Carl Eliason built the first snowmobile in a small garage in 1924 and called it a “motor toboggan”. More than 80 years later, you can head to his home state to see what thrills the locals are getting out of his invention.
The state of Wisconsin is home to 25,000 miles of snowmobile trails through forests, lakes, fields and villages, maintained by the 589 snowmobile clubs that make up the Association of Wisconsin Snowmobile Clubs.
A castle made of ice
Eagle River was officially registered as ‘The Snowmobile Capital of the World’ in 1964 and riders on Trail No. 13 will get to see the city’s ice castle, which is built from scratch every year by a team of volunteers and firefighters.
The job takes 700 man hours to cut nearly 3,000 ice blocks from a local lake and haul them into place to create an impressive 20-foot high structure, which is lit up at night.
The locals humbly state that this tradition started in the 1920s because “there probably weren't a lot of things to do in the winter back then”.
How things have changed since then, with the city’s frozen lakes being used for snowmobile races and ice-hockey tournaments. For this reason Snowgoer magazine readers have regularly voted the Eagle River Area as the best overall snowmobiling vacation destination in the county.
High-speed ice thrills
If you’re looking for a faster pace of life, then head to St. Germain and watch the Radar Run, an annual ice race, which includes snowmobile riders reaching speeds upwards of 160mph on a 1,000 foot shaved ice track.
This year’s event will take place on the weekend of January 21 – 23 and includes drag races all day, in various categories. Any ladies who aren’t afraid of a chill should sign up for the annual bikini snowmobile race which takes place at 2pm on the second day.
At the end of the weekend, the winners will be celebrating at the awards ceremony, which this year will be taking place at The Timbers Bar & Grill.
More daring snowmobilers can go off-track, with a deep-snow adventure in Hurley. This remote part of the state gets 300 inches of snow each year, and off-trail riding is available on over 175,000 acres of public land.
This experience is only for the truly intrepid however, as you need to hire a specialist sled to tackle the deep snow, and a GPS navigation system is recommended. Also, it’s highly advisable to stick together in large groups to avoid getting lost.
Along with snowmobiling, this town is known for its mining heritage. In fact, you can snowmobile right up to the site of the world’s deepest iron mine and explore the interpretive park, The Plummer Mine.
Where to stay and stay warm
After a long day exploring the snowy wilderness, you’ll want to make sure you’ve got a cosy cabin with an open fire to retreat to.
The Log Cabin B&B at Eagle River offers very reasonable rates, with a group of four able to stay for $100 (£64) per night. Or for a more rustic feel try Lake of the Hills B&B, which has double rooms for $85 (£55) per night.
Tuck into a steak in front of the fire
With winter being the high season in Wisconsin, the local restaurants specialise in hearty warming fare, with St Germain offering many enticing eateries.
All the soups and entrées are homemade daily at Golden Pines where every Thursday is German Night. Choose from Central European specialities, such as veal, wiener schnitzel or chicken Kiev.
Alternatively, guests can relax in front of the stone fireplace at Whitetail Inn where Angus prime rib is served nightly, as well as fresh seafood, or have a chat with the locals in the lively cocktail bar.
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With so much to discover and snowmobile rental starting from $125 (£80) per day, it’s hard to see why Wisconsin is so underrated as a winter sports destination.