BLUE MOUNDS — The most welcome addition to Blue Mound State Park this winter is a warm place to sit: On a bench in a new shelter.
Oh, and in a real bathroom, too.
For years skiers enjoying one of the southern Wisconsin's favorite cross-country destinations have frosted their rumps in portables and have had no space to warm up, change footwear or meet to peel an orange after a tour around the park's ski trails. On Saturday, after 10 years of fundraising by the Friends of Blue Mound State Park, a $500,000 shelter will be introduced to the public at the park's annual candlelight ski, hike and snowshoe event.
More than a shelter, the new building has cathedral ceilings in a great hall with huge exposed trusses, a special warming and cooling system, pine car-siding, and accessible, clean (and heated) bathrooms.
"This will complement the park and skiers in the winter very well," park ranger Kevin Swenson said this week as workers made last-minute adjustments and installations.
The new building is at the ski trail head, adjacent to the parking lot near the swimming pool.
John Koffel, of the friends group, said "the board had a vision of a shelter that would encourage use by children, people with special needs, grandparents, and for the use of the park naturalist during the summer months. We needed a multi-use facility to broaden the use of the park."
Skiers are attracted to Blue Mound because of the park's tradition of excellent grooming — skiers statewide still reverently refer to the now-retired Karl Heil's ski trail grooming acumen — and the way the terrain retains the snow, said Swenson. Between 10 and 20 percent of the park visitors' annual attendance of about 140,000 come between December and March.
The friends group raised much of the $500,000 for the Friends' Shelter through 10 years of sponsoring the annual Horrible Hilly Hundreds bicycle event at the park, said Koffel. The average donation was about $35, he said.
The building will be finished ahead of schedule, said Justin Schultz, of Buss Construction, Cross Plains. Along with a unique exposed truss feature, the roof has nearly a foot of insulation, the siding is fiber cement and outside trim is all composite, something to disappoint the local woodpeckers. The floor is unusual in that it is concrete that has been ground to expose the aggregate and create a durable, skid-resistant finish.