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Dec 2009  |  By Ann Marie Johnson  |  Comments

Winter Wonderland - Find Outdoor Fun on the North Shore

Winter is full of ice and snow, blustering winds and freezing temperatures. Even though it’s cold outside, that’s no reason to lie passively by the fire, hibernating until the winter’s end.

The North Shore offers many opportunities to either take a hike—literally—in snowshoes or with cross-country skis. So, get bundled up, go outside and enjoy the snow!

Snowshoeing
Take a risk, rent or buy a pair of snowshoes, dress for the elements and plunge right in. Snowshoeing is fairly inexpensive, poses little risk of injury and is a great way to exert energy during the cold winter months.

One of the best things about snowshoeing: You can burn more than 600 calories per hour!

Trails in Cook County and Lake County Forest Preserves are your best bets locally for this hot-footed activity. But, in a pinch, you can also take advantage of a park or golf course. Opportunities to rent or purchase snowshoes are available at several stores. To rent or purchase, contact REI in Northbrook, Erehwon Mountain Outfitters in Bannockburn or any Sports Authority store.

Sledding and tobogganing
When the snow hits, there are often wonderful sledding and tobogganing hills around that are safe and exciting. Using a toboggan, a sliding disc or even the famous “Flexible Flyer,” you can bundle up and head to your favorite hill. Some of the best sledding and tobogganing hills on the North Shore include:

  • The Old School Forest Preserve in Libertyville
  • James Park in Evanston
  • Flick Park in Glenview
  • Johns Park in Glenview
  • Wood Oaks Green Park in Northbrook
  • Techny Prairie Park in Northbrook
  • Danny CunniffPark in Highland Park
  • Watt Park in Glencoe

Outdoor Ice Skating

The chill in the air makes perfect ice-skating weather. All of these outdoor rinks are free, and maintained by the park districts in their respective towns. Many have warming huts and some even have a limited supply of skates available for rental. So sharpen those skates and enjoy! Some outdoor ice rinks include:

  • Flick Park in Glenview
  • Sunset Woods Park in Highland Park
  • Meadowhill Park in Northbrook
  • Tower Rink in Northbrook
  • Gilson Park in Wilmette
  • West Park in Wilmette
  • Mallinckrodt Park in Wilmette
  • Hubbard Woods Park in Winnetka
  • Indian Hill Park in Winnetka
  • Pond on the Green (next door to Winnetka Ice Arena) in Winnetka
  • Northfield Park in Northfield

Cross-country skiing
Rather than using a downward slope to propel yourself forward, it’s the skis and poles (and you!) that do all the work. Cross-country skis are sometimes
known as “skinny skis” because of their thinness compared to alpine skis. The long, thin design allows you to better distribute your weight and move more quickly.

There are nearly 100 miles of challenging and fun cross-country trails that await beginners and skilled enthusiasts on the North Shore. You can try the forest preserves, but if you’re looking for something different, take advantage of your local golf course to cut some smooth grooves with your skis in the fresh snow.

Cross-country skis are available to rent or purchase at several local stores including:

  • Williams Ski Haus in Highland Park
  • Erehwon in Bannockburn
  • REI in Northbrook
  • Snowbird Ski & Patio in Glenview and Libertyville

Platform tennis
Played at private clubs as well as public facilities, platform tennis is the only racquet sport that players can enjoy outdoors in cold weather. The rules are
similar to tennis but use a shorter racquet and a spongy, rubber ball. The game is played on an elevated aluminum deck, smaller than a tennis court, surrounded by 12-foot-high fencing, which allows you to play off the walls. The base of the court is usually enclosed to allow for a heating system beneath the deck.

Cold weather can’t stop the avid interest in platform tennis, so remember to make court reservations before you go. North Shore public facilities include:

  • Winnetka Park District
  • The Five Seasons Sports Club, Northbrook
  • Lake Bluff Park District

Don’t let the cold weather get you down. Just take advantage of the North Shore winter wonderland. The best reward is returning home to a warm fire
in the fireplace and a hot cup of cocoa. Don’t forget the marshmallows!

Updated for 2011 by Samantha Kiersey

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