At 8:30 in the morning, I headed for Hickory Ridge outside of Bloomer. Traffic was non-existent but I paid attention while crossing Chippewa Falls because on the previous morning I was almost hit by someone running a stop sign. A family from the Edgecumbe team had their car totaled by a drunk driver. The result of living in the town with a famous brewery? Hard to tell ...
The landscape north of Chippewa Falls was rather flat, infact the wide and shallow valley of O'Neill Creek with low hills on either side. All along 124, I noticed many homesteads with abandoned farmhouses. Often, the barns were still in use but there were some spectaculare ruins, testimony to decades of consolidation, away from small family farms to larger scale operations.
Directions were good, there were even signs pointing to Hickory Ridge Ski Area. That did not prevent me from overshooting the intersection with 226th, even though I clearly read the street sign.
When I arrived at Hickory Ridge, only one other car was in the parking lot. I did not waste any time and got going after taking a quick look at the map. I decided to do the outside loop, crossing Hickory Trail and abstain from adding the Tram Lake loop. I stopped to take a photo at Paws Lake and continued. The description on the Hickory Ridge warns that "the trail system consists of three loops, all loops are challenging to the skier, with rolling to steep grades." This is correct, though I found that there were sufficient level areas to recuperate a bit between climbs.
View Hickory Ridge Ski Area, Bloomer, WI in a larger map
When I got to the Tram Lake Loop, I could not resist and had to take the scenic route. I am glad I did, the landscape was pretty, the snow was a grade above what I found on the remainder of the trail and it was only about an extra 3.5 km. Speaking of trail conditions: except for the Tram Lake Loop, the trail was about 50/50 good snow and glazed over, the latter especially on exposed south and west facing slopes. Debris on the trail was minimal. The only times the snow conditions were bothersome was on steep, twisty slopes with glazing.
I caught up with the folks from the car in the lot on the Tram Lake Loop. At the rate they wer going they would have a long day on the trail. When I was almost back at the parking lot, I met another couple heading out and at the parking lot, two more cars had jst arrived with three skiers. Very light use. 14+ km in an hour, a good workout in a beautiful environment.