Dane County Parks provides provides designated groomed ski trails from the first of December through March. Grooming begins when there is at least four inches of snow and consistent freezing temperature, which is not always the first snowfall of the year. This allows for a good trail base to form and allows trails to remain frozen after grooming. When conditions are favorable (4" or more of snow), trails will be groomed once a week. The most popular trails will be groomed near the end of the week to provide the best skiing conditions on the weekend.
Dane County Parks uses two machines to provide ideal skiing conditions throughout the season. An ASV Scout, SC50, tracked utility vehicle pulling a modified Tidd-Tech groomer with track setter is the main piece of trail grooming equipment. The secondary machine is a RTV 1100C tracked Kubota pulling a modified Tidd-Tech groomer with track setter.
Note that snowshoeing, winter hiking, and dogs are NOT allowed on designated cross-country ski trails when snow is present even if they have not yet been groomed. Skiers can set their own track even if there is minimal snow cover and other activities on the trails will degrade the trail for ski permit holders.
Dane County and the City of Madison Parks have a joint Ski Trail Permit that allows patrons to ski on all City or County groomed ski trails. Ski trail permits are required for all skiers 16 years and older. Permits are available online.
Cross-country skiing on trails that are not designated groomed ski trails is allowed (no permit required) at all Dane County Parks and properties. However, these activities are weather dependent and some parking areas may have limited or no access during snow conditions. These trails are not groomed.
These trails are groomed from the first of December through March when there is at least four inches of snow and consistent freezing temperature.
In the late 1970’s and early 1980's there was large push to promote and provide Nordic winter skiing activities on public park lands. The Park Commission approved designated winter ski trails at specific County Parks, the first one at Indian Lake County Park. A public/private partnership purchased the first grooming equipment for the maintenance of these trails. Dane County Parks currently has five designated parks with trail systems for cross-country skiing. Ski Permit fees help offset the cost of grooming these trails.