Cross-Country Skiing – Lessons

I do not like being outside during the winter.  At all.  My significant other, on the other hand, is fine being outside year-round.  He will jump at any chance to be active outside, regardless of the temperature.  Running, skiing, ice skating – all of it.  I do not like to run, I do not like to ski, and you can only ice skate so many times before it gets old.

So, I thought we would give cross country skiing a try.  It doesn’t look too hard and, unlike skiing, you don’t go fast or down steep hills.  I thought it might be in my best interest to take lessons first.  I’m not uncoordinated, however, I also know that I do not take direction from my SO very well.  If this was going to be a shared activity for us in the future, I needed to learn how to do this the right way.  My SO was on board for the lessons as well because he hasn’t gone cross country skiing since he was a teenager.

I learned about these lessons from my youngest son who took an Outdoor Adventure class for his gym requirement in his Senior year of High School.  This was one of the “adventures” they did that semester.  Cross country ski lessons are not readily available everywhere, and you will have to Google the closest ones near you, but fortunately I do have a location close by.  Sagawau Environmental Learning Center in Lemont, IL offers the lessons and the equipment rental in one package.

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The lessons by themselves are $20 and equipment rental is $10 (for lessons, $15 every other time).  The equipment consisted of poles, the skis, and the special shoes that clip into them.  You don’t need a helmet or goggles, but I would recommend a good pair of polarized sun-glasses (for the glare coming off of the snow).

For two and a half hours, our instructor walked us through more aspects of cross-country skiing than I knew I needed.  One of the first things we learned was how to get back up on your skis after you fall.  And you will fall.  Like ice skating, it is all about balance.  We learned how to ski without the poles first.  This helped us get the actual ski motion down.  Then we brought the poles in and learned to incorporate the arm movements with the skiing.  Going up and down a hill was the final, most difficult lesson.  Everyone fell.  Most beginner trails do not have “hills”, but it was good to learn how to conquer them.

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Pro tip:  Wear layers.  You will be moving the entire time and it is quite the workout.  The day we went was low 30s, but the sun was strong.  I was way too bundled up and was sweating my a** off by the end.

I would definitely recommend looking into this winter activity.  Most of the people in our lessons group were couples.  No need to travel to Colorado or Utah for the best experience.  You can do it in any state that gets snow.  This is absolutely an activity we will do together in the future.

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Ice Art Walk – Downtown Wheaton

It is that time of year, winter that is, when many town/cities are having their annual winter festivals and other such celebrations.  A simple Google search will find one near you.  Many of these events will incorporate carved ice sculptures.  Some of them, like Downtown Wheaton, make the ice sculptures an event all their own.

One of the reasons we chose to attend Wheaton’s Ice Art Walk is because we were not familiar with their downtown area at all.  This gave us an activity and a way to explore a new town all in one.

Not all of the storefronts had an ice sculpture, but they all seemed to be open for business.  In addition to the ice walk, they hosted a Cocoa Walk for the first time.  Participants could purchase a $5.00 mug and get a cocoa taster at 10 different stops.  According to one vendor, all 500 mugs were sold before the event started.  We decided to do the walk at the last minute and we missed out on the cocoa mug, but someone was nice enough to let me take a picture of theirs.  It was a decent sized mug too – almost soup size!

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The Downtown Wheaton Association mapped out each of the carvings and cocoa stops to make sure you didn’t miss a single one.

All of the ice sculptures were created by Chicago Ice Works and each of them represented the storefront it was displayed at.  This baby rattle in front of A Baby Naturally had so much incredible detail to it:

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They had one of the Chicago Ice Works sculptors creating one live while we were there.  How they maintain control of such precise cuts, with a chainsaw no less, is beyond me.

The end result was Minnie Mouse (photo with permission from the Downtown Wheaton Association):

Minnie Mouse

If you are going to attend an ice sculpture festival/walk, I would recommend getting there right when it starts.  The day was still cold, but the sun was out so some of the sculptures showed signs of melting within an hour.

Of the 32 ice sculptures they had on display, here are a few more of my favorites:

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While we were exploring the downtown area, we popped in and out of a few shops.  We also stuck around for lunch.  I don’t usually do restaurant reviews, but Suzette’s Creperie is too good not to mention.  Suzette’s un-official restaurant week was on its last day and I took full advantage of it.

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If the ice sculpture walks near you are done for the year, they will be back next year.  It was a fun winter day date!