This December has been particularly cold and snowy, and that is just fine for those who choose to embrace the season and take advantage of the winter sports in the area.
"Unlike most people, we're always praying for snow," said Greg Kogut, president of the Nordic Fox Ski Club, a cross-country skiing club with members in Naperville and other western suburbs. "When you cross-country ski, you find that winter is much more enjoyable. You actually look forward to the cold and the snow."
Cross-country skiing is just one of the winter outdoor activities in Naperville that draw people outside. With the Winter Olympics just around the corner, there might be a little more motivation to ski, skate or slide through the season. Here's a roundup of sports that can help you embrace the snow.
Skiing and snowboarding
While Illinois certainly isn't known for its alpine amenities, a surprising number of options exist for those who want to ski without leaving the area code. For those with their own cross-country skis or snowshoes, DuPage Forest Preserve trails in Naperville are open to users in the winter. McDowell Grove, Springbrook Prairie and Green Valley forest preserves all feature miles of trails frequented by cross-country skiers (dupageforest.com).
If you're new to the sport, the Arrowhead Golf Course in Wheaton (arrowheadgolfclub.org) rents equipment, offers lessons and grooms trails on the golf course for cross-country skiing. Skiers also can access the trails at the adjacent Herrick Lake Forest preserve, which are groomed for skiing. The Sagawau Environmental Learning Center in Lemont (fpdcc.com), which is part of the Cook County Forest Preserve, also offers rentals and lessons for those new to the sport.
If you'd rather have gravity do the work, downhill skiing and snowboarding is available at the Four Lakes Ski and Snowboard area in Lisle (skifourlakes.com). This year the facility celebrates its 51st year in business, offering instruction, rental equipment and ski slopes ranging from beginner to advanced, as well as a terrain park for snowboarders. The Naperville Park District also operates a snowboard-only hill at the Wiegand Riverfront Park (2436 S. Washington St.).
The Naperville Park District operates four outdoor skating rinks, which are open from Dec. 15 to Feb. 15, cold weather permitting.
Facilities at Centennial Park (500 W. Jackson Ave.), Nike Sports Complex (288 W. Diehl Rd.) and Commissioners Park (3704 111th St. ) are lighted and remain open until 10 p.m. The rink at Gartner Park (524 Gartner Road) closes at dusk. The status of each rink can be found by calling 630-883-4242 or visiting napervilleparks.org/cancellations. Hockey is only permitted on the boarded rinks at Centennial Park; the other rinks offer recreational skating only.
The jewel of Naperville's winter sports scene is Rotary Hill along the Riverwalk in downtown Naperville. Inner tubes and plastic sleds are permitted until 9 p.m. during the week and 10 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. Check the Naperville Park District website (napervilleparks.org) for special events during the season.
The park district also operates the following sled hills, which close at dusk:
Arrowhead Park (711 Iroquois Ave.), Brook Crossing (1015 95th St.), County Lakes Park (1835 North Aurora Rd.), Gartner Park (524 W. Gartner Rd) and May Watts Park (804 S. Whispering Hills Drive).
If you're interest in more of a "one-horse open sleigh" type of a ride, the Danada Forest Preserve in Wheaton offer 12-15 minute horse-drawn sleigh rides throughout the winter — with two horses actually doing the work. Weather permitting, rides are offered from noon to 2 p.m. Dec. 26 to Dec. 30 and from noon to 3 p.m. on Sundays in January and February. If there's no snow, the horses will still be available for winter hayrides (dupageforest.com).