Students in Fort McCoy Cold-Weather Operations Course (CWOC) Class 19-06 practiced skiing March 11, 2019, at Whitetail Ridge Ski Area at Fort McCoy, Wis.

In each class for the Cold-Weather Operations Course (CWOC) at Fort McCoy, students receive approximately 16 hours of training in skiing - one of the longest lengths of training time allotted for a skill set in the course.

The skiing training is completed at Fort McCoy's Whitetail Ridge Ski Area of the Pine View Recreation Area. The ski area offers plenty of snow to complete the lessons, is quickly accessible, and is well maintained, said CWOC Instructor Joe Ernst, who works for contractor Veterans Range Solutions, which supports the Directorate of Plans, Training, Mobilization and Security.

Ernst said the ability to ski is critical for students.

"Skiing is a primary method of travel in an extreme cold-weather environment," Ernst said. "We teach our students to do this by utilizing currently issued equipment and through a step-by-step approach."

The first eight hours the students train on skis is learning how the equipment works and how to move on the skis, Ernst said. The second day of training is more about the students learning how to build the basic skills they learned on the first day.

"We get a lot of students -- I would say the majority of our students -- who have never skied before," Ernst said. "So, essentially, when they come here, they are starting from scratch. By the end of the skiing training, I would say on average that at least 90 percent of the students, maybe more, are competent in using the equipment."

In addition to skiing, CWOC students are trained on a variety of cold-weather subjects, including snowshoe training as well as how to use ahkio sleds and other gear.

Training also focuses on terrain and weather analysis, risk management, cold-weather clothing, developing winter fighting positions in the field, camouflage and concealment, and numerous other areas that are important to know in order to survive and operate in a cold-weather environment.

The training is coordinated through the Directorate of Plans, Training, Mobilization and Security at Fort McCoy.

Located in the heart of the upper Midwest, Fort McCoy is the only U.S. Army installation in Wisconsin. The installation has provided support and facilities for the field and classroom training of more than 100,000 military personnel from all services each year since 1984.

Learn more about Fort McCoy online at, on Facebook by searching "ftmccoy," and on Twitter by searching "usagmccoy.