Upper Hixon: (Winter Conditions) Fair. Minimal snow, but don't let that stop you from getting out and enjoying the trails.
The Gateway: Trails are ok. Some wet/soft spots.
Lower Hixon: (Winter Conditions) Fair. Trails are groomed but remain soft. Please run low PSI, use rock skis, or snowshoe.
Star Wars Galaxy in Upper Hixon: OB1 and Vader are open. Use caution as ice may be present. JEDi and Nerfherder are closed until spring.


Surfing on Lake Michigan?!

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Winter Solstice is upon us and winter is finally here! Normally I am doing a snow dance with hopes of making some powder turns on my snowboard. Lately I have become even more obsessed with the changing weather and keeping my fingers crossed for what some would think of less than ideal weather conditions. Why you may ask? Well I finally jumped in and started surfing! That’s right surfing in Wisconsin on Lake Michigan.

I guess there has always been a draw to surfing from my board sports background. As a kid I remember trips to the ocean always being in awe of the surfers. To dabbling in skateboarding, which I was never very good at. The obvious transition was snowboarding, which eventually lead to a surf lesson on a trip Florida years back.  Fast forward a few years and a job change that allows me a little more last minute flexibility and a super rad understanding wife, Thanks Tarah! I picked up a new sport, surfing. So last fall I rented a board a few times and jumped right in. First time in the water and I was hooked. So like any typical gear-head I bought my first longboard this summer from Jake at Lake Effect Surf Shop in Milwaukee.

As much fun as the actually surfing is, the surf community on the Lake is just as awesome. I’ve sat in the lineup as a newbie and felt welcomed by veteran surfers. I’ve meet people from around the Midwest and around the country that have come to surf the Lakes. I’ve always been drawn to the water and surfing continues that draw for me. So why not try something new. I think part of the draw is that it’s just something not many people around here do. It’s even kind of fun to see peoples confused reactions when I tell them I’m learning to surf on Lake Michigan. Thick wetsuit, booties, gloves or mitts cold water, cold air temps and some wind sounds like an ideal learning environment, ha! In some weird way it’s all worth it even for that short moment when you catch that one wave you have been waiting for. There is some connection I feel with the water that is hard describe, surfing truly is a soulful experience. Feeling the raw power of the water and nature truly is amazing! That’s what keeps me eager to learn and progress. Even if it means hours in the car traded for just minutes in the water, it’s worth it.

Well, time to watch the forecast and look for the next window of opportunity!

-Bryan T


Trail Friends Fund

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Dear Trail Friend,

As you well know, I can go on for hours about outdoor recreation (or just about anything else), so I’ll spare you some time and get to the point.  Without the support of friends like you, ORA wouldn’t be where we are today, and we wouldn’t have a vision for tomorrow.  In the last year and a half, we have seen enough changes to last a decade. Our biggest change is the addition of  three staff members.  With full time staff members, we can increase communication, organization, messaging, follow-through, and every other aspect of the organization, resulting in more miles of trails, more volunteer hours, more celebrations, and a better outdoor experience for all.  Now we are ready to take some big leaps forward.  One of those leaps is in fundraising.

By committing to take on paid staff members we are committed to investing in our organization’s future, and like any good investment, we are looking forward to enjoying the returns.  The financial generosity of our supporters allows us to create more community links and impact through our programs.  We are kicking off our “Trail Friends Annual Campaign” which will allow us to expand our Community Impact Teams to more parks and more communities as well as continue to build great trail assets and amenities that will engage a wider range of users.

ORA Trails is dedicated to being a trail advocacy and development leader across the region and nation.  We strive to be at the front of the pack by letting our strong suits shine in the community, bringing value to municipalities, local businesses, residents, and visitors.  We rely on our tribe of supportive donors and volunteers to provide the backing needed to plant the seeds and bring to maturation innovative outdoor experiences.  Your gift of time and funds will help support all our values and build community equity through the following commitments.

VOLUNTEERISM:  Each year we activate over 300 volunteers to build and maintain trails, share stories of our community, and plan future recreational opportunities.

EDUCATION:  We provide ongoing safety and instructional training to our volunteers and crew leaders.  This allows all trail workers the training they need to work in a safe and sustainable manner.  Keep an eye out for upcoming chainsaw, trail builder, and equipment operator trainings.

EQUIPMENT:  We keep our volunteers equipped with standard basic hand tools, but also provide the specialized equipment needed for our craftspeople to create innovative and unique features in our community. You’ll see the results of their efforts anytime you head out to a local trail.

PROJECTS:  Every year we have friends come forward asking how to get a trail or park or pump track in their neighborhood.  We have crafted project development tools to share as another resource that helps bring new trails and amenities to neighborhoods throughout our community.  Our fundraising efforts directly support these new projects.

PROGRAMMING:  ORA Trails has always supported grass roots and community wide events and activities like youth mountain biking, paddle races, group hikes, overnight camping outings, and film festivals. Bringing an idea to life connects our community with their neighbors outdoors.

CELEBRATIONS:  What better way to reminisce with old friends and make new ones than a party?  Sometimes we call it FUNraising rather than fundraising.  From BBQs to ribbon cuttings to formal galas, we love a good get together.  These celebrations are a great way to show the community what we accomplished and build momentum for the future.

ORA Trails is dedicated to building happy, healthy, and resilient communities by providing access to equitable and sustainable outdoor experiences.  This is our mission and you are part of the team that helps us boldly march it forward.  We are grateful for your past and future contributions.  Please consider making a gift that will keep our momentum alive.  If you would like to jump on it right away, you can quickly and easily give online at www.oratrails.org/donate and you can even set up monthly giving there.  If you’d rather pay by check, I’m happy to arrange pick-up, or you can mail it over to:


ORA Trails
125 N 7th St.
La Crosse, WI 54601


With sincere gratitude,


Jed Olson
Executive Director, ORA Trails

Winter Trail Etiquette

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Rule #1: Be nice to other skiers.
Faster skiers and skiers on the downhill have the right of way. If that’s you, it’s good to politely call out “track,” “hup,” or my favorite method “on your left,” or “on your right” to warn those ahead that you’re coming. One of the cool things about skiing is that beginners and Olympians often share the same trails. With that comes different skill levels and speeds and the need for increased communication.
Rule #2: Be nice to the trails.
It’s hard work maintaining and grooming ski trails. In a lot of communities this task falls on volunteers making it important to keep the trails nice.
Please leave that dog at home if your ski area doesn’t allow them or if the tracks are soft. If you do ski with a dog try to keep it under control. You wouldn’t want the dog chasing other skiers or knocking them over. And please, if the pooch makes a mess on the trail do your best to clean it up.
We all fall, if you fall and leave a few massive dents on the trails be sure to fill them in and try to ‘cover your butt’…marks with snow.
Pack out any garbage.
Try not to walk or snowshoe on groomed trails, especially in classic tracks. If you do have to walk or snowshoe, walk as far to the side of the trail as possible. If you’re skating, try to avoid the classic tracks, don’t be that person who skates in them.
Rule #3: Go the right way on designated one-way trails.
Sometimes we get tired of skiing the same trails over and over again and it’s tempting to ski a one-way trail the opposite way for a change of scenery. But, there’s a reason the trail is one-way so try to ski the trail the right direction. In most cases trails are set up like this to avoid collisions with other skiers on a gnarly downhill or other obstacles.
Rule #4: Stop in safe places.
Cross-country skiing is hard work and we all need to stop sometimes to sip some water or apply more kick wax. If you do stop along the trail, get as far off to the side as possible to allow others to ski past. Try pushing it up and over a hill and stopping once you’re done gliding on the downhill side to avoid annoying Saturday morning top-of-the hill gridlock.
Many ski areas have their own rules, and we’ve just covered the basics here. One of the coolest things about cross-country skiing is the diversity in ages, techniques and skill level on the trails and as a result it’s important to respect others on the trails and respect the trails.

2020, an ORA Trails year of success!

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As I reflect on the year gone by, by far the biggest story of the year has
been the Covid 19 virus. The affect that the virus has had on outdoor
recreation has increased the importance of our ORA Trails mission to provide
great new trails.

I hope you have had the opportunity to hike or bike the recently opened
Gateway Trails atop Grandad Bluff< <https://www.oratrails.org/gateway/>
https://www.oratrails.org/gateway/> made possible by ORA Trails and La
Crosse Parks, Recreation, and Forestry Department. ORA Trails helped design,
build, and then raise $400,000 in private donations to hire the very best
contractors to build the Grandad Bluff Trails. We supplemented our
fundraising efforts with 2,000 hours of volunteer time from 317 enthusiastic
volunteers. Our new trail system is the ultimate community effort converting
160 acres of mostly unused park land in the heart of our city, into an
incredible outdoor recreation area that provides families and their children
a place to play safely together, stay active, and have fun hiking and biking
in the woods.

We are very excited about the year to come:
* We are working closely with La Crosse Parks, Recreation, and
Forestry and surrounding communities to add to the trail systems in the
greater La Crosse area. We are talking with Shelby and Onalaska about
extending the trails outward from Grandad Bluff to points north and south.
* We have a new Executive Director- Jed Olson, a person likely
known to most of you. We were very fortunate to have Jed take on this role.
Expect awesome things to come! We have also hired Jillian Olson as our
Operations Coordinator. They both join Liz Reardon, our Administrative
Coordinator to form our ORA management team. A great day for ORA!
* A hugely successful Giving Tuesday fundraising event yielded
over $130,000 in funding for ORA Trails and Operations. With this funding we
will be able to pursue the development of many of the trail concepts
envisioned by our team.

We thank you for your support of ORA Trails. It is the wonderful community
backing we receive that allows us to grow, that allows us to follow our
mission of creating more trails. From vision, design, gaining approvals,
implementation to ‘ WOW, what a great trail!’ it is you who make it