Winter Wonderland—Six Activities to Embrace Winter in Naperville

February 2015 View more


Don’t expect to hear a song on the radio calling this “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year.” Far from it. In fact, some of us are so desperate to shake the winter doldrums that we look to a famous rodent in Pennsylvania for guidance.

With that in mind, here are two potential approaches for the remaining weeks of winter:

• Cocoon in your family room and binge-watch Netflix until the tulips pop out of the ground.

• Embrace the season so that you’re anticipating—instead of dreading—newly fallen snow.
Before you dismiss the second option as delusional optimism, try this: Rent a pair of snowshoes and take a hike with a friend. Learn how to cross-country ski with your spouse. Skate with your kids at Centennial Park.

Or buy a new fatbike and plow through snowy trails.
All of these activities will help you understand the magic of winter and appreciate the often small window of opportunity that a snowstorm, or a long stretch of cold nights, can create.

Snowshoeing: A cool hike

NMAG0215_LargeFeature_iStock_000014142940Medium_800pxSnowshoes are an ideal companion if you’re looking to do some trail or off-trail hiking in snow.

“They keep you floating on the snow,” said Bill Norris, who teaches snowshoeing and cross-country skiing classes in College of DuPage’s Field Studies program. “It’s a little different than walking. It’s the same experience as hiking and you can enjoy the beautiful scenery.”

The best place in the Naperville Park District to cross-country ski or snowshoe is Knoch Knolls Park. “It’s home to miles of trails through wooded and prairie areas,” said Brad Wilson, the park district’s director of recreation.

The park district doesn’t offer snowshoe rentals but they are available at Blackwell Forest Preserve in Warrenville. When Mount Hoy is open, you can rent snowshoes at the base of the hill for trail exploration. Rentals are $5 for two hours or $10 per day and end at 2 p.m. On weekdays, when Mount Hoy isn’t open but the trails have ample snow, rentals are available 8 a.m.–2 p.m. at the District’s west division office on Mack Road. For more information on hours and rates call 630.876.5931.

Cross-country skiing: Aerobic glide

NMAG0215_LargeFeature_iStock_000028332266Medium_800px.jpg Some of the happiest people during a snowstorm are cross-country skiers, because they know a decent snowfall will allow them to get out the skis and glide.

“Cross-country skiers are definitely doing it for the aerobic benefit more than the sightseeing aspect,” Norris said. “If I was going out on a nice winter day to enjoy scenery, I’d probably grab snowshoes rather than cross-country skis. If I enjoy the environment and also want to get a good workout, I’d go cross-country skiing on a groomed trail.”

There are two styles of cross-country skiing: Classic and skating – which is also known as freestyle.

“The classic style of cross-country skiing is not that hard to pick up,” Norris said. “With skate skiing, the skis are a little bit shorter and it’s more aerobic.”

Norris said he enjoys cross-country skiing at Waterfall Glen in Darien. Also, the Morton Arboretum is an ideal spot that offers rentals for snowshoes and cross-country skis. For more info, visit
The DuPage Forest Preserve District grooms trails at Blackwell, Danada in Wheaton, Fullersburg Woods in Oak Brook, Greene Valley in Naperville, Herrick Lake in Wheaton, Mallard Lake in Hanover Park, Meacham Grove in Bloomingdale, Springbrook Prairie in Naperville, Waterfall Glen in Darien, and West DuPage Woods in West Chicago. For trail conditions call 630.871.6422

An ideal opportunity to snowshoe and cross-country ski with a group is the St. James After Dark programs at St. James Farm Forest Preserve. Upcoming programs are 6 p.m. – 8:30 p.m. February 6 and March 6. To register call 630.933.7248

The best places to snowshoe, or cross-country ski, in the Will County Forest Preserve District are on the DuPage River Trail (from Naperville to Shorewood), and at the Riverview Farmstead Preserve, Tall Grass Greenway Trail, Vermont Cemetery Preserve, Whalon Lake and Wolf Creek Preserve, all in Naperville. Snowshoes can be rented at the Monee Reservoir.

Also, many Naperville residents visit Arrowhead Golf Club in Wheaton to rent cross-country skis and take lessons on how to ski. Visit

Sledding: Dial up Rotary

NMAG0215_LargeFeature_iStock_000020290928Large_800px.jpg Naperville sled hills generally fall into two categories—the Riverwalk Sled Hill at Rotary Hill and all the others including Arrowhead Park, Brooks Crossings, Country Lakes Park, Gartner Park and May Watts Park.
All the hills offer plenty of fun, but Rotary Hill is the biggest and fastest. It also is the only one that is lit up at night. If you want to get in a lot of runs, arrive early because families will pack the summit the day after a major snowstorm.

Another option is the 800-foot snow tube run at Mount Hoy at Blackwell Forest Preserve in Warrenville. The rental area is open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on weekends through March 1 and on President’s Day on February 16. Only District inner tubes are permitted on the snow tube. Rentals are $5 per day and end at 3:30 p.m. For snow conditions call 630.871.6422.
In Will County, there is a popular sledding hill at Goodenow Grove Nature Preserve in Beecher.

Skating: Free ice time

NMAG0215_LargeFeature_iStock_000011091522Medium_800pxEvery winter, Centennial Park’s sand volleyball courts are transformed into a skating rink where hockey players and figure skaters share ice time.
Also, broomball has become a popular sport during the winter months and is often played on the boarded hockey rinks at the Park.
In addition to the Centennial ice rink along the Riverwalk, there are lighted rinks at Commissioners Park and Nike Sports Complex. All three rinks are open until 10 p.m. Rinks at Meadow Glens and Gartner Park are not lighted and close one hour after sunset. Call 630.883.4242 for updated ice conditions.

Snowboarding and downhill skiing: Visit Four Lakes

The popularity of downhill skiing is still strong, but is quickly being surpassed by a relative newcomer for the younger generation – snowboarding.
Snowboarding is available at Weigand Riverfront Park in Naperville.
“The hill allows for children and those new to snowboarding to try a small hill with their own snowboard,” Wilson said. “Those more serious about snowboarding or in need of a snowboard rental should head to Four Lakes.”
The park district partners with Four Lakes in Lisle to offer snowboarding and downhill skiing lessons each winter season. For more information on Four Lakes, including hours of operation and rentals, visit

Fatbike: A new way to ride

Another way to enjoy snow-covered trails is on a bike—specifically, a fatbike that includes a specially designed frame and larger wheels to handle the slippery snow.
Spencer Huard, a Naperville Park District web designer who bikes with a group of riders during warm weather, equipped himself to ride all year. His fatbike has 5-inch tires that flatten out and enable him to ride over just about anything.

He usually rides on the DuPage River Trail from Jefferson Street up to Herrick Lake and Blackwell Forest Preserve.

“We plan on riding all winter, even with heavy snow,” said Huard, who will wear a snowboarding-type outfit, with ski goggles and a full mask under his helmet.
Whatever your passion, embrace the season because spring is only one month away.