Beating the winter doldrums – events and activities to keep you moving

Then, it is January. People say that the sky is blue, but I look out my window and see only white. White sky. White hills. White streets and sidewalks. The color has been sucked out of the world as if we’ve all stepped into a black and white television.

St. Croix River in winter.

When I meet people who have just moved to Minnesota, I give them one piece of advice to survive the winter: you must go outside. Yes, the air is cold and the sidewalks icy, but for me, staying active during the winter is the only way to avoid slipping into a mood as grey as the world outside.

One of the snow sculptures at the inaugural World Snow Sculpting Championship in 2022.

This week, Stillwater will host the second annual World Snow Sculpting Championship in Lowell Park from January 18-22. The competition brings in teams from around the world to create giant sculptures out of snow, which remain on display throughout the winter. There are also a variety of activities planned throughout the weekend, including the “World’s Coolest Block Party” on Saturday from 6-9pm with a live DJ, music, food, beer tent, and fire performers. New this year, there will also be an Indoor Market & Warming House inside the Water Street Inn on Friday night, as well as Saturday and Sunday during the day. The event is free.

Winter is the perfect time for star-gazing, especially on cold nights with crystal clear air.

Winter is also a great time to turn your gaze toward Orion, Gemini, Taurus and other constellations in the sky. Learn to identify constellations and use giant telescopes to look at stars during a winter program with Mike Lynch (retired WCCO meteorologist and author of “Stars, a Month by Month Tour of the Constellations) at Lake Elmo Park Reserve (1515 Keats Avenue North, Lake Elmo) on Friday, Jan. 27, 6:30-8:30pm. Participants will get a handout package with user-friendly star maps and constellation charts, apps, websites, and a telescope-buying guide. $5 per person, children 6 and under are free. Register at

Mike Lynch will also present a similar star watching program at the Gammelgarden in Scandia (20880 Olinda Trail North, P.O. Box 62, Scandia) on Saturday, January 28, 6-7:30pm. Free and open to the public.

Snowshoeing is a great way to get exercise and explore the outdoors in winter.

The following weekend, Saturday, Feb. 4, Washington County Parks will offer a full moon snowshoe hike at Pine Point Regional Park (11900 Norell Ave N, Stillwater) at 6:30pm. That same evening, Belwin Conservancy (1553 Stagecoach Trail S., Afton) will hold a free Midwinter Family Fun event from 5-7pm with a campfire, winter hikes, and astronomy.

There are dozens of groomed cross-country ski trails in the Twin Cities metro and Lower St. Croix watershed and several parks that rent skis and snowshoes to beginners.

Happily, there are also dozens of local parks and trails in our area where you can enjoy cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, winter hiking, fat-tire biking, and ice fishing throughout the winter. Check out any of the following locations, or use the map on to find ski trails further away in Minnesota and Wisconsin.