Vigor in the Valley

    Put down the hot cocoa and put on the parka: Winter activities worth braving the cold


    Photo by Elizabeth Jackson

    This picture from our 2014 files shows Pinehurst Park’s dual features. To the left is the free skiing/snowboarding terrain park and to the right the sledding hill.

    I hate treadmills with a passion. Every time I try to jog on one, I lose motivation quicker than I can work up a sweat. Actually, I despise working out inside no matter what I’m doing. I much prefer the fresh air of the outdoors to a gym’s stuffy, odorous scent.

    Last winter I was sick of drab workouts on stationary bikes, so I scoured the Chippewa Valley for the best outdoor wintertime sports. I discovered that the Eau Claire area is home to several wintertime sports that embrace snow and ice. Two winter sports I think Eau Claire does well are sledding and cross country skiing.


    The Chippewa Valley’s geography lends itself to some fantastic sledding hills. My favorite is Pinehurst Park, which is northeast of the UW-Eau Claire campus. The slope is both a sledding hill and a terrain park with free downhill skiing and snowboarding features. At the base of the hill there’s an ice rink. I think it’s well-worth the 14 minute drive.

    My friends and I bought saucer sleds, buttered them and set out for the park one night. Standing at the base of the hill is daunting, but the slope looks the steepest after the calf-burning trek to the top.

    My first ride down the hill was one I’ll never forget. Like a true Wisconsinite, I’ve been sledding for as long as I can remember. I don’t think I’ve ever experienced a ride a thrilling as my bop down Pinehurst. I screamed and tried to slow down my sled with my legs. I was probably exceeding 15 miles per hour.

    Think I’m a wimp? Go butter up a saucer sled and try Pinehurst for yourself this winter.

    Another sledding site is Forest Hill Cemetery — only six minutes from campus. It’s a gentler slope than Pinehurst nestled between the pine trees and tombstones.  

    Cross country skiing

    I’ve wanted to try cross country skiing ever since I watched the 2018 Winter Olympics. It appears to be a rigorous sport because a skier must use all four limbs to propel themselves forward. I’ve promised myself I’m going to hit the trails this winter.

    Don’t own a pair of cross country skis? Not to worry: Students can rent skis, poles, boots and a bag for $10 a day from the Environmental Adventure Center located on Upper Campus.

    Eau Claire has a few trails that quietly wind through the city. Carson Park, home to Blugold football games, actually has a one-mile loop groomed for skiing in the winter. City Wells Area, about 11 minutes from campus, has three miles of trails. Both parks include free entry.  

    To escape the hustle and bustle of city life, head out to Tower Ridge, the largest cross country skiing area in the county. With 15 miles of groomed trails ranging from easy to difficult, the park is a skier’s paradise. Tower Ridge is 16 minutes from campus and requires a $10 day pass.

    Neupert can be reached at [email protected].