Seal of Dane County County of Dane
Dane County Parks

Cross-country Skiing

Dane County Parks offers two ways to enjoy cross-country skiing:  on free trails (ungroomed except for McCarthy) or groomed trails, which require a Ski Trail Permit for use.

Groomed ski trails are provided from the first of December through March. Grooming begins when there is at least four inches of snow and consistent freezing temperature, which is not always the first snowfall of the year. This allows a good trail base to form and allows trails to remain frozen after grooming. When conditions are favorable (4" or more of snow), trails will be groomed once a week. The most popular trails will be groomed near the end of the week to provide the best skiing conditions on the weekend.

Note that snowshoeing, winter hiking, and dogs are NOT allowed on designated cross-country ski trails when snow is present even if they have not yet been groomedSkiers can set their own track even if there is minimal snow cover and other activities on the trails will degrade the trail for ski permit holders.


Ski Trail Maps

Free Trails - No Permit Required

Cross-country ski for FREE at the locations below. Please note some parking areas may have limited or no access during certain snow conditions - view Plowed Winter Parking for more information.

  • Ungroomed trails at all Dane County Parks / Properties
  • Groomed trails at McCarthy Youth & Conservation County Park (PDF) - these are the ONLY groomed trails where a permit is not required (grooming is courtesy of the Friends of McCarthy)
Trails - Permit REQUIRED

A daily or annual Ski Trail Permit is required for skiers 16 years and older. Note that Dane County and City of Madison Parks have a joint Ski Trail Permit that allows patrons to ski on all City and County groomed ski trails.

Additional Information

Trail Conditions (other websites)

History and Grooming Details

  • In the late 1970’s and early 1980's there was large push to promote and provide Nordic winter skiing activities on public park lands. The Park Commission approved designated winter ski trails at specific County Parks, the first one at Indian Lake County Park. A public/private partnership purchased the first grooming equipment for the maintenance of these trails. Dane County Parks currently has five designated parks with trail systems for cross-country skiing. Ski Permit fees help offset the cost of grooming these trails.
  • Dane County Parks uses two machines to provide ideal skiing conditions throughout the season. An ASV Scout, SC50, tracked utility vehicle pulling a modified Tidd-Tech groomer with track setter is the main piece of trail grooming equipment. The secondary machine is a RTV 1100C tracked Kubota pulling a modified Tidd-Tech groomer with track setter.