It’s 40-some degrees as I write this Dec. 4 and according to the local weather gurus, it will wind up somewhere in the 50s before all is said and done today, with significant rain thrown in to boot.

Were it not for a forecast of highs struggling to hit 20 degrees beginning tomorrow, with some snow and high wind added, it would be hard to think of winter and all the outdoor fun the season will bring.

There have been a goodly number of years when I might have been out skiing several times by this date, but this time around, I’m downright glad we got this unusual, mild — nay, summery — break the first week of December, as it gave me a long weekend of getting cross-country ski trail maintenance done that should have been finished two months ago.

I spent much of my Friday, Saturday and Sunday out on Razorback Ridges, pulling a large brush mower around the 16 miles of trail loops that I have brushed, mowed and groomed for 36 years.

In the true sense of the definition, it is hard work, but without a doubt, it is a labor of love. 

I got hooked on cross-country skiing back in 1980 and it was four years later when I skied my first 50-kilometer American Birkebeiner ski race from, at that time, Hayward to Telemark Lodge outside of Cable.

I have skied 18 Birkebeiners in all, along with four of the Birkebeiner Kortelopet 24-kilometer races and though I have declared myself retired from the Birkie, I will never say never. The thought just keeps getting stuck in the back of my mind that 22 years from now I will become the first 90-year-old person to ever complete the Birkie. It would be something to see I’m sure, but if I were you, I wouldn’t bet the farm on my doing it.

In the meantime, I will continue to do what I have done for so long, for the thousands of skiers and now, snowshoers who use Razorback Ridges each year and for myself. My total kilometers skied each year may have dwindled from an average of 400K to 500K each winter to about 200 or so, but I still enjoy each and every stride and glide I take.

So it was that I spent about 14 hours on the trails last weekend, clearing recently downed trees and pulling the mower for two or three passes on each loop. There is some brushing left to do and one loop left to mow, but aside from snow falling, everything is ready for skiers.

Two snowshoe loops also are brushed, signed and ready for users this winter, thanks to the volunteer snowshoeing enthusiasts who got together one October Sunday afternoon and got the entire job done in a matter of a few hours.

Oh, and the Sayner-Star Lake Lions Club, the official sponsors of Razorback Ridges, have the berms in place and are just waiting for cold temperatures to start building ice on the Bernie VanAcker Memorial Ice Skating Rink the Lions Club maintains each winter.

Though a project of the Lions Club, the land for the park, warming building and groomer garage were given to the Lions Club by the sons of Mel and Emma Long, original owners of the corner store which still stands at the same Highway N and Razorback Road intersection where it was built in the 1930s. 

As the founder of Razorback Ridges, having groomed a mere 10K of trails on Northern Highland-American Legion State Forest logging roads — across the road from my house in the winter of 1980-’81 — with a beat-up old snowmobile, bedspring and homemade track setter, I am proud of the trails and the Lions Club for the thousands of hours of volunteer work hours put in over the years, as well as about $250,000 invested in grooming equipment, the warming building and groomer garage. 

As a service organization, the Lions Club takes great pride in offering a community project that only adds to the myriad options of things to do and see in our area.

Skiers and other outdoor sports enthusiasts use Razorback Ridges heavily in the winter, but this Lions Club project also attracts many hikers and mountain bikers who enjoy the trails during the rest of the year. At one time, for instance, the Lions Club hosted a charter race of the Wisconsin Off Roads Series of bike races which drew more than 700 racers to Razorback Ridges each summer.

One of the reasons so many people have used and continue to use Razorback Ridges is the abundance of beauty and variety of scenery they are treated to with each visit.

The terrain varies from that which any beginner can handle to some serious up and downs that challenge intermediates and even experts. From the trails, the views include, at least when the trees aren’t covered with leaves, a ridge-top view of Big Muskellunge Lake. Another stretch takes riders and skiers past a spruce bog pond on which there is a large beaver house which has been continually occupied for as long as I can remember.

Sunrises for early-in-the-day users and spectacular sunsets only add to the beauty of the woods through which the trails run.

Now, as I patiently wait for skiing snow and get the last of winter preparations finished, I like to stretch out in my recliner, close my eyes and revisit all the great times I’ve had at Razorback Ridges. There will be more to come this winter.