Video University Ridge offers a ski course for the public

March 3, 2017 By Kelly April Tyrrell

Mother Nature can be a fickle creature. For instance, on Feb. 22, 2017, temperatures at the Dane County Regional Airport hit 68 degrees. This was bad news for Madison’s cross-country skiers.

But there is good news for those who enjoy hitting the trails on their skinny skis when Mother Nature does grace southern Wisconsin with reliable snow. University Ridge, a University of Wisconsin–Madison Athletics facility on the west side of Madison, began offering cross-country skiing in 2015. They have continued to do so ever since.

“University Ridge was looking for off-season business and a way to continue serving the university and UW Athletics communities as well as the public,” says G. Michael Gaspard, general manager at University Ridge Golf Course.

With the help of MadNorSki (the Madison Nordic Ski Club), University Ridge in 2015 blazed snowy trails on the undulating, glacially carved terrain. MadNorSki also donated lights to the facility, allowing night skiing Monday through Thursday until 9 p.m.

Ryan Wieme, the head golf professional at University Ridge — who had never skied before the course was made available for the sport — has taken the reins on keeping the trails groomed and well-maintained. “It’s fun and totally different from what we’re usually doing in the summer,” he says, noting on one particular February day following a good storm that the “snow is moving right” under the groomer.

For Cary Forest, a professor of physics at UW–Madison and a co-president of MadNorSki, it means a lot to be able to offer more to the area community. The club works with local schools to get kids outdoors on skis, focusing particularly on underrepresented youth. On Feb. 4, University Ridge hosted more than 140 middle and high school athletes competing in the Southern Conference Championship ski races.

“Youth programs are a huge part of why we work to have places like University Ridge,” Forest says.

Despite an unusually warm winter, University Ridge continues to hope to expand its winter membership going forward, says Gaspard. Adult day passes are $9 and seasonal memberships are $54. For those under age 18, day passes cost $3 and memberships just $18. Day passes for UW students, faculty and staff are $6 or membership is $36. University Ridge also rents classic skis, poles and boots for adults and youth for $9 a day.

“Madison embraces skiing,” Gaspard says. “We are open to the public, we are a resource to help keep people active year-round, and we’ll take as many people as we can get.”