Those that follow the Chicago Adventure Travel Examiner’s articles know that the author is currently compiling a cross-country skiing rating system for all the parks within a three to four hours drive of Chicago. So far, I have rated thirteen cross-country ski trail systems. Click on the link below for an example of one of these ratings. The link below also has links to all other ratings.
Moraine Hills State Park cross-country ski review
Astute observers might have made the connection that the best rated trail systems are Wisconsin parks. Brilliant readers might have figured out a correlation between the high ratings in Wisconsin and the fact that there are fees attached. Wisconsin State Parks charge $4.00 a day or $20.00 a year for a trail pass. They also charge $10.00 a day for a vehicle pass and $35.00 a year for out of state access to Wisconsin State Parks.
Illinois State Parks charge absolutely nothing for admittance with a vehicle and the same for access to trails. One of the most controversial trends in adventure travel is how much should a park charge for admittance. A lot of parks including the Grand Canyon have levied high fees on users in order to raise revenue to offset budget cuts. Canadian National Parks have gone to extreme measures. Quetico Provincial Park in Ontario, Canada charges $20.00 per person per night for admittance to camp in the wilderness. This is on top of a $30.00 fee for entering the country with a Remote Border Access Pass.
While the fees for Quetico are ridiculous and the parks are starting to pay with loss of revenue due to cash strapped adventure travelers seeking more frugal places to fish, camp, and canoe, the fees in Wisconsin are quite reasonable. Personally, I do not mind paying fees for camping if I see that the money spent is put to good use.
In Wisconsin cross-country skiers get the following for their dollars spent: cross-country skiers get groomed trails that are exceptionally well maintained. Skiers get cross-country ski trails devoid of hikers, dog-walkers, and even snowshoers. Skiers get websites with up to date conditions. The photo that accompanies this article is very telling. Wisconsin actually has a law where hikers will get fined if they walk on cross-country ski trails. There is a state that has its priorities straigh. No wonder they beat the Bears. This is why Wisconsin trail systems rate higher. For the money spent the Wisconsin DNR puts it to good use and gives skiers and exceptional cross-country skiing experience.
In Illinois the trails are often beat up by dog-walkers and hikers. They are never groomed. There are very few trails in Illinois that are groomed. Rock Cut State Park is one of the few exceptions, but even there they allow hikers on the groomed trails.
For those that want a great cross-country ski experience then escape to Wisconsin. It will cost some change, but the money spent is well worth the improved experience.
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