It’s the new mantra for athletes as the Wisconsin Winter Trail Assail debuts.

Clockwise from left: Adam Ryan Morris; Denyshutter/iStock; ileximage/iStock; trekandshoot/iStock; Burwell and Burwell Photography/iStock.

Clockwise from left: Adam Ryan Morris; Denyshutter/iStock; ileximage/iStock; trekandshoot/iStock; Burwell and Burwell Photography/iStock.

Winter warriors in southeastern Wisconsin will see a decrease in windshield time and fuel costs when a new series turns Waukesha County parks into multipurpose race courses. Long resigned to long drives to seek recreation up north, athletes can now play in their own backyard.

Silver Circle Sports Events has created a triple-header of winter activities it has dubbed the Wisconsin Winter Trail Assail (silvercirclesportsevents.com/wwta), with three dates (Jan. 18, 24 and Feb. 14) that bring cross-country skiing, snowshoe races and fat-tire bike contests to Nashotah and Minooka parks. It’s a rare opportunity for cyclists and snowshoers to race on the groomed trails of these wide open spaces.

“Opening it up to snowshoeing and snow biking will be really cool,” says Tom Klein, a veteran ski racer and owner of the Bicycle Doctor shop in Dousman, an outfitter of winter athletes and sponsor of the races. “That’s a whole new market. Having these other events in there besides the skiing is something we haven’t had in the area.”

The party started with husband and wife Sean and Katie Osborne, and their two sons.

After watching Sean compete in races as a runner and triathlete, Katie got the idea: “I can do this, and I can do it better.”

The family started Silver Circle in 2010, with a kids’ mud run and a 5K race tied to SummitFest in their hometown of Summit.

They built up the SummitFest races and then launched a series of cross-country races in the Waukesha County parks in 2013. Hundreds flocked to run through the woods, and offered high praise for the grassroots feel, the courses, the timing and the finish line food (all fresh fruit).

Becca Krueger, a nurse practitioner from Whitefish Bay, expects more of the same for the winter series. Krueger has slogged through four American Birkebeiners, more than 50 kilometers long, and is looking forward to skiing the 10- and 13-kilometer offerings in Trail Assail.

“Skiing is harder for me, so shorter is better,” Krueger says. “Less suffering.”

Managers in the Waukesha County Parks and Land Use Department have also been enthusiastic. Silver Circle has a track record of attracting hundreds of people to the parks and will create new opportunities for ski and snowshoe traffic in winter, says Dale Shaver, the parks department’s director.

Two of the races in the winter series have been around for decades, but drew fields that barely reached triple digits.

“Once you get somebody behind it and promoting it, and people realize there’s timing, it’s going to grow,” Klein says.

Joey Heinrichs of New Berlin raced in six Trail Assail summer runs. He’s so excited about the winter series, he’s planning to take up a whole new sport: snowshoeing.

Milwaukeean Bob Zimmerman figures he’s found a way to avoid going stir-crazy.

“It gives athletes what they need: a reason to get out and do something,” Zimmerman says. “You don’t want to be on a trainer or a treadmill. Most people that I know who do trail races or mountain biking, getting outside is the draw. You want to be part of the elements.”

For this series, those elements include ice and snow – on the trail, not on the road.

Keep Moving

Polar Plunge ➞
The annual rite of passage for those celebrants whose blood alcohol levels might be double the temperature come “go time.” Jan. 1, noon. Bradford Beach, 2400 N. Lincoln Memorial Dr., polarplungemilwaukee.com.

Polar Bear 5K Dash ➞
And another annual rite of passage for those who like to experience a more natural high, although “polar dips” are optional for finishers. Jan. 1, 11 a.m. Grant Park, 100 E. Hawthorne Ave., South Milwaukee, polarbeardash.com.

Running of the Samson Stomp & Romp ➞
The 35th installment of this day of fun runs (and timed runs for the competitive set) invites athletes of all ages to huff it throughout the Zoo grounds. Jan. 18, 9:30 a.m. Milwaukee County Zoo, 10001 West Bluemound Rd., milwaukeezoo.org.

‘Play More, Drive Less’ appears in the January, 2015, issue of Milwaukee Magazine. Click here to subscribe.

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