Not much ice, but still plenty of winter family activities in the Madison area

After several days of subzero temperatures and a blizzard that rocked the holiday weekend, warmer temperatures are moving to the Madison area as families wrap up their winter break.

But isn’t this week’s thaw not so good? Can you go outside and enjoy your favorite winter activities?

The Wisconsin State Journal conducted a brief inquiry into the situation as of Wednesday. Here’s what we found.

Ice skating on Lake Monona

All three of Madison’s lakes were frozen last weekend. But rising temperatures could change that. “A lot depends on how warm it gets if it rains,” said Ed Hopkins of the Wisconsin State Climate Institute.

The National Weather Service’s Madison forecast for Thursday calls for a high of 45 degrees Celsius with drizzle and patchy fog, Hopkins said, ideal conditions to damage the ice.

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Hopkins said thawing is most likely to occur along coastlines and areas of fast-moving water. Conditions in Lake Mendota may differ from Lake Wingula, for example. Mendota only froze on Christmas Day, while the much smaller and shallower Wingler has him frozen for over a week.

The thickness of the ice is also not constant.

“The thickness of the ice across the lake is unknown and highly variable,” Hopkins said. ”

Madison’s Tenzin Wangchuk sleds down the hills of Elver Park with his children, Ngawang Yoeten, front, and Sonam Tsetan, 5, after snow fell earlier this month.

Amber Arnold, State Journal

Ice quality depends on the amount and timing of warm-ups. For example, if it was above freezing for a few hours during the day, but then dropped to below freezing overnight, that could be in favor of the ice.

But one thing is certain, according to the State Department of Natural Resources, ice is not 100% safe. DNR advises that if you go out on the ice, don’t go alone and tell someone you’re going out.

When temperatures hit freezing point in Madison on Wednesday, Hopkins said he found a few people on the ice of Lake Mendota. I’ll wait a little longer,” he said.

closed link

The city operates over ten ice and hockey rinks that are generally free. However, this week’s warm-up anticipates that nothing will be open over the weekend.

The bitter cold has eased, and a big warm-up is coming to Wisconsin.See when and how high temperatures go

Visit for skating rink conditions, hours of operation and rental information.

Staff will monitor ice depth to ensure it is at least 5 inches to safely support people and grooming equipment. Do not go on ice if the rink is marked closed.

The Edgewater Hotel also operates a seasonal ice skating rink. Tickets are $7 for adults and $4 for children under 12. The rink is open Wednesday to Friday from 4pm to 9pm, Saturday from 11am to 9pm, and Sunday from 11am to 7pm. Designated skating times for children 5 and under are on Thursdays from 2:00 PM to 4:00 PM with skate trainers available.

The hotel will also host a New Year’s Eve “disco” skating event with DJ Nick Nice from 7pm to 9pm.

The hotel updates the weather conditions of the link on their website. Tickets will be refunded if the rink is closed due to weather.

Other activities

It may not be the best weekend for skating, but other winter activities may still be possible.

Snow operations will continue at Elver Park until the snow melts, Martin said. This includes making snow for the park’s sledding hills, which are lit up for nighttime sledding, but Martin says how the warmer weather will help them work. said he didn’t know if it would affect

Other popular sledding hills can be found at Leopold, Arbor Hills, Berkeley, Garner, Heistant, Olbrich, Bell and Warner Park. However, the city does not monitor or maintain these sites.

Snowshoeing is available in many city parks and conservation areas. Some parks have designated snowshoe trails, but in general snowshoeing can be done anywhere there is sufficient snow (although stay away from cross-country ski trails and stay on trails in nature reserves). ).

Snowshoes are available for rent at Villas Park and Elver Park, subject to availability, usually Wednesday through Sunday, staffed if conditions allow. For more information, visit

All city trails for cross-country skiing also opened Wednesday afternoon. Permits are required for Elver Park, Odana Hills Golf Course and Door Creek Park. Yahara Hills, Cherokee Marsh South, Owen and Turville Point are free.

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The city maintains free ski trail sites about once a week. Permit trails are generally groomed three to four times a week.

Skis can be rented at Elver Park and Odana Hills.

Trails may be closed when skiing is not recommended or to maintain trail conditions. The city updates its website with trail conditions as soon as information from the field becomes available, so be sure to check before you go.

All trails are rated for difficulty at the trailhead and no dogs, snowboarding, hiking or snowshoeing are allowed on the trails.

holiday lights

Several holiday light displays are still twinkling throughout the area.

You can still see the “Shine on Madison” light displays in downtown Madison, including corners of the State Capitol and the Kinara, a seven-candelabra that celebrates Kwanzaa. A map of the light displays is available at

Holiday Fantasy in Lights runs through Saturday at Orlyn Park. You can drive through at any time from dusk to dawn, and candies are handed out from 16:30 to 22:00.

Also, the Zoo Lights exhibit at Villas Zoo runs through Friday.

Tickets, including unlimited carousel rides, can be purchased on the zoo’s website, and the lights are open from 5:30pm to 8:30pm.

Christmas lights are on until Sunday at Lake Ripley Park in Cambridge and Saturday at Village Park in Waunakee.

new year hike

The UW-Madison Arboretum is hosting a New Year’s Eve Night Walk on Saturday from 6:30pm to 8:00pm. This naturalist-led trail walk is free, but registration is required as space is limited.

Arboretum recommends wearing warm layers and boots. Interested parties are welcome to meet outside the visitor center.

Events may be canceled due to bad weather or trail conditions.

There is also a nature hike on New Year’s Day from 1pm to 2:30pm. Participants are encouraged to wear sturdy, closed-toe shoes.

Register for one of our events at

Are you dying to go outside? In-room options are still available.

Check out the poinsettias in full bloom and the holiday train at Olbrich Botanical Gardens’ “Holiday Express” event on Saturdays from 10am to 4pm.

The event includes a large scale model train and hundreds of poinsettias and fresh evergreens.

Free admission for children under 5 and Olbrich members. Admission is $5 for children ages 6 and up and $8 for adults.

Blue Mounds Mound Grotto offers black light tours on Thursdays and Fridays. Tours are guided by cave educators under UV light.

If you’re looking for a historic event, check out Frank Lloyd Wright’s Unitarian Meeting House Holiday Tour. Tours ($30 adults, $15 students) run Fridays from 10am to 11:15am.

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