Ski cross-country trails after dark, and get a different view of winter on the Door Peninsula.
Trails are all aglow during candlelight skiing events. Naturalists and volunteers use candles in old milk jugs or bags to illuminate gently rolling trails. Moonlight also goes a long way to moving the crowds, which vary in size with weather conditions.
Hit the trails with your family, a partner or alongside a friend.
This is a time to rekindle love for the sport and check out creatures of the night and not such a good time for breaking personal records by skiing fast and far.
At night, cross-country skiers experience something called "flat" light, according to the Cross-Country Ski Areas Association. The minimal light condition causes skiers to lose depth perception. And when skiers can't see a trail as well as they can during the day, they feel it instead.
So, you become sensitive to the slope under your skis and more attuned to nature. The upcoming Door County candlelight cross-country ski events include Whitefish Dunes State Park Candlelight Ski, 6 to 8 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 24
; Peninsula State Park Candlelight Ski, 5:30 to 8 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 7;
and Newport State Park Candlelight Ski, Hike and Snowshoe, 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 14.
Each park takes on a different aura at dark, as compared to the day. Night skiers, for example, may hear owls hoot and see small animals scamper around.
At Whitefish Dunes, for example, the open trail for candlelight skiing is just over a mile long. It's lit with luminaria (candles in white bags). Candles in plastic containers help people find their way from a dark parking lot.
Friends of Whitefish Dunes prepare the luminaria, serve homemade cookies in a shelter building and groom the trails for the event as well as the entire season. Richard Dirks, a volunteers and ski instructor, spends as much time as possible, day and night, on Whitefish Dunes trails.
His tips? "You have to be more alert, more sensitive to conditions especially moguls and bumps, as compared to the day," he explains. "For the average skier, going out at night, diagonal striding on a good track set by a machine makes it a little easier."
Diagonal stride is a classical technique of cross-country skiing. In another style, called skating, skiers push the skis to the side and glide.
Dirks, who has relied on night skiing to train for citizen ski races, finds that Mother Nature helps light trails, too.
"One of the real joys of cross-country skiing at night is doing it when there is a full moon. There's something real special about being out in the woods at night under the moonlight-skiing during the hours of darkness," Dirks says.
Be prepared and check snow conditions by calling the host in advance. The ideal situation is about four inches of base topped by a fresh snowfall.
Also, don't ski a trail for the first time at night, according to Carolyn Rock, the park naturalist at Whitefish Dunes. She encourages people to come to the park during the day and learn the trail then.
"Don't pick a new trail to go to a night ski; there are always twists and turns," Rock says.
Dress for a cardiovascular workout by layering quality
fabrics, and wear a hat or headband and gloves.
In the end, skiing by candlelight is a dreamy escapade.
To learn about more candlelight skiing events in the state parks on the Door Peninsula or to check conditions, visit www.wiparks.net or call: