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50 Years of Memories

Winter Fun and Fickle Weather
By Jeanne Bereza
Posted on 3/5/2018 6:41 PM

Moment in FVBSC History—Winter Fun & Fickle Weather    BLOG     3.3.18

 

A Moment in FVBSC History from Feb 2013 Newsletter (our 45th yr)-with added comments

For our first few winters as the St. Charles Bicycle Club we enjoyed tobogganing, ice skating and hiking (no winter biking.) We went ice skating on Lake Ellen in Glen Ellyn and tubing on “Mt Trashmore” (Mt Hoy) in Blackwell Forest Preserve. On a winter hike in White Pines State Park, we saw giant ice chunks that had broken and lay scattered along the banks of the creek. Another first time adventure for many of us was tobogganing at Palos Park. The toboggan runs (since closed in 2004), were located on a 100 ft bluff—so plenty of steps to conquer before the exciting ride downhill! Note—this is now a lighted sledding hill and runners use the steps for training—at Swallow Cliff North, a Cook County forest preserve, fpdcc.com

 

 

 In the 1970’s we discovered cross-country skiing (using bamboo poles and wooden skis with 3 pin bindings.) One of our members used the traditional tar on the base of the skis for traction; others had waxable ski’s with a P-tex base and ironed on paraffin, then added the canned Swix waxes, and most simply rented no-wax ski’s. Fish scale bottom “no wax” ski’s were becoming more common. In a few years, members also upgraded to fiberglass poles. Several of us wore the traditional knickers and knee high wool socks. Soon poly-pro, Gore-tex and other breathable fabrics were available, as well as improved xc ski boots and bindings for better control. Our first “Winter Fun Day” was held at Johnson’s Mound at the suggestion of Girl Scout leader/outdoor expert Fran Buckles.  Our first winter overnite was renting cabins in Tomahawk area, N. Wisc, skiing on state trails, and cooking our group meals.

 Bill & Marcia Cameron helped us with xc ski lessons and introduced the club to Green Lake Conference Center in Wisc. Bill managed Chuck’s Bike Shop (in downtown South Elgin), which later became the Village Pedaler.

 

 Our first time at Green Lake, the lodging was a huge barn with bunks. We would ski the trails most of the day, then enjoy the indoor pool and all-you-could-eat buffet meals, and spend Sat evening playing board games. We were amazed at all the vehicles and tents out on the lake with the ice fishermen, and figured it was safe enough to ski on the lake.  Some folks brought or rented ice skates. In years when the lake was more open, we could hear thousands of Canada geese. I tried to get an annual sunrise photo over the lake—always a good photo-op. One wkend the actual temperature was 20 below zero—so several vehicles needed a “jump start” before we could head home! (I did go out for about half-hour in polar gear, but discovered the ski’s had no glide when it was that cold.) Now the Center has several beautiful lodges plus a remodeled Inn on the lakeshore, but the rental shop closed and ski trails were no longer maintained due to lack of snow.

 

 

Winter conditions in the “Banana Belt”—a challenge to Illinois skiers--

Locally, several shops that handled cross-country ski equipment or snowshoe sales and rentals also dealt with poor snow and finally closed out their winter gear—including The Bike Rack *(St. Charles), Mission Bay (Elgin), the Cross Country Ski Shop** in N.Aurora (the current location of Pedal and Spoke.) Other St Charles shops that eventually closed were Gunter’s, Mountain Tops (recall the statue on the canopy), and Vertical Drop. **note—Joan Payne had the first xc ski shop in our area, which she ran for many yrs until her retirement. She introduced many of us in the area to cross-country skiing, gave lessons, had a trade-up program as kids outgrew their equipment, mailed a winter monthly newsletter.   * When The Bike Rack still carried xc ski’s, they groomed the trails at nearby forest preserves in St.Charles—we got spoiled then—Kane County trails are no longer groomed.

 

 We tried other winter overnites including the Dells (winter carnival and downhill skiing) and Woodside Ranch near Mauston,WI (horses, sleigh rides, bonfires, a small downhill run with a rope tow, and trails through the woods for snowshoeing and xc-skiing, plus country music and line-dancing in the ranchhouse. Trying to plan/reserve ahead for cross-country ski overnite trips in south/central Wisc got discouraging after several yrs of Mother Nature not cooperating—so some of us opted to also join Nordic Fox Ski Club for their organized week long trips to Upper Peninsula Mich, Canada, or western states with more dependable snow, while continuing our one-day events.

 

 Recent years have found us exploring forest preserve trails in Kane, DuPage, McHenry and Cook counties, and occasional trips to Rockford or South Kettle Moraine, and adding some snowshoeing.  JB