SPEARFISH | Don't stay inside just because it's cold outside.

On the contrary, Leslie Wangeman says the Black Hills are an exceptional place to stay active outdoors in the wintertime. That's where the Black Hills Nordic Ski Club's Winter Carnival, on Dec. 30-31, comes in.

It's the second year of the annual event, held at the Big Hill Ski Trail system south of Spearfish. Wangeman said this year's format is a little bit different, combining what used to be two separate days — the ski lesson and races — into one event.

"Really, the community wanted to come together and create a great winter, outdoor activity to celebrate our winter activities here in the Black Hills," said Wangeman, who is a member of the ski club and is one of the Winter Carnival event coordinators. 

Wangeman said the event is a gateway for newcomers to winter sports to get involved and perhaps find a new passion as a reminder of the opportunities available.

"We live in the Black Hills where honestly we have some amazing skiing, and a lot of people don’t take advantage of that," she said. "It’s kind of like this undiscovered opportunity."

Wangeman credits strong support from community members, from the food and equipment to other local sponsors like Mitchell's Barbershop, High Mountain Outfitters and more, with helping the Winter Carnival to grow. 

"The community is really jumping aboard and wanting to help in this," she said.

The first day of the carnival is the ski clinic and snow bike "try it" day, which includes free equipment/instruction and demonstration day for several winter sports from 9 a.m. to noon. 

From 9 a.m. to 11 a.m., there will be cross-country ski lessons, Rushmore Mountain Sports is bringing fat bikes (off-road bicycles with oversized tires) and providing free demonstrations, and free snowshoes to try. 

At 11 a.m., there will be free food from Killian's Food and Drink and free beer from Crow Peak Brewing. 

Wangeman said it's more than $160 in value that people are getting at no charge. 

It's a good introduction, she said, since the cost associated with some winter sports, like skiing, might keep some people from trying them. But Wangeman said a free event gives people a chance to try something new without taking a financial risk. 

Plus, it's fun. 

"It’s just a great community event, and I’m getting in a great workout as well," she said.

On the second day, Dec. 31, there will be races for cross-country skiing and fat bikes. The races start at 9 a.m. Entry fee is $25 for nonmembers or $20 for members. No credit card payments are being accepted. Racers must bring their cash or check payments to race registration.

To register online prior to the event, visit http://bit.ly/2ze1FLo . Wangeman said people can register up to the day of the event.  

Wangeman said there are usually 20 to 30 people entered in the races, about 10 of those in the fat bike races. 

In the ski races, there are divisions for both classic and skate-skiing, Wangeman said. Classic cross-country skiing is what most people are familiar with, she said, while skate-skiing uses a different stride and Wangeman said it is typically faster-paced.

An avid skier and also a member of the South Dakota National Guard, Wangeman said she skate skis on her Guard unit's bi-athalon team, which combines skate-skiing and shooting targets. 

"For me personally, it’s a great way to exercise and go out and enjoy where we live. We live in a place where the access to the mountains is right there," said Wangeman, who lives and teaches in Spearfish. 

Contact Candy DenOuden at candy.denouden@rapidcityjournal.com