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A reminder of the winter fun out there

Ice fishing is offered Blackwell Forest Preserve Warrenville. | Submitted photo

Ice fishing is offered at Blackwell Forest Preserve in Warrenville. | Submitted photo

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Updated: February 27, 2013 10:27AM

The weather outside may not be very frightful this year, but for many folks, cabin fever is starting to set in.

So although the winter season is only officially a week old, here are some ideas for winter fun other than sledding and hiking.

Ice fishing

Who says fish don’t bite in the winter?

Many forest preserves in the area will allow ice fishing unless otherwise posted. The Forest Preserve District of DuPage County, for example, hosts a Hard-Water Classic Ice Fishing Tournament Jan. 5 on Silver Lake at Blackwell Forest Preserve in Warrenville. (If the ice is unsafe, the tournament will be moved to Feb. 9.)

Anglers in Kane County should note that ice fishing is permitted at Hampshire South Forest Preserve in Hampshire, on Lake Patterson within Oakhurst Forest Preserve in Aurora, and on the two ponds within Paul Wolff Campground in Elgin.

As a guideline, a minimum of four inches of ice is recommended for fishing. Most preserves don’t have rangers monitoring ice thickness, so fish at your own risk.

Check your county forest preserve district’s web site, or call, if you want more information.


For a different take on sledding, try sailing 800 feet down a hill on an inner tube. Mount Hoy, at Blackwell Forest Preserve in Warrenville, offers tubing when three or more inches of snow cover the hill. No tube? No problem! Rent inner tubes on weekends and school holidays for $5 per tube per day (cash only) from December through February at the base of the hill. (If there’s snow on the ground when you’re reading this, the hill is open through Jan. 6.) Only District-rented tubes are allowed on the slopes; hours are 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. (Last tube rental is at 3:30 p.m.)

Call the Outdoor Report at (630) 871-6422 for snow conditions.

In Will County, inner tubes are available for rental at Plum Creek Nature Center for use on the sledding hill at Goodenow Grove Nature Preserve in Crete. Renters must be 18 years old and bring a valid driver’s license or state ID. Tube rental costs $1.

The Forest Preserve District of Will County offers a Twilight Tubing event from 5 to 10 p.m. Jan. 20 at the Goodenow Grove Nature Preserve in Crete. The event is free, but may be canceled if there’s not enough snow cover. Call (708) 946-2216 for up-to-date conditions. Another Twilight Tubing event is scheduled for Feb. 22.


The Raging Buffalo Snowboard Ski Park is located at 19N460 Route 31 in Algonquin and is the only snowboard-exclusive park around. Check for hours and weather conditions — making snow has been hard this year — as well as special events, lessons and more.

Snow shoeing

Most all of the area forest preserves offer a chance to stomp through the snowy woods with big paddles strapped to your feet. Check your district’s web site for hours and regulations. (Some groom trails, others don’t.)

A few preserves offer snowshoe rental. New this year, the Forest Preserve District of DuPage is offering snowshoeing from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekends and school holidays through February at Blackwell Forest Preserve in Warrenville. Snowshoe rental is available and costs $5 for two hours or $10 for the whole day.

Snowshoe rental is also available at the Monee Reservoir in Will County for $10 a day plus $10 returnable cash deposit (renters must be at least 18.)

The Forest Preserve District of Will County is offering a week-long Warm Up to Snowshoeing event Jan. 15 to 20 for people and families to take a self-guided wintry hike on snowshoes. Free hot chocolate awaits hikers in the visitors’ center after the hike.

Enthusiasts can Snowshoe Under the Stars from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. Jan. 26 at the Monee Reservoir with volunteers from the Kankakee Area Stargazers club, who will be on hand with telescopes.

Call (708) 534-8499 or visit

Snowshoeing is permitted in any of the Fox Valley District’s 163 parks and throughout the 43-mile network of trails. Whenever the snow cover is three inches or more, snowshoes are available for rent daily at the Red Oak Nature Center. For $5, you can rent a pair of Atlas 925 snowshoes — poles included — to navigate across the white stuff.

Dog sledding

The art of mushing, or dog sled racing, has been growing in popularity for many years in Chicagoland, thanks to groups like the Siberian Husky Club of Greater Chicago.

The Forest Preserve District of Will County presents the 19th annual Musher Mania on Jan. 12, a free, all-ages dog-sledding program held at the Monee Reservoir from noon to 4 p.m.

Guests will see demonstrations of mushing and skijoring (a skier pulled by sled dogs) on a new and enhanced route. In case of no snow cover, wheeled sleds will be used.

Ice skating

For the fourth year, The Rink at Wrigley welcomes ice skaters to Wrigley Field, the home of the Chicago Cubs. A full-size skating rink is set up in the Wrigley Field parking lot at the corner of Clark and Waveland. Hours are 2 to 8 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 2 to 10 p.m. Friday; noon to 10 p.m. Saturday; 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday. Tickets cost $5 adults and $3 for children 12 and under Monday through Thursday; and $10 for adults and $6 for kids Friday through Sunday. Skate rental $10; $5 Monday through Thursday. At Addison and Clark streets, Chicago. Call (312) 617-7017 or visit

Come Skating in the Park at the MB Financial Park in Rosemont. This free ice skating rink is open to the public from 4 to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 4 to 10 p.m. Friday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday and 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday through Feb. 24. Extended holiday hours are 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily through Jan. 6. Skate rental costs $8. At 5501 Park Place in Rosemont. Call (847) 339-5008 or visit If you’re looking for something closer to home, check out Oakhurst Forest Preserve, 1680 Fifth Ave., in Aurora. Operated by the Forest Preserve District of Kane County, it’s a free, skate-at-your-own-risk pond.

Additionally, the Fox Valley Park District maintains three outdoor skating areas. Skating is only permitted when ice thickness is six inches or greater. A green flag signals safe conditions permissible for skating; a red flag indicates unsafe conditions.

The three skating areas are at New Haven Park, located on New Haven Avenue west of Highland Avenue in Aurora; Splash Country Water Park pond, 195 S. Barnes Road, Aurora; and Wheatland Park pond, Barrington and Spinnaker drives in Aurora. Call (630) 897-0516 or visit

Cross-country skiing

Cross-country skiing is permitted at most forest preserves in Kane, DuPage and Will counties. Check your district’s web site.

It’s also available at several Fox Valley Park District sites; including the Fox River Trail, the Virgil Gilman Trail, the Waubonsie Lake Trail and the Stuart Sports Complex/Jericho Lake.


What, you say? There are no mountains in Illinois? True — but we still have slopes. Four Lakes Alpine Snowsports has served DuPage County for more than 50 years. The resort has five runs, a beginner’s hill and a terrain park, along with lessons for everyone 4 and up. Slope tickets cost $25; check web site or call for rental prices. SnoFest 2013 will be from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Feb. 16 and features competitions, a parade, fireworks and more. Four Lakes, 5790 Lakeside Drive, Lisle. Call (630) 964-2551 (reservations), (630) 964-2550 (snow hotline) or visit


Although the infamous Swallow Cliff toboggan run in Palos Township closed its two last remaining chutes almost nine years ago, there’s still a place to take a run down a steep hill at breathtaking speeds on a wooden sled with a curved front end.

Toboggan Run in Ottawa offers fun for the whole family. It is located on the east side of Allen Park, on Courtney Street in Ottawa.

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