate snow; (2) the OLT will be extended from Hampton up to Brown Deer Park, and (3) I can strap my skis, boots and poles on my back, and shoot up and back from Shorewood to Brown Deer for a good ski. More fun, less gas-consumption guilt! Brown Deer ain’t Lapham, but when it has snow, it’s a good time, and you can get a good work out in.

        • Yeah, you can’t get the hill work at Brown Deer, but a trip down the trail makes it so much easier to get to. That final connection is really going to be great. That is sort of why I rarely mountain bike anywhere other than the Tosa trails. I know there are other, better places to ride, but with time being limited and no need to drive, 99% of the time I prefer to ride from my doorstep.

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