Only a bear would want to hibernate during the winter in St. Charles.
From sledding hills and skating rinks to miles of open space perfect for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing, the St. Charles Park District is a winter haven for those wanting to head out rather than stay in.
Though one’s inclination may be to hunker down and wait out the cold until spring, experts say that the best way to shake off the winter blues – and burn some calories while you’re at it – is to get outside.
Outdoor activities can help release the “happy hormones” related to adrenaline, and just 15 minutes of exposure to sunlight can help supply the body with the vitamin D necessary to build strong bones.
So, where should you go and what should you do?
To help make the winter melt away, swap out your sneakers for a pair of ice skates and head over to any one of four ice skating rinks maintained by the St. Charles Park District. Ice-skating is available at Davis, Lincoln and Timber Trails parks. Ice hockey can be played at Langum Park. Rinks are open daily, and have lights available until 9 p.m. for those who prefer an evening skate.
The park district began prepping the rinks in November, according to Jeff Goodrich, assistant superintendent of parks.
“To begin freezing water for the outdoor rinks, we need about three consecutive days where the temperature stays at 15 degrees or lower with no snow in the forecast,” says Goodrich.
Once these conditions are met, another five snow-free days – where the temperature stays below 32 degrees – are needed before the rinks are safe for skating.
The process is “tricky,” says Goodrich.
About 250 hours of work go into preparing the ice rinks, followed by regular maintenance and
checking for resurfacing, which takes place several times a week.
With the rinks prepared, Goodrich and his staff also monitor conditions optimal for snow sledding, snow shoeing and other winter activities.
“We want to see a uniform covering of snow,” says Goodrich. “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 or snowboard on grass.”
Snowboarding and sledding are permitted at Langum Park on the hill facing Route 25, and at Timber Trails Park.
Cross-country skiing can be done along any of the walking trails maintained by the park district. Popular spots for snowshoeing are Hickory Knolls Discovery Center, 3795 Campton Hills Drive, and Primrose Farm, 5N726 Crane Road. The park district offers pairs of aluminum-framed, adult-size snowshoes and plastic, child-size snowshoes for rental.
Even though there are so many opportunities for winter fun, weather can sometimes be a bit of a challenge. The weather can change in a matter of hours, which is why the park district maintains a Winter Activity Hotline, so people can call to check conditions at ice rinks and sled hills.
For the latest conditions on all St. Charles Park District facilities, call the hotline at 630-513-4320 between noon and 5 p.m. weekdays.
“We update our system whenever conditions change,” says Goodrich.