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Steve Meurett/For Wisconsinoutdoorfun.com

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It has been a true winter, nobody doubts that. And, according to Punxsutawney Phil, we have a long way to go, not that that's all bad.

If you live in Wisconsin, you better embrace the season or be faced with a long cold depression that stays at thirty below and doesn't budge. If you are the former, like myself, it's not too hard to find things to do outside. Granted, even I had some doubts when daytime highs never made it into the positive range.

I'm fortunate to live near one of Wisconsin's premiere winter destinations, as long as you love silent sports. (side note: for the motorheads and ice fishermen, there are unlimited opportunities here as well).

This gem is located south west of Neillsville, in the 133,000 acre Clark County Forest-The Levis Mound Trail. Although not a secret to mountain bikers in the midwest, the winter sports there are a little less known. That's too bad, because cross country skiers for instance, sometimes drive by to hit the more popular Wildcat Mound near Millston in the BRF State Forest. They would be pleasantly surprised to find the grooming at Levis sometimes better and the varied terrain as much of a challenge. Toss in a heated chalet and one has a perfect uncrowded ski destination.

Levis Mound started as a cross-country ski trail over 35 years ago, and has grown and expanded to it's present 25 km system. The trails range from easy to difficult and are groomed for both classical and skating. Several kilometers are also set aside as backcountry striding only, a welcome addition for skiers who want a more intimate ski experience. Families and groups can enjoy the heated chalet while taking breaks, and many times make a day of it here. Grooming is first rate and some of the finest in the area.

More on skiing: Skiing news from around the state | Your skiing photos

Snowshoeing could not be better, with narrow singletrack trails leading to expansive rocky outcroppings and overlooks high above the surrounding county forest. In a deep snow year, like the present, snowshoes are the only way to really explore those upper reaches of the trail system. With several Geo-Caches within the Levis and Trow Mound area, snowshoes would be the only access to those demanding locations. Snowshoers should be aware that travel is prohibited on groomed ski trails-little matter for there are almost double the miles of singletrack vs. XC ski trails.

More on cycling: Cycling news from around the state | Your cycling photos | Create a map for your next cycling trip

The third leg of the Levis Mound winter chair is the advent of fatbiking. The volunteers who build and groom trails here (www.levismound.com) also were pioneers in establishing machine groomed winter bike trails. While becoming more and more popular (because they are so da*m fun!) and additional trails pop up, Levis still is one of the leaders in how to do winter biking right. Visit http://fat-bike.com/2014/02/case-study-levis-mounds-winter-trail-system/ for proof. Many weekends there is almost a even split between snowshoers, snowbikers and cross country skiers.

Clubs and organizations frequently organize formal and informal events and gatherings, from full moon snowshoe outings to races, such as the upcoming Sweaty Yeti fatbike March 1st and Wolf Run snowshoe race March 2nd. For more Information on these events, visit http://www.wisfatbikeracing.com/winter-festival.html.

The trails are groomed and maintained by the Neillsville Area Trail Association-an all volunteer group who's goal is to provide a quality outdoor trail experience at Levis, no matter what time of year. They design and build trails, spend countless hours grooming and advise the Forestry Department on any needs or future development. The county provides fuel and equipment for the volunteers to continue their work. It's a close relationship that has fueled a rapid growth in trail users over the past twenty years or so and has made Levis Mound one of the more popular parks within the county forest.

More information and trail conditions can be found at the club webpage (www.levismound.com) and the daily updates and happenings on the Levis Mound Facebook page ( https://www.facebook.com/LevisMound) or by calling the Clark County Forestry Dept. at 715-743-5140.

Read more posts from Steve Meurett.

Steve Meurett lives, works and plays in West Central Wisconsin and spends about every free moment outdoors where his passions lie. His outdoor interests take him on and off trail, pursuing mountain biking and skinny skiing, photography and hunting, while keeping an eye on wild mushrooms and the next fruit for craft wine. Steve is the Trail Director at The Levis Mound Trail System and member of the Clark County Trails Advisory Committee. He resides, teaches and is a photographer in Neillsville. Steve can be reached at steve@meurett.com.

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