22-23 SEASON PASSES ON SALE

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The Wisconsin DNR Seeks Input on Non-Ski Activities within RMSP

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The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has made a draft document available for public comment on the future of the Rib Mountain State Park. This time around, as opposed to last year’s study, the written draft is 100% the efforts of Wisconsin from the DNR staff.

My goal is to present the highlights and offer direct links to what I found to be the most compelling and informative parts of the draft. What I am sharing is influenced by my point of view, and to fully understand the draft, I encourage you to read the whole thing. I had the luxury of being on a family vacation to Ohio when this came out. Thanks to Grandma, I enjoyed sever al peaceful mornings over coffee as I read it.  😉 

From the first page, you’ll notice that this draft is not about alpine skiing or snowboarding.  

IT’S NOT ABOUT SKIING – WAIT, WHAT?!?  

You, like me, may have read that and thought, “Huh?” The report focuses on the activities and programming outside of skiing. That particular comment refers to the long-term impact of climate change. The DNR is looking for comments and perspectives on the activities outside of skiing and snowboarding. The DNR will be taking more time to research and develop management for any ski trail expansion. Probably not what you wanted to hear but stick with me.

Yes, there are a few statements about skiing, like this one, that may appear draconian at first bite.

“A central issue in this Rib Mountain State Park Master Plan revision is the future of downhill skiing.” 

You, like me, may have read that and thought, “Huh?” Thise report is focuseds- on the recreational activities and programming outside of skiing. Yet thatThat particular comment refers to the long-term impact of climate change on downhill skiing.

You, like me, may have read that and thought, “Huh?” The report focuses on the activities and programming outside of skiing. That particular comment refers to the long-term impact of climate change. The DNR is looking for comments and perspectives on the activities outside of skiing and snowboarding. The DNR will be taking more time to research and develop management for any ski trail expansion. Probably not what you wanted to hear but stick with me.  

Skiing and snowboarding are alive and well at Granite Peak and across the country. Granite Peak recorded back-to-back record skier visitation the last two years, and the National Ski Areas Association broke a record for visitation during the 2021/2022 ski season, with over 61 million people hitting the slopes! In addition, our snowmaking system is the most powerful in the state, and one Ravino even skied on the Western Slopes well into late May! So we’re doing just fine in terms of snow production and length of the season.

CLIMATE CHANGE will likely become an issue, but not a big one…. for Granite Peak. 

Climate change is a hot topic in the ski industry for the long term, but here are some facts about our last twelve years of skiing at Granite Peak.  

Since 2010 here are opening and closing dates: 

SEASON

2010/11: 

2011/12: 

2012/13:

2013/14: 

2014/15: 

2015/16: 

2016/17: 

2017/18:

2018/19: 

2019/20: 

2020/21: 

2021/22:

OPENING DATE

NOV. 27 

NOV. 25 

NOV. 25 

NOV. 16 

NOV. 15 

NOV. 27 

NOV. 26 

NOV. 11 

NOV. 17 

NOV. 16 

NOV. 25 

NOV. 24

CLOSING DATE

MAR. 12 

MAR. 18

APRIL 13

APRIL 13

APRIL 5

APRIL 9

APRIL 9

MAY 6

APRIL 14 

MAR. 20 (COVID)

APRIL 4

APRIL 16

That’s pretty consistent if you ask me. Strategies for closure were different back in the early 10s, but we’ll always go into April and be the last in the state. Thanksgiving is our opening target, but we’ll go earlier if we can.  

Not sure how our season shrinks? It hasn’t in well over ten years. It may shrink in southern markets where snowmaking temperatures are much more marginal and that unfortunately for our competitive set may hamper skiing at their properties and increase our visitation here. 

Granite Peak is well prepared. In addition to the major investments we have made in snowmaking, the majority of our business, well over 90%, occurs in the core winter months when cold temps should remain more than adequate for skiing for many decades ahead. 

We don’t rely on snowfall. We make it. 

SO WHAT’S IN THIS DRAFT, THEN? 

The draft focuses on the non-skiing activities highlighted in the SE Group Report presented to the public in June 2021. -I wouldn’t expect everyone to read the entire document as it’s rather long and detailed. If you don’t mind my blogging style, I can highlight a few areas that, as your GM, I find essential and hope we can garner your support and express it to the DNR via email. 

So, go ahead and skip to page 20, which provides the associated recreation options, and the DNR preferred options. From here, you can go to the areas in the larger report that interest you most! 

Mountain Biking 

If you follow my blogs or know me personally, you know I have two boys, Ronan (8) and Logan (5). You might know Ronan through our videos. Granite Peak is a proud platinum sponsor of the Central Wisconsin Outdoor Cycling Club (CWOCC), and he is now mountain biking every Wednesday night at Nine Mile State Forest.  

These trails are fantastic, and I highly recommend you check them out. They are only a short drive from Rib Mountain State Park.  

Nine Mile County Forest is at capacity for trails, with no opportunity for further expansion or improvements. The trails at Ringle and Sylvan have maximized all the available acreage. It makes sense that the DNR looks at available terrain at Rib Mountain State Park for additional trails, including the potential for gravity trails that are not readily available most anywhere in the Midwest.   

The draft document highlights opportunities to create multi-use trails for biking and hiking, specific gravity-fed trails, cross-country and flow-style mountain bike trails, along with fat bike trails across the park and within Granite Peak’s footprint. 

PG 14 DRAFT: 

One long term-trend that appears likely to persist is the growth in various types of bicycling. Examples include mountain biking on constructed single-track trails, touring and off-road biking on easier and broader trails, and fat-tire or winter biking on trail types. In addition, e-biking (on all kinds of bikes) is likely to continue its rapid growth. 

Under bicycling, these were the preferred options: 

Option 2:  Provide a multi-purpose trail encircling the mountain suitable for biking and hiking/walking 

Option 4:  Provide an extensive network of mountain biking trails located in both the existing lease area (Granite Peak) and elsewhere in the park, that accommodate a variety of skill levels.  

Option 5: Designate some mountain biking trails for winter fat-tire biking.

I am all for the above, as is the DNR. To properly develop this, though, we need to work together with CWOCC, the DNR, and Granite Peak. Designing new gravity-fed trails in conjunction with additional ski terrain would benefit all parties involved. Expanding the ski terrain goes hand in hand with developing mountain bike trails and terrain.  A lift-served mountain bike offering would not be viable without planning and building these trails in concert with new ski trail development.The terrain can be created to cater to skiers, mountain bikers, and fat bike trails that would not cross over each other nor require constant maintenance rebuilds every spring as the seasons change.

Here is a map of the conceptual multi-purpose trail loop:

HIKING / WALKING 

Rib Mountain State Park currently has several well-defined hiking trails on top of the park and a few off Grouse Lane, including the popular Turkey Vulture trail.  

The DNR has proposed keeping all 13 miles of trails while providing the multi-purpose trail stated above and an increase in hiking-only trails. The DNR is also suggesting the addition of a  – parking area for visitors within the park at Grouse Lane.  

I applaud all of these. Granite Peak can assist with parking access points if we develop more ski terrain in the future. We are currently maxing our parking and will be looking at ways to provide better parking for all activities.

CLIMBING AND BOULDERING

I’m not too knowledgeable about this, but our Risk Manager and Assistant Lift Mechanic Chip is an avid climber and often “boulders” at Rib. Thank you to the DNR for recognizing that we have this geological area in Wisconsin to provide something you really can’t find in many places within the Midwest!  

CAMPING

A while back, camping was offered at the State Park, but it didn’t meet current design standards and was cramped. As a result, the site was converted to day use  areas and has seen more use in this space. Unfortunately, there is very little “flat” space within the park to develop car/rv camping and the DNR thus looked at a smaller potential for a hike-in campsite. The DNR’s preferred option would be to:

Provide a small, rustic campground with a common parking area and facilities.  

This idea is excellent and could be used by hikers and mountain bikers, although it likely will not accommodate the large numbers seeking camping at the park. 

Personal opinion – Glamping sites (tent platforms with pre-set cabana-style tents) would be more popular. 

CROSS COUNTRY SKIING 

The report suggests using the multi-use trail as a XC ski trail. We know that would require the purchase of a specific grooming machine, and anyone hiking this trail on snow shoes or other would likely destroy any consistency for XC. Same with fat bike use in the winter. And then there is the question of making snow…even the small buildup in warmer temperatures in Central Wisconsin has hurt xc skiing in the last decade.

OTHER AREAS: 

The DNR also talks about other areas less focused on physical activities, including adding a Nature Center, the Amphitheater, Habitat Management, and expanding the Project Boundary. In other words, they are looking to expand the park for additional park recreation opportunities with the potential option to connect the Rib Mountain State Park to Marathon County’s Nine Mile County Forest network of trails.  

Lastly, on page 42, the DNR discusses other activities in the Lease Area (aka Granite Peak). We can add mountain biking, horseback riding, and even an alpine slide within our current lease! 

The DNR believes that additional activities within our leased area are possible but that they should be nature-themed and that a mountain coaster or zipline is not consistent with the intent of state parks.  

Within our current lease, we could construct a concrete or plastic-based alpine slide that is 100% gravity-based. A mountain coaster is practically the same thing. It has one mechanical feature and is safer than an alpine slide as the car is attached to the track. It also goes through wooded areas minimizing impact and will provide a beautiful outdoor view in a natural setting. The same goes for a zip-line going down the hill and through the woods.  

Biologists started zip-lines! Wildlife biologists thought that the best way to show people around an ecosystem would be by soaring through the sky.  

These “amusement” rides are gravity-fed attractions and am I correct in thinking they are way more attractive and less invasive than allowing a 300-horsepower, gas powered engine to traverse a pristine lake?   

IN CLOSING 

As a lessee of the park, Granite Peak has continued to be an active participant in this process when asked for input. In addition, I have enjoyed my relationship with the Park Manager  – Bayli, who started within days of when I started as GM at Granite Peak. We work together on capital projects, maintaining the cleanliness of the park area, and we do our best to keep each other in the loop on our work. We are proud of our partnership with Wisconsin DNR and we applaud them for the work they are undertaking in revising the master plan for the park.

There is an area to comment on Draft. You can also have your comments recorded by emailing John Pohlman, DNR Property Planner, with your comments and viewpoints.  

The department will be hosting a public open house meeting on the document:

Wednesday, June 22, 2022, from 4:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.
Northcentral Technical College – Center for Health Sciences Building (Room 1004A/B)
1000 W. Campus Drive, Parking Lot B, Wausau, WI

The current timeline for steps in the Rib Mountain Master Planning Process is as follows: 

After reviewing the draft report, you likely will notice as I have that the reality is only a tiny portion of the overall park land is used for any sort of active recreation! For example, look at the map below.

Even with additional activities and minor development, the majority of the majority of the park  will be preserved in all its natural beauty.

In closing….

If there is one thing that I want you to take away from my longest blog ever is this:  

Granite Peak is a pillar of this community and wishes to be involved in all seasons.  In order to do so we need the cooperation from all the DNR, the community, the Town of Rib Mountain, the public, you.  The development of these activities proposed and discussed need to go hand in hand with the current footprint of our established ski area.  To properly develop these an expansion of ski terrain is needed in order to dedicate the space and scope of the activities, in particular mountain biking, which I think is the #1 called upon activity and one that appears the DNR is in favor of.  

How can you help?  

Comment on the plan in support of additional activities & development at Rib Mountain State Park or email John Pohlman directly with a letter of support and if you agree with the above statement it would be awesome if you mentioned that as well!  🙂  Also if you have time please attend the open house meeting: 

Wednesday, June 22, 2022, from 4:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.
Northcentral Technical College – Center for Health Sciences Building (Room 1004A/B)
1000 W. Campus Drive, Parking Lot B, Wausau, WI

Please feel free as always to comment here.  I’d love to hear your thoughts and answer any questions you might have.  I applaud you for reading my blogs.  Thank you. Until next time! 

Greg

18 Comments

  1. Cole Holtz on June 9, 2022 at 3:07 pm

    What about a disc golf course cheap and easy

    • Greg Fisher on June 10, 2022 at 6:26 am

      I think this easily could be added as well. Something like that would not be invasive at all. Please feel free to add that into any comment support.

  2. felipe strauss on June 9, 2022 at 5:47 pm

    Please consider downhill longboarding as an option, it would be a really cool run!

  3. Zach on June 9, 2022 at 6:16 pm

    Yessss. I would love of you guys put in chair lift Access by trails. They would be some of the only ones inWisconsin.

    • Greg Fisher on June 10, 2022 at 6:27 am

      Assuming you mean chairlift access to mountain bike trails. Yes it would be.

  4. George Klein on June 9, 2022 at 6:30 pm

    Greg,
    Good job on the written presentation of possible directions of Granite Peak and Rib Mountain. I’m glad to see that the DNR and State Park Service are looking to get enthusiasm to use the area more of the year by more people than have used it from late Spring to later Fall. The Granite Peak Ski Area has always drawn quite a significant number of people who help the area’s economy through their visits to ski and snowboard. Why not increase the usability the rest of the year? Makes sense to me and to use the already successful Granite Peak Ski Area with the DNR to manage the new activities.
    Thanks for all you’re doing.

    • Greg Fisher on June 10, 2022 at 6:28 am

      Thanks George. Hope you can add this support to the DNR Comment survey.

  5. Amy Fisher on June 9, 2022 at 6:58 pm

    The more opportunities that are offered for all the better!! Get all members of the community outdoors!

  6. Kristin on June 9, 2022 at 7:47 pm

    There is a safety issue with the people who live around the park to open this up even more to the public. We’ve had people peer into to our windows and point guns at our children and dogs while hunting. With all the schootinga going in this is a hotrible safety issue to the people who live here.

    • Greg Fisher on June 10, 2022 at 6:29 am

      Not sure what side of the park you live on but nobody is allowed to or does hunt on the leased land of Granite Peak nor is hunting allowed in the park itself. Gun violence is a serious issue but unfortunately these seem to be occurring in large mass populations and not in state parks.

  7. Todd Cummings on June 9, 2022 at 8:41 pm

    I am in favor of all options

  8. Vilma sekona on June 9, 2022 at 11:08 pm

    Mountain biking would be awesome! So close to Chicago. I think it would be great for people and for business! Fantastic opportunity

  9. Sandi Hildebrandt on June 10, 2022 at 7:54 am

    Geat Blog – Thank you for taking time to read and condense this to quick reading for us. I printed it off to read and only read a few pages! Looking forward to any upcoming changes!

    • Greg Fisher on June 10, 2022 at 8:03 am

      Thanks Sandi! That’s what I’m here for just a good ole Cliff Notes! Hope you’ll support the effort to expand the park.

  10. Zachery on June 14, 2022 at 9:31 am

    What a great opportunity for the Wausau area business owners, Granite Peak and all of us who participate in outdoor activities and call this lovely city home. I’m in favor of all options!

  11. Joe Rohling on June 14, 2022 at 1:29 pm

    Thanks for this information Greg, a big help. Have skimmed the plan and will give input to the DNR.

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