NMU Snowfest set for Wednesday

MARQUETTE — Northern Michigan University will present its second annual Snowfest, a winter semester kick-off event, on Wednesday.

Free activities from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. include snow biking, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing demos on the academic mall, according to a release from the university.

NMU students receive free access to the Noquemanon Trail Network’s interconnected year-round, non-motorized land and water trail system. They can also check out bikes, skis and snowshoes for use on the NTN at no charge.

Snowfest will also feature a student organization fair in Jamrich Hall, musical entertainment and free hot cocoa.

The NMU-NTN partnership provides a value-added benefit for the NMU student experience and promotes participation in healthy outdoor activities easily accessible from campus, the release states. Ryan Watling, student trail manager with NMU’s Intercollegiate Athletics and Recreational Sports, helped to create an NTN trailhead on campus as part of an internship.

“The Marquette area embraces winter and makes it more fun with outdoor activities,” Watling said. “I value the trails and it’s cool to give others opportunities to enjoy them — maybe for the first time ever — in the environment we have here. The NTN is an asset in the community and it can be the source of some unique experiences. Students who never biked in the woods before will be able to say someday that they remember riding a fat-tire bike in winter while attending Northern. It would be great to see Northern on the list of top 10 adventure schools and this partnership would contribute to that.”

Watling said NMU created the permanent student trail manager position to expand and “institutionalize” the partnership and make it more sustainable. He has worked with student government organization ASNMU on a bike share program. He has also planned workshops on bike maintenance and trail etiquette next semester and will supervise a student intern’s work starting a Bike Week on campus.

“My focus has been on figuring out what this position should entail and getting things off the ground for the next student who takes over after I graduate in May,” he said. “The important thing is to keep this going and allow it to morph into more as time goes on.”

NMU students are able to check out fat-tire bikes at the Wildcat FitZone in the housing complex and at the NTN Forestville Trailhead, which features a lodge with couches, a fireplace and WiFi. Classic and skate cross-country skis, boots and poles are available at the PEIF Outdoor Recreation Center or at the NTN Forestville Trailhead. Student hosts are available to give lessons or help with any questions.

For more information on the NTN, visit noquetrails.org.