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 groomed. Skiers 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.
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.
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.
Trail Conditions (other websites)
History and Grooming Details