When Winter Gets Long, Celebrate the Snow and Ice: Book Across the Bay

While global warming may be a reality, it does not make the winters seem any shorter some years.  By mid-February, the winter doldrums can set in, and a lack of snow actually can make those doldrums worse by revealing the dull shades of gray and lifeless brown for much longer than we care to see.  For those of us living in the northwoods of Minnesota and Wisconsin (with a friendly shout out to you U.P.’ers, as well!), surviving the winter gray days requires creative ways of embracing them.  Let me introduce you to an event which fully embraces the season — the “Book Across the Bay” ski race, which bridges the cities of Ashland and Washburn, Wisconsin.

Shuttle bus from Washburn to the starting line in Ashland
Shuttle bus from Washburn to the starting line in Ashland

In the winter of 2011, a friend of mine and I amazingly found ourselves with a Saturday free of work and/or family obligations, and set aside the day in February to travel to Washburn and Ashland to enjoy the event which is well-known in our neck of the woods.  Race organizers recommend that you park your car near the finish line in Washburn, where a shuttle bus will take you to the starting line area in Ashland, just across one of Lake Superior’s bays.

The finish line in Washburn where torches will light the race's end-- across the bay in Ashland is the starting line.
The finish line in Washburn where torches will light the race’s end — across the bay in Ashland is the starting line.

Book Across the Bay bag drop off

The registration and warming tent in the starting area.

Skis are lined up along the sides of the registration tent and starting line area where people congregate waiting for the race to begin at 6:00 p.m.

Snow was a little sparse in 2011 -- must be picnic season
Snow was a little sparse in 2011 — must be picnic season!

Hotel Chequamegon overlooking Chequamegon Bay in Ashland

The race starts on Chequamegon Bay with the historic Hotel Chequamegon standing watch from Ashland’s shore.  A massive pile of logs will soon turn into a festive bonfire.

Book Across the Bay starting line 2011

Thin snowfall years can make for a rough trail across the bay — grooming machines were out creating lanes and trying to cut a classic track, but as you can see from the photo below, 2011 was a good year to bring out the rock . . .er, ice . . . skis if you had them.

Book Across the Bay 2011
Leftover Christmas trees decorate the edges of the race tracks.

As the bonfire is lit, the crowds grow both inside and outside of the warming tent, while the waiting skis and poles colorfully line the foreground.

Book Across the Bay starting bonfire 2011
Book Across the Bay starting bonfire 2011
Kat B. is ready to Book across the Bay!
Kat B. is ready to Book across the Bay!

The sunlight grows dimmer and the starting time of 6:00 draws closer.  Fairies fly by with tulle tutus gracefully adorning ski pants.

book across bay fairy 2011

Book Across the Bay starting line 2011
Skiers and snowshoers begin lining up at the start.

book across bay start fires 2011

Over 3,800 people participated in the 2011 race!  Waiting for the signal to start, we could see the bonfires and ice lantern luminaries lighting our 10 kilometer racecourse.

One of the up to 1,000 ice luminaries lighting the way
One of the up to 1,000 ice luminaries lighting the way.

Bonfires, decorations and treats provide interest and entertainment along the way. While some may come to actually race the 10 kilometer distance, many more were there to just enjoy what ended up being a beautiful evening.  I would periodically step off the track to take photos at some of the bonfires marking the course — enjoying a s’more granola bar at one fire, a cup of hot chocolate at another, and then at another bonfire wayside receiving a strand of mardi gras beads!

One of the festive Book Across the Bay racecourse bonfires.
One of the festive Book Across the Bay racecourse bonfires.
Highest elevation marking
Highest elevation marker — note the ice chunk elevated above the frozen bay?

Magically, fireworks appear above the finish line still somewhat in the distance.  Oohs and aahs from skiers and snowshoers on the course create a joyous setting, as the colorful display reflects on the snow and ice in front of us.  The finish line announcer reads names of the finishers as they complete the race and move toward the warming tent, where hot chili, hot drinks, beer and music are waiting.

Plenty of time to register for the 2013 race, scheduled for February 16!  If I cannot get there this year, you can be sure I will again in the future —  perhaps I will see you there?!  Book Across the Bay was a great memory and a wonderful way to chase the winter doldrums away.

Ciao! ~ Kat

For race and registration information: Book Across the Bay ~ http://www.batb.org/

16 thoughts on “When Winter Gets Long, Celebrate the Snow and Ice: Book Across the Bay

  1. Lovely photos and lovely description! I almost felt as though I was there — so much so that I pulled an extra cozy blanket around me while I was reading — and now I’m craving hot chocolate & s’mores. 🙂

    Like

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