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.
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.
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 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 www.co.washington.mn.us/532/Programs-Events.
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.
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.
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 Skinnyski.com to find ski trails further away in Minnesota and Wisconsin.
- Afton State Park (6959 Peller Ave S, Hastings) and William O’Brien State Park (16821 O Brien Trail N, Marine on St Croix ) skiing, snowshoeing, and winter hiking
- Brown’s Creek Park (8312 Neal Ave N, Stillwater) skiing and winter hiking
- Carpenter Nature Center Minnesota (12805 St. Croix Trail S., Hastings) and Wisconsin (279 South Cove Rd., Hudson) snowshoe rentals available
- Cottage Grove Ravine Regional Park (9653 Keats Ave S, Cottage Grove) ski and snowshoe rental, winter hiking, and ice fishing
- Lake Elmo Park Reserve (1515 Keats Ave N, Lake Elmo) ski and snowshoe rentals, winter hiking, fat tire biking, and ice fishing
- Oakdale Nature Preserve (4444 Hadley Ave N, Oakdale) snowshoeing and winter hiking
- Pine Point Regional Park (11900 Norell Ave N, Stillwater) and St. Croix Bluffs Regional Park (10191 St Croix Trail S, Hastings) skiing and winter hiking
- Tamarack Nature Center (5287 Otter Lake Rd, White Bear Township) ski and snowshoe rentals
- Tamarack Nature Preserve (1825 Tower Dr, Woodbury) winter hiking
- Valley View Park (5421 N Osgood Ave, Oak Park Heights) winter hiking, snowshoeing, and fat tire biking
- Wild River State Park (9797 Park Trail, Center City) ski and snowshoe rentals available
- Willow River State Park (1034 Co Hwy A, Hudson) snowshoe rentals, skiing
- Kinnickinnic River State Park (W11983 820th Ave, River Falls) snowshoe rentals, skiing, winter hiking, fat-tire biking
- Any of the Minnesota State Scientific and Natural Areas (snowshoeing and winter hiking)
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