By Shirley, Marja, Lana, and Martha B

January around here brings the promise of snow and very cold days. It is easy for your family to end up cooped up inside your home in front of a screen. Instead, we, from the Newsletter team, would like to share some ideas on how to help your family enjoy the season.

If you have a kid, don’t underestimate the power of playing in the snow. Building snowmen, castles, forts or angels are practically required as are snowball fights. Children’s stamina and interest in snow is incredible. I still remember watching students during recess with a mix of horror and fascination as they spent their entire time playing in the snow like children play in the sand during the summer.

Smaller children will definitely enjoy sledding. Depending on how old your child is, you can get a plastic sled or an inner tube to slide down snow covered hills. If your own backyard cannot give enough thrills to your young ones, head towards a park. Good sledding places, with clearly marked sledding hill areas, are found, in Ann Arbor, at Veterans Memorial Park and Buhr Park (apparently good for smaller children), Rolling Hills Park in Ypsilanti (reviewers raved about the fact that the sledding area is very wide, therefore, it doesn’t feel crowded and there isn’t too much wait for one’s turn) and Kensington Park in Milford (where different areas are designated for different levels of challenge). Kensington Park also offers an area for tobogganing.

If your kid is already more capable, you can take him or her ice skating. Veterans Memorial Park has an indoor arena that offers equipment rental as well as ice skating classes. Buhr Park has an outdoor ice arena that can withstand even 50 degree Fahrenheit weather. You can also rent your skates there. Then, there are natural outdoor ice arenas in Burns, Allmendinger and Northside parks in Ann Arbor. In those parks, crews will take care of the ice arena but you have to bring your own skates and you will be basically on your own.

The Ann Arbor Parks and Recreation has scheduled some ice-skating events you might be interested in checking out:

Buhr Blitz Day: January 13, from 3:15 to 5:30 pm. Ice skating event with special games, contests and prizes. General admission rates apply.

Funky Frosty Fridays: February 1 and March 1, from 7:15 to 8:45 pm, skate to themed music (each time a different kind of music). Dress up to reflect the music theme of the night! General admission rates apply.

If you have an older kid, you can also go cross-country skiing. This is different from downhill skiing and is like ski/walking through fields and woods. If you have some old skis, you can cross-country ski anywhere covered in snow. My husband has done it in our own street before the trucks came to plow it. Nice parks for cross-country skiing are Rolling Hills Park, in Ypsilanti, Hudson Mills Metropark in Dexter, and Huron Meadows Metropark in Brighton, all of which rent equipment. Huron Meadows Metropark goes some steps further by making their own snow for one of the trails and having the trail lighted for night skiing.

If you have your own equipment, you could also try Huron Hills Golf Course, in Ann Arbor, or Kensington Park.

 If Southeast Michigan is lacking in snow, you might find it further north.  Grayling, Roscommon and a few other cross-country ski “headquarters” provide groomed trails on the Lower Peninsula of Michigan.  Hanson Hills Recreation Area in Grayling offers downhill skiing and snowboarding too, although the hill is quite short (suitable for kids?).  If need be, you can also drive to Hiawatha Highlands near Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, Canada.  In all these cases, it makes sense to stay overnight because the ride is long.

For the more adventuresome, there is a cross-country ski and skate race/event scheduled for the weekend of January 12 and 13. The Frosty Freestyle & Krazy Klassic will have 5K (kilometers), 15K, 8K, 12K and kids’ ski races at Huron Meadows Metropark, in Brighton. The website states that ”This weekend of cross-country ski races is part of the Michigan Cup Series and is a super great race for both experienced Nordic Ski competitive racers and newbies looking for something fun and different to do on the weekend”. Huron Meadows Park can make their own snow, so the event will happen even if there isn’t snow on the ground around that time. To participate in this event registration is required.

The Plymouth Ice Festival will also happen on that same weekend. It is a big event that is spread all over town, simultaneously happening in downtown Plymouth and Kellogg Park. The Festival will start Friday, January 11, in downtown Plymouth, with ribbon cutting by the mayor at 7:00 pm, and various kinds of entertainment throughout town (there is mention of tubing and hot chocolate). In downtown, ice sculptures will be shown, lighted, at night, in front of stores. You can stroll around admiring the ice sculptures while sipping your hot chocolate. On Saturday and Sunday, starting at 10 am at Kellogg Park and going through the end of the day, there will be a university student ice carving competition, speed ice carving competition and other events, the most interesting of them being the display of more than 100 ice sculptures made from 330-pound ice blocks. The ice sculptures will be on display until melted.

If you have more time, more energy and more money to burn, you can go downhill skiing at Mount Brighton. They have a ski lodge where you can rent equipment and warm up after a run. They also offer classes and can also make their own snow, so you can go skiing anytime, even when there isn’t snow on the ground around here.

A fun idea for a weekend getaway is to go up north, in Michigan, to visit kennels that offer dog sledding. You can just go on a dog sled run, learn how to guide the dogs on the dog sled or spend a whole weekend camping (in cabins) with the dogs while learning all about dog sledding, Alaska/Yukon Gold Rush style.

If you feel tired just thinking about all this exercise and would rather do something less energetic and quieter, you could go feed the birds in Kensington Park. Wait for a day when the ground is covered in snow. Buy some birdseed (I would choose a mix with little seeds) and head over to a quiet area where you can hear the birds but there aren’t too many people or cars around. You put some seeds in the palm of your hand and very quietly stand still. Chickadees will come get the seeds out of your hand. This is a very rewarding activity to do with smaller children. Just don’t leave seeds on the ground, as you might be attracting other creatures like skunks and raccoons to these areas and you don’t want to deprive other families of their pleasure.

Another less energetic activity your child might enjoy is going to take place on January 26, from 6:30 to 8:30 pm, at the Mack Indoor Pool. Dive in movies/Family Fun Day is an event where you and your family can go to the pool (bring your inner tube), float and watch “Frozen”, the Disney movie. They will also have games and other activities.

I hope the ideas and events included here will inspire you and your family to make this season an enjoyable one here, in Michigan

Whatever you do or however you enjoy your winter, the Newsletter team would be interested in hearing from you. Write to us about your winter adventures and most of all, have fun!

For more information on all these activities check out these websites:

www.a2gov.org/departments/Parks-Recreation/

http://epiraces.com/events/frosty-freestyle-and- krazy-klassic/

www.plymouthicefestival.com

www.metroparks.com/parks/huron-meadows-metropark/

www.mtbrighton.com

www.natureskennel.com