Chill Out!

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Just because the temperature has dropped and Christmas is around the corner, doesn’t mean you have to stay inside for the next few months. Resist the urge to hibernate and bake cookies all winter because Columbia has plenty of winter activities to offer.

Ice Skating And Sledding At Stephens Lake

When the temperature is low enough and conditions are safe, ice skating is allowed on Stephens Lake, 2001 E. Broadway. The ice has to be a solid 4 inches thick, as determined by the city. As with anytime you step foot on frozen water, be aware of places where the ice might not be as thick, such as the areas around bridges or the edges of the lake; avoid stepping where the ice is slushy, which could be a sign of melting.

The sledding hill at Stephens Lake Park is open when there are 4 to 6 inches of snow coverage. You must bring your own sled and take care to avoid rocks, branches or trees. Just like when you were a kid, make sure to hike back up the hill on the outside of the sledding tracks so you don’t get run down by incoming sleds.

Ice Fishing At Cosmo-Bethel Park

Suit up in your warmest winter clothes and grab your Thermos of hot chocolate, because ice fishing is no rushed sport. In Columbia, ice fishing is allowed at Cosmo-Bethel Park, 4500 Bethel St., when the ice reaches 4 inches thick. Ice skating is not allowed. Anglers between the ages of 15 and 64 must have a fishing license before starting the fun. Visit a local sporting goods store or purchase your license online at www1.mo.wildlifelicense.com.

Cross-Country Skiing On The MKT Trail

If Columbia gets a blizzard, head out on flat trails for some cross-country skiing. This sport is a calorie-burner and is easy enough for the whole family. When starting out, look for trails that are flat so you don’t have to worry about making it up a hill or trying to stop going down. If the snow is ample, check out the terrain on the MKT Nature Trail or other flat areas of a park or open space.

Fat-Biking At Rock Bridge Memorial State Park

The sport of mountain biking in the winter has grown in the past few years as bicycle manufacturers have started producing more fat-bikes — bikes with very wide, pumped-up tires that easily traverse over rocks and through sand and snow. Walt’s Bike Shop has a few of these fat-bikes in stock and recommends hitting the mountain bike trails at Rock Bridge Memorial State Park or Cosmo Park. When you head out, dress in layers in case you really work up a sweat, and definitely ride with gloves to keep your hands warm on the ride.

Snowshoeing And Hiking At Rock Bridge

If you enjoying hiking throughout the summer and fall, you can keep on going right through the wintertime. Just switch up what’s on your feet. A fun alternative to normal winter hiking is snowshoeing. Some snowshoes can be pricey, but you can find inexpensive pairs at your local outdoor store or even Sam’s Club. Go out when there’s a blast of new snow that covers Columbia in more than just a few inches — snowshoes make it much easier to get around in thick snow; if there are only a few light and fluffy inches, snowshoes can end up being cumbersome. After a light snowfall, go for a hike in your winter boots or look for winter-specific hiking boots that are insulated as well as waterproof.

Snowshoeing is best done on relatively flat trails; check out Deer Run Trail, Grassland Trail or Karst Trail at Rock Bridge Memorial State Park, located south of Columbia on Highway 163. Another hidden hiking hotspot near Columbia is Pinnacles Youth Park, about 12 miles north of Columbia on U.S. 63. Hiking at the Pinnacles can include lots of climbing and ascents, but for the winter, take the flatter trails or hike along the riverbed.

Skiing And Snowboarding

Although Missouri might seem a bit flat for skiing or snowboarding, there are family-friendly places for those activities that are not too far away. To the west is Snow Creek, near Kansas City, and to the east is Hidden Valley, near St. Louis.

“If you are a beginner, these are great places because you can do black runs [the hardest level] and feel really good about yourself,” says Liza Babington, the assistant manager at  The Alpine Shop in Columbia. “You learn how to balance and move — a lot of people will go there before they go to Colorado. They can go to these local places, get on their skis they haven’t been on all year and at least get down a couple of runs.”

If you already have the hang of gliding down a mountain and are looking for like-minded skiers and snowboarders, contact the Columbia Missouri Ski Club. Anyone can join, and dues are $10 for an individual or $15 for a couple or family. The group organizes multiple trips to the Rockies each year, as well as outdoor trips year-round, such as winery tours or float trips. This year, the club has a trip set for Aspen, Colo., in December, as well as a trip to Snowmass, Colo., in January. Go to www.columbiaskiclub.blogspot.com for more information.

Learn more about winter safety tips in Columbia’s parks at www.gocolumbiamo.com/ParksandRec.

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