Sunday, January 24, 2010

Ski Kalamazoo

While Kalamazoo always has snowy winters, the weather isn't consistent enough to make long-term plans for cross-country skiing. When I lived in Wisconsin, it was always so cold that if snow fell it would be on the ground for months. Being east of Lake Michigan, Kalamazoo gets more snow but also warmer temperatures, so we cycle between deep snow and melt. It's boom & bust for skiing. This year, early January had deep powdery snow & excellent ski conditions. A couple of weeks ago, it warmed enough to make the snow too dense and icy. Last night it rained and bare ground re-appeared for the first time this season. In Kalamazoo, skiers need to be opportunistic.

My favorite places for cross-country skiing in Kalamazoo are:

Al Sabo Preserve

This large natural area was preserved to protect the quality of Kalamazoo's drinking water. There are several miles of well-marked cross-country trails through fields and woods, with enough hills to make it interesting. Texas Township Parks and Recreation department has online information including black & white and color maps.
Location: Take Milham Road west to Texas Drive. The parking lot is on the right between 8th and 12th; there's no sign but it's immediately next to the entrance to the Rota-Kiwan scout camp.

Asylum Lake Preserve

Western Michigan University owns a few hundred acres of woods, lakes, and restored prairie, just north of its engineering campus. Trails loop through the property, allowing for outings of various lengths. Asylum Lake Preserve website
Location: On Drake Road, just south of Stadium Drive. Parking available off Drake Rd., Parkview Avenue, and on-street in the Winchell neighborhood.

Schrier Park
Located in south Portage, this large park connects to Bishops Bog Preserve, South Westnedge Park, and West Lake Nature Preserve, so relatively long outings are possible. Trails loop through woods within the park. The first sections of the trails are paved, so there needs to be fairly deep snow for good skiing. The City of Portage hosts an annual Winter Sports Fest in the park in January. Schrier Park webpage
Location: 850 West Osterhout Road; Portage, MI.
Take Westnedge Avenue south to Osterhout; turn right on Osterhout; the well-marked entrance is on the right.

None of these locations grooms their trails and non-skiers use the same paths so tracks can be hit or miss. Conditions are best after a fresh snow.

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