The Badger State Games Want YOU—and You’ll Love ’Em, All Year Round
By Nick Ockwig
(The paywall is GONE! So please feel free to marathon amble about the website for more great stories and updates!)
Editor’s Note: Nick Ockwig has managed the Badger State Games for the last 4 years. He has continued the existing and traditional events’ successes, along with adding additional locations for events as well as adding new events. With enthusiasm, Nick has worked tirelessly to grow the Games. His efforts emphasize the athlete along with volunteering clubs. All these efforts ensure each event’s high quality and strength as an effective fundraiser for the facilitating clubs.
A Little Bit of History
The Badger State Games have been a tradition in Wausau, Wisconsin, for 32 years, with its Winter Games history reaching back to the 1920s. The Wausau Winter Frolic, a winter sports festival sponsored by a local outdoors club, had large support coming from the logging industry’s leadership. The Festival featured winter sports competitions and spectacles such as Nordic and Alpine skiing, hockey, figure skating, horse racing (on ice!), tobogganing, curling, ski jumping, barrel jumping on skates, snowshoe racing, and broomball.
The Great Depression started to melt the Winter Frolic; World War II even more so. However, many of these sports continue today as part of the Badger State Winter Games, except for barrel jumping and horse racing on ice. Insurance providers said no to these.
And Now, the Games!
These days, the Wausau Central Wisconsin Sports Authority owns the Badger State Games. However, over 58 nonprofit groups organize and run the events. These groups share a passion for their sports, and a willingness to draw people to the area to experience its beauty and splendor. Athletes in the Badger State Games range from ages 6 to 86, from novice to semi-pro. With our motto “Going for the Gold” inspiring people to enjoy the outdoors while working up a sweat, the Games are about putting your best foot forward while having fun.
The events comprise the main part of the Badger State Winter Games, with Nordic skiing one of the largest events each year. The Nine Mile Forest Recreational Area, a jewel of the landscape, holds Nordic competitions in winters, and mountain biking during summers. Nordic skiing events include 43K, 21K, and 10K races, along with 4K and 7K high school distances. All races offer skate or classic technique divisions. Adaptive events, such as Paralympic Nordic Skiing, have been growing in attendance over the years. Traditionally, these occur near the end of January, with 2021’s slate scheduled for January 23rd.
While Wausau hosts much of the Badger State Games, snowshoeing has branched out the games with a BSG Trifecta. These races take place in Rhinelander, Merrill, and Marshfield, in picturesque locations for snowshoeing enthusiasts and spectators to enjoy the best of the outdoors. Participants who are not as competitive or accomplished, and not in medal contention, will find themselves in perfect events to race and enjoy. If you compete in all three races, you will win a special BSG participation award for completing the BSG Trifecta. These events take place from January to February. Check out the BSG website, below, for details.
Cyclists have the ‘Underdown Dells,” better known as “Prairie Dells,” in Merrill. They’ll find Fat Tire races of varying lengths, from 10 to over 25 miles on fully scenic trails, with lakes, bogs, and rivers. Most of this trail exists only in winter. This also is the locale for mountain biking during the Badger State Summer Games. The “Thunderdown in the Underdown,” part of a mountain bike race series, has been taking place since 1989. Racers face, and enjoy, seventy hills, four lakes, and the Prairie Dells gorge. With landscape so beautiful, the course tempts you to stop and take photos. The scheduled date for the Fat Tire race is planned for February 6, 2021.
Combining Silent Sports Disciplines
If you enjoy cross country skiing, fat tire biking, and snowshoeing, what if you could do all three during the same day? The Badger State Games has partnered with local enthusiasts to offer a Winter Triathlon. This allows people to test their skills in all three disciplines at the Nine Mile County Forest Recreation Area.
Normally, fat tire bikes are not allowed at Nine Mile. This event provides the welcoming exception. Generally, the Winter Triathlon occurs the Sunday after the Nordic Skiing event in January.
Waiting and Wanting for All You Do!
As had been the case with the Wausau Winter Frolic, the Badger State Winter Games also offer figure skating, hockey, curling, and ski jumping, along with other sports keeping people active during Wisconsin’s winter months. The Games belong to the National Congress of State Games (NCSG), with over 30 states offering summer and winter games, culminating in a State Games of America every other year.
The Badger State Games have been around for over 35 years, with the summer and winter games hosting over 40 different sporting events combined for the seasons. With something for everyone, the Wisconsin Games rank among the top five of NCSG in participation, with over 15,000 winter and summer athletes, and over 30,000 spectators.
The Badger State Games welcome you, and will do all your Silent Sports proud!