Get Your Winter On - Five activities for winter warriors

Published on Wed, 11/23/2016 - 1:34pm

Get Your Winter On - AcreageLife December 2016

  We all know a Princess Elsa, from the Disney movie Frozen, who sang that the cold never really bothered her anyway. But the fact is, if you spend all winter holed up waiting for spring, you’re missing out on a lot of fun available only this time of year. So, let’s pick your sport, bundle up and let it go, let it go…

Rev it to wilderness

Have you ever wondered where they film those spectacular snowmobile commercials with thick, virgin snow amid wide-open country views? Minnesota? Wisconsin? Nope (although they offer plenty of opportunities). Look to West Yellowstone, Mont.

Yellowstone typically receives more than 140 inches of snow every winter, lasting from November through April. With over 600 miles of trails, there is more than enough room for everyone, and unlike some trails, there are many that will challenge even advanced snow-machine operators.

If you don’t have your own sleds, there are more than a dozen rental shops around. Many offer guide service, which is not to be scoffed at when all the trees in this beautiful backcountry begin to look alike.

Other places to consider include California’s Mammoth Mountain, which—at more than 11,000 feet high—gives spectacular views in addition to thousands of acres of trails, pristine backcountry, and lush pine forests. Coincidentally, Mammoth is also used for snowmobile and winter sports commercials. 

For more information:

destinationyellowstone.com — West Yellowstone

highcountrysnowmobiles.com — Yellowstone snowmobile activities

mammothmountian.com — Mammoth Mountain

 

Skate your way to happiness

Thanks to hockey and figure skating, most people today tend to see skating as an indoor sport, which is sad since there is little to compare with gliding effortlessly over the ice with the sun and wind in your face. This accounts for why the people of Ottawa, Canada look forward to the opening of the Rideau Canal Skateway.

What’s that, an entire canal devoted to skating? In a city? For more than 45 years, Parks Canada transforms the Rideau Canal that winds through the country’s capital city into a 7.8 kilometer, 4.8 mile skateway. Crews diligently remove snow and condition the ice to provide plenty of long-distance ice fun, along with all that Ottawa has to offer culturally along the way. The skating season typically begins in January and can go as late as March. You never know what

Mother Nature will provide, however—the last two seasons provided the shortest and longest seasons on record, 18 skating days and 59 skating days, respectively.

Outdoor family-style fun can be had in Ketchum, Idaho. Every winter before Christmastime, a three-person crew sets up the natural-ice Christina Potters Outdoor Ice Rink. With stunning mountain views in the background, the two-acre ice rink is maintained daily through mid-February. It’s a true family-fun frolic center, with skates, helmets, hockey sticks, pucks, goals, broom ball, and balance assists all free for public use.

If your heart is set on something more refined, nearby Sun Valley offers both natural and man-made ice. Here you’ll find a world-class indoor ice rink that is book-ended by the Sun Valley Outdoor Ice Rink. Breathtaking views are all around, from the mountains to Olympic stars who practice there. Who knows, you might be able to sign up for a lesson guided by an Olympic figure skating medalist, or bump into an Olympic hopeful practicing on the ice—many train there, and a few live in the region.

For more information

rcs.ncc-ccn.ca — Rideau Canal Skateway

ketchumidaho.org — Christina Potters Outdoor Ice Rink

visitsunvalley.com — Sun Valley ice rink

 

The original crossfit

The upper midwest is nearly ideal for cross-country skiing, with purpose-made trails being far enough north to achieve good snow conditions throughout the season. States from Maine and New York to Michigan, Minnesota, the Dakotas, and down to Iowa and Ohio have biking trails that when snow-covered make for easy cross-country skiing. Or strenuous workouts, take your pick.

Michigan is a surprising destination for those who like strapping on skis in search of adventure. While there are plenty gently-sloping mountains (as opposed to the what-was-I-thinking variety), you can find more then 360 separate trails, hills, events, and competitions on Michigan throughout the winter. Like variety? You can find trails in both rural and urban areas, with some snow trails through private estates.

With a strong Scandinavian heritage, Hayward, Wisc. has become a destination for Nordic skiing enthusiasts. In 1947, Tony Wise started the Telemark resort, bringing Alpine and Nordic skiing to the midwest and the world. While the resort has had ups and downs since then, the area’s natural beauty and history with cross-country skiing, has forged a winter culture that involves snow, slender skis, and miles and miles of trails for skiers. The area is famed for the American Birkebeiner Ski Trail, which lays claim to being the most significant cross country ski trail in the U.S. In recent years, more than 10,000 people schussed on this 52-kilometer ski marathon, which runs from Cable to Hayward.

For more information:

michigan.org/skiing/cross-country — Michigan cross country skiing

birkie.com — American Birkebeiner xcski.org — Cross country skiing

 

Ice your worm

In 2010, Rhinelander, Wisc. was named Ice Fishing Capital of the World by the North American Ice Fishing Circuit—yes, the NAIFC is a real organization, we checked. And Rhinelander has plenty to offer, as the 1100 lakes in Oneida County have enough ice to drill through in search of The Big One.

Hayward, Wisc. is home to the Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Fame and Museum (and the world’s largest muskellunge, named Big Musky) and for good reason. The nearby Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest covers 1.5 million acres in northern Wisconsin and is literally littered with outstanding fishing lakes. Experienced ice anglers and guides alike can help direct you to the best places to fish.

However, if you want to fish on one body of water, er, ice then look to Lake Mille Lacs, in Minnesota. Mille Lacs means “one thousand lakes” in French, but it is a huge body of water, more than 132,500 acres, and is the state’s second largest lake. Coincidentally, Mille Lacs is also the site of the NAIFC’s 2016 championship this month. They wouldn’t hold an ice fishing championship if there weren’t enough fish to go around, right?

For a star-struck “Hey, I’ve seen this before” moment, check out the Lake Rebecca Park Preserve in Rockford, Minn. It was the location for the iconic ice fishing scene in the 1993 classic film, Grumpy Old Men. Farther south, the Mississippi River town of Wabasha, Minn. celebrates its 15 minutes of fame in that movie every February with its own Grumpy Old Men Festival, featuring ice fishing, a pet pageant, bingo, a cribbage tournament and live music. 

For more information:

haywardlakes.com

millelacs.com

travelwisconsin.com

 

Get wet and warm

One good thing about winter is that finally getting warm feels so good. One of the places where you can ski through part of the afternoon and warm up in the remainder is at Glenwood Hot Springs, Colo. 

Located on Interstate-70 west of the mega-resort ski enclaves of Aspen, Breckenridge, Copper