Early start for winter activities - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

Early start for winter activities

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MADISON (WKOW)-- Cold temps have been the norm in South Central Wisconsin this week, but for some, the winter conditions come with a silver lining. Many activities are getting a jumpstart this season.

Ice rinks in the city of Madison are open in record time. Very seldom are they open in the middle of December. Warming shelters will also be open this weekend at Elver Park, Vilas Park and Tenney Park.

"Since I've been here we've had ice rinks sometimes open around Christmas time, sometimes mid January," Madison Parks Public Relations Coordinator Laura Whitmore says. "We've even had one season I remember where we had ice for about one week and it was in February and we were done."

Some sledding hills are also open. The hill at Elver Park is open thanks to the city of Madison's snowmaking machines that were able to produce a few inches of snow for sledders.

Ice fishermen have also been busy. Some have been fishing the Yahara Chain of Lakes for two weeks already. On Friday, a few fishermen were out on Upper Mud Lake using a brand new public access trail that Dane County opened this week.

"This is great," ice fisherman Bryce Kalschuer says. "What else have you got to do in the winter? There's not much. You can go skiing or snowboarding, but if you want something free to do right here in town just go fishing."

Fishermen on Upper Mud Lake report ten inches of ice. The Wisconsin State Climatology Office says Lake Monona and Lake Wingra are also frozen over and safe, but Lake Mendota is still quite open and unsafe in areas.

"The cold temps have made fantastic ice. It's clear and it's hard, but you have to still use a lot of caution and common sense," Dane County Park Planner Chris James says.

While some winter activities like sledding, ice fishing and outdoor hockey are getting an early start to the season, many other activities are still on hold until we get a little bit more snow.

Snowmobile trails have to have six to eight inches before they can open for the season. Cross country trails are open in Dane County, but closed in city of Madison. However, park officials say the one or two inches we're expected to see this weekend might just be enough to get them open for the season.

Park officials say two relatively new winter activities are becoming really popular in Dane County, snowshoeing and winter mountain biking. Trails for both activities are already open for the season.

For a full list of open parks and trails in the city of Madison visit: http://www.cityofmadison.com/parks/

The Madison Parks Department already has several outdoor events planned in January. Some are already posted on their website.

For Dane County parks and trails visit: http://www.countyofdane.com/lwrd/parks/

The 24/7 Trails Information Line for Dane County is 608-242-4576.
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