The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

Winter survival guide

Now that winter break is finally approaching, we can look forward to month after month and inch after frozen inch of snow. This often conjures up images of slipping on patches of hidden ice or getting snow in your boots, encouraging you to stay in and hibernate. However, because a Wisconsin winter can be a fickle mistress, there are also a lot of great, fun and inexpensive activities you can do to get out of the house and beat that cabin fever, making these winter months not only the coldest, but the coolest.

Snowboarding, skiing and snow tubing/sledding
Wisconsin holds a wealth of ski and snowboard hills (over 30, in fact), with a variety of slopes and difficulties to keep you interested and in a constant supply of adrenaline rushes. While Wisconsin’s hills are dispersed throughout the state, some are close to home here in Eau Claire, though they still require a drive.

 Bruce Mound Winter Sports Area
791 Bruce Mound Ave., Merrillan, 715-743-2296
(About an hour drive)
Opening Saturday, this hill not only caters to snowboarders and skiers, but to those who like to snow tube as well. Bruce Mound’s snowboard terrain and handlebar tow allow the more brazen of winter adventurers to show off their talents. It also offers several downhill trails, ranging everywhere from a gentle bunny slope for beginners to a double black diamond slope for experts who want to navigate the steep and winding course. For the less board-strapped-to-your-feet inclined, the snow tubing hill can provide that need for speed, with less fear of possible injuries (hey, no first-time snowboarder gets away without a few bruises).

 Christie Mountain
W13755 County Rd. O, Bruce,
(About an hour and 20 minute drive)
Also opening this Saturday, Christie Mountain lets any skier or snowboarder, novice to expert, divide his or her time between the challenging terrain park and slopes. Delving deep into the Wisconsin northwoods, the ski area’s Blue Hills are said to have been created by “the Beast,” who had more fun than his beastly relatives, Big Foot and the Abominable Snowman, because he learned to ski. For first timers, Christie Mountain provides rentals and lessons with qualified instructors, to give you that boost of confidence it takes to tackle the more difficult trails. If you come across any beastly-sized footprints, though, you may want to wander the other way.

Ice fishing
Since when does the relaxing and beer-drinking fun of fishing have to end when the winter comes? If you have an auger, an upside down bucket, and a tip-up, it doesn’t! Ice fishing, one of the activities common to the icy north, may seem crazy to our southern neighbors. But nothing says Wisconsin more than flannel, beer and driving your car out onto the middle of a frozen lake to spend the day in an ice shanty. Though Eau Claire is better known for its rivers, there are several lakes to test not only the heat-retaining power of your wool socks, but your ability to catch fish sealed under a sheet of solid ice. Before you gear up and set out, make sure you have your fishing license with you (any time of the year) and take a look at the Wisconsin Fishing Regulations on the Department of National Resources Web site.

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Where to go:
 Half Moon Lake, Eau Claire
 Lake Altoona, Altoona
 Lake Wissota, Chippewa Falls
 Lake Hallie, Lake Hallie

Snowmen and snow angels
Nothing says winter like taking a trip back into your childhood and building a snowman or, if there’s not enough packing snow, laying back and making a snow angel. These time-honored treasures are nostalgia at its best and are simple. For those who perhaps grew up in warmer regions or didn’t get out much, all you need for a snowman is to roll three balls of snow, stack them and adorn your new frosty friend with humanistic clothing and appendages. Coal eyes, a carrot nose and twig arms are classic, but try being creative and put a twist on an old favorite. When you’re done, lay back in the snow to admire your work, but while you’re at it, move your arms and legs up and down, and create an angel pattern.

Snowball fights
While snowmen and snow angels are childhood favorites, a good old-fashioned snowball fight provides the competition and general fear that its snowy counterparts lack. This dodge-ball-style game has loose regulations and generally only follows the neighborhood rules, which can change day to day or by whichever kid is the oldest and, therefore, smartest. While certain defensive measures are permitted, such as building snow forts to protect yourself and store reserves, remember, when on the offensive, no one likes getting a snowball to the face.

Though this activity has somewhat died out, that doesn’t mean you can’t revive it. This ancient Christmas tradition involves walking with a group, door-to-door, and singing Christmas carols in exchange for general goodwill, smiles and the occasional cookie. Chippewa Valley’s Hidden Treasures, a local magazine, is inviting anyone and everyone to join them for caroling at 6 p.m., Monday, Dec. 21, at Boyd Park (between Main Street and E. Grand Avenue at Summer Street) in Eau Claire or at Micon Cinemas in Chippewa Falls (475 Chippewa Mall Drive). Participants are encouraged to dress festively and bring flashlights and, of course, a head full of their favorite Christmas tunes.

Ice skating
This winter activity can be done indoors or out. While ice skating on a lake lacks smoothness and Zambonis, ice skating indoors lacks the fresh air and sunshine of the outside. If a leisurely glide isn’t your scene, consider competing with a skating club, such as the UW-Eau Claire Figure Skating Club or the Eau Clare Figure Skating Club. With skates on, hockey and broom ball are also fun ways to compete on the ice. Broom ball is much like hockey, except brooms are used in lieu of sticks and a ball in place of a puck.

Where to go:
 Hobbs Municipal Ice Center
915 Menomonie St., Eau Claire,
 Chippewa Area Ice Arena
839 1st Ave., Chippewa Falls, 715-723-4710

Cross-country skiing
Wisconsin’s forests hide a large amount of cross-country ski trails (90 areas, in fact) if you are looking for some good exercise in the cold. While hundreds of miles of trails crisscross over the state, some are close to Eau Claire. If you don’t want to venture off on your own, though, consider joining a team or club, like the UW-Eau Claire Nordic Ski Team.

Where to go (closest towns listed):
 Tower Ridge Ski Area, Eau Claire (12 mi. of trails
groomed for cross-country skiing, both classic and
skating techniques. A 3 km trail is lit for night skiing.)
 Lake Wissota State Park, Chippewa Falls (7 mi.)
 Hoffman Hills State Recreation Area, Colfax (8 mi.)
 Red Cedar State Trail, Menomonie (12 mi.)
 Hickory Ridge, Bloomer (8 mi.)

So lace up your boots, put on your mittens and get out there and enjoy that new-fallen snow. Winter break may last for over a month, but it will fly by and, before you know it, you’ll be hitting the books again.

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Winter survival guide