We've got the lowdown for devotees of seasonal pursuits once Mother Nature permits
Happy Mild Year! That's been 2023's opening act thus far, anyway (quite a contrast from Christmas in the Arctic). But don't fret, winter sports enthusiasts, conditions favorable to keep the skates, skis and sleds from hibernating are sure to eventually return. Hinsdale and its surrounds offer a number of activities to give you that winter workout. Here are a few:
Hit the ice
The village-operated rink at Burns Field, 320 N. Vine St., will operate when weather permits (four to six consecutive full days of weather below 32 degrees). Posted signs indicate the rink's status: green means safe to skate, red means no skating. When open, the rink is lit for evening activities. Hockey is permitted, and the park will close nightly at 10 p.m. If the rink is open, the warming shelter also will be open weekends only starting Saturday, Jan. 7. Shelter hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays - supervised, with free hot chocolate and a fire. Stay updated on rink ice conditions through the village's website at http://www.villageofhinsdale.org and the parks and recreation department's Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/HinsdaleParks.
Tread the snowy woods
Explore Fullersburg Woods by snowshoes. Bring your own or rent a pair Monday through Saturday through Feb. 26 at the Fullersburg Woods Nature Education Center, 3609 Spring Road, Oak Brook, when there's plenty of snow on the trails. Rentals are available from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. (rentals end at 2 p.m.) and are $10 for the day. Call (630) 850-8110 for availability and visit http://www.dupageforest.org for details.
Glide along the trails
The DuPage County Forest Preserve District invites cross-country skiers to check out trails at its various properties. When conditions permit, members groom trails for classical and freestyle cross-country skiing at the following sites:
Greene Valley (Naperville)
Fullersburg Woods (Oak Brook)
Herrick Lake (Wheaton)
Mallard Lake (Hanover Park)
Meacham Grove (Bloomingdale)
Springbrook Prairie (Naperville)
Waterfall Glen (Darien)
Trail users are asked to take care not to damage tracks that have been set. Visit http://www.dupageforest.org for maps. For information on trail conditions, call the district's outdoor report at (630) 871-6422 and press 3, then press 2.
Tube down the tundra
Take a thrilling 800-foot ride down the Mount Hoy tubing hill at Blackwell Forest Preserve on Butterfield Road in Warrenville through Feb. 26. It's open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on weekends and school holidays when there's plenty of snow (usually more than 3 inches). Only forest district inner tubes are allowed. Inner tube rentals are at the base of the hill and are $10 per tube per day (rentals end at 3:30 p.m.). Pay with cash or credit card. Before heading out, check the @dupageforest Facebook page to find out if the hill is open. It may close early due to extreme cold or severe weather.
Get your steps in
Those looking for outdoor exercise this winter can join a free fitness hike at a Cook County Forest Preserve District site. The hikes are faster-paced with little to no stopping or interpretation. Registration is required.
The first hike will be a 4-mile trek at 10 a.m. Thursday, Jan. 12, at Teason's Woods on South Willow Springs Road, south of Calumet Sag Road/Route 83 near Palos Park. Register at http://www.tinyurl.com/fittw.
Another excursion will cover 5 miles starting at 10 a.m. Thursday, Jan. 19, at Country Lane Woods on 95th Street, east of Flavin Road/Willow Springs Road near Willow Springs. Register at http://www.tinyurl.com/fhclw2.
A third opportunity will be a 4.5-mile hike at 9 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 4, at Cermak Woods, 7600 W. Ogden Ave. in Lyons. Call (312) 533-5751.
Play it safe in the outdoors this winter
The DuPage County Forest Preserve District reminds residents to play it safe while enjoying ice fishing, snow tubing, cross-country skiing and other winter activities.
"The safest way to enjoy the outdoors is with another person so you're not alone if there's an emergency," said Dan Jones, longtime district ranger and assistant manager of rangers. "If that's not possible, let someone know exactly where you're going and when you expect to be back."
As a guideline, there should be at least 4 inches of solid clear ice for one person and at least 8 inches for a group. Rangers do not monitor ice conditions in the preserves, so visitors step onto the ice at their own risk.
"It's always a good idea to carry a set of ice picks with you in case you fall through the ice," Jones added.
Ice strength can be affected by wind, snow, rain, sunlight, water levels, underground springs and temperature and can vary greatly over one body of water. Anyone venturing out on the ice should know the signs of dangerous conditions:
• cracks, ridges or faults
• different-colored ice, especially dark gray or black
• ice that looks rotten or porous
• ice covered by snow, water or slush
• running water or bubbles under the ice
"If you fall through the ice, turn toward the direction you came from because that's probably the strongest ice," Jones said. "Place your hands and arms on the unbroken surface, kick your feet, and try to pull yourself out using ice picks if you have them. Once you're out of the water, lie flat on the ice and roll away from the hole. Get to a warm, dry, sheltered area as soon as possible and call 911."
Visitors should also take care to dress for the weather. Even mild temperatures can cause frostbite and hypothermia, two medical conditions that require treatment. Signs of hypothermia include shivering, exhaustion, confusion, slurred speech and loss of motor skills. Signs of frostbite, which most frequently harms extremities like fingers, toes, ears and noses, include numbness, a white or grayish-yellow skin color or an unusual waxy feeling to the skin. Keep in mind that some people are more susceptible to the cold, particularly children, the elderly and those with circulation problems.
To help prevent injury, dress in layers with moisture-wicking underclothes and outer heat-retaining layers. Wool, silk and synthetic fleece retain body heat better than cotton. Waterproof boots, thick socks, a hat and gloves or mittens help keep extremities warm. A scarf, neck tube or face mask will keep your face warm and help cover as much exposed skin as possible. Traction cleats will keep you from slipping on icy trails.
- compiled by Ken Knutson