Students, faculty create cross-country ski trails

More than 20 University of Wisconsin-Platteville Health and Human Performance students, faculty and staff recently created cross-country ski trails for people on campus and in the community to use and enjoy.

The trail extends from the bridge near Bridgeway Commons Residence Hall to Memorial Park, then follows along the walking path by the creek and loops back to the bridge. Health and human performance students, faculty and staff will keep the trails maintained until the snow melts or until conditions for grooming will not allow a snowmobile on the course.

The idea for the new trail system originated with Dr. Scott Ringgenberg, associate professor and coordinator of the Health and Human Performance Program at UW-Platteville, who wanted to bring back the trails that were made in the 1990s.

“When I began teaching at UW-Platteville in 2000, the person who used to make the trails retired, so we no longer had the equipment,” he said. “I knew that many people had enjoyed using the trails, so during the cross-country skiing portion of my Outdoor Activities course, my students and I self-made the course with our skis. This led to a very rough but usable trail.”

Ringgenberg noted that to truly enjoy cross-country skiing, however, a well-maintained trail is best. “A well-groomed trail allows success for all abilities because your skis stay in the tracks and you can keep your balance better,” he said.

Three years ago, Ringgenberg’s dream of creating well-groomed cross-country ski trails became possible when he was awarded a grant from the Pioneer Academic Center for Community Engagement (now known as the Student Research and Engagement Fund) to purchase a trail maker, a piece of equipment that makes two ski tracks and a smooth outside edge.

Recently, Ringgenberg and his students enlisted the support of Dr. Ben Krings, an assistant professor in the Health and Human Performance Program, who provided a snowmobile to pull the trail maker through the entire cross-country ski course, which greatly improved the smoothness of the trails.

Ringgenberg noted that cross country-skiing is a fun winter activity that has many health benefits. “Cross-country skiing is considered the best total body workout, because you are using your upper and lower body muscles in a coordinated movement to propel yourself,” he said. “I hope our entire campus community and community members enjoy the trails and help maintain them by not walking on the groomed tracks.” 

“There are a variety of challenges on the course,” said Bailey Elliot, a sophomore physical education major at UW-Platteville. “The flat areas allow the beginner skier to find proper technique and balance, while the hills test your cardiovascular system and ability to ski downhill.”

The Student Research and Engagement Fund is a UW-Platteville initiative and funding source for community-based scholarship of engagement and undergraduate research projects that involve students, faculty, staff and community partners.