Winter. Tis the season to cheer up and chill out!
Hibernation isn’t healthy. To avoid catching a case of the wintertime blahs, participate in a variety of outdoor activities that help release the “happy hormones” of adrenaline and norepinephrine. Even just 15 minutes’ exposure to sunlight can help supply the vitamin D necessary to build strong bones. Though one’s inclination may be to hunker down and wait it out until spring, experts advise getting outdoors in the winter as the best way to shake off the blues and burn up some calories. In St. Charles, there’s a whole world brimming with winter wonders that can help those seasonal blues slip-slide away.
Slip-sliding is pretty much the name of the game when it comes to winter fun. From sledding down a few snow-covered hills to skating across an ice rink and exploring a park’s frosted landscape or cross-country skiing along miles of open space and scenic trails, there’s sure to be a winter activity designed to get you out and about.
While the general St. Charles area may not be the first location that comes to mind when the word “skiing” is mentioned (lagging considerably behind such towns as Vail, Aspen, and Gstaad), it does offer perfect conditions for the cross-country version of the sport. Once the white stuff falls, the District’s 20+ miles of walking and biking trails are magically transformed into ideal cross-country ski trails offering you a way to get your heart rate up and partake in the scenic views of nature.
“We encourage everyone to take advantage of outdoor activities even in the cold weather,” said Mike Kies, Superintendent of Recreation. “As long as you’re dressed for the weather, outdoor exercise in the winter is beneficial for the body and mind.”
Bundle up and head outside to enjoy free St. Charles Park District winter recreation. Even if you’re just walking a trail, being outside can refresh your mind by reducing stress, improving concentration and increasing creativity.
What would winter be without some good, old-fashioned sledding? You don’t need a vintage Flexible Flyer (possibly named “Rosebud”) to have a good time. Aluminum discs, snowboards, plastic trays – even a hefty sheet of cardboard will do in a pinch. There are great hills at Timber Trails Park and Langum Park; both unsupervised and unlit parks are open until 9pm and free to use. Bring your own sled.
“We cannot stress enough for families to be mindful of the hours and weather conditions while partaking in this fun winter activity”, Kies said. “While many would like to sled down the slopes in Pottawatomie Park, it’s too dangerous with its abundance of trees and proximity to the river.”
Safety is the District’s number one priority. The website is updated regularly with current sled hill and ice conditions.
“We want to see a uniform covering of snow,” said Kies. “If we can see grass showing through on about half of a sled hill, we’ll close it so no one gets injured trying to sled on grass.”
Another way to make winter slip-slide away is to swap out the sneakers for a pair of skates and head over to any one of four free ice rinks. Ice skating is available at Lincoln and Timber Trails Parks. Langum Park is set up for ice hockey action. Skaters should bring their own equipment, as no rentals are available. Rinks are open daily and lighted until 9pm for nighttime skating.
The park district starts prepping the rinks in November, weather permitting. To begin freezing water for the outdoor rinks, parks staff need about three consecutive days where the temperature stays at 15 degrees or lower with no snow in the forecast. This then has to be followed by another five snow-free days where the temperature stays below 32 degrees before the rinks are safe for skating. Just when you might ask yourself what do parks staff do during the winter months? Well, besides snowplowing parking lots and shoveling sidewalks, about 250 hours of work goes into preparing the ice rinks, followed by regular maintenance several times a week to check for resurfacing.
With all these outdoor opportunities, this might be the year you turn from a weather wimp to a winter warrior. Let it snow!