Cross country skiing offers exercise, break from city

Nicky Edwards-Levin, Sports Editor

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source: Big Foot Beach State Park
WINTER WONDERLAND. Big Foot Beach State Park, which lies in Geneva, Wisconsin, has options for snowshoeing as well as cross country skiing.

Spending so much time in an urban environment, it is often easy to forget that nature does indeed exist. We are in fact able to venture beyond the concrete jungle of Chicago into nature — nature that lies beyond Scammon Garden. If you are craving snow that is not exhaust-infused sludge, or grass that hasn’t been placed by a truck, consider these proximate options for an hour, morning, or day of cross country skiing.

Big Foot Beach State Park

Furthest away from U-High lies Big Foot Beach State Park, a lengthy two hour drive just over the border in Wisconsin. The destination, though, may just be worth it. Occupying a sizeable 271 acres, the park boasts six miles worth of trails, groomed for those looking for a classic cross country skiing experience. A delight for both experienced and beginning skiers, Big Foot Beach State Park has a 3-mile trail for those looking for a longer, more hilly endeavor, as well as an easy 1.5-mile trail with some slight rollers. Situated on the edge of Geneva Lake, Big Foot Beach State Park also has options for snowshoeing, for anyone weary of the more technical cross country skiing.

Morton Arboretum

For a closer but still secluded option, try driving 40 minutes west to the Morton Arboretum, a beautiful, scenic and hilly nature preserve in DuPage County. The flat trails on this massive 1,700-acre destination are few and far between, so make sure you are prepared for some cardiovascular exercise upon arrival. That said, the 16 miles worth of trails are unmatched in the city, and the dozens of trails to choose from provide plenty of options, from an easy ski-stroll to a sweat-inducing workout. The arboretum is also convenient for anyone who wishes to explore the snow, offering snowshoe and ski rentals at the visitors center. For $15, explore the beautiful trails to your heart’s content from 7 a.m. until sunset, or until skis run out.

Northerly Island

To the surprise of many, Chicago has its very own cross country skiing trails. Located on Northerly Island (the man-made peninsula connected to the Adler Planetarium), a 15-minute drive from Lab will bring you to a unique cross country skiing course, complete with views of the Chicago skyline and Lake Michigan. While the mileage is limited, the convenience of this destination is certainly worth noting. Snowshoeing, which is also offered at Northerly Island, requires very little mileage for a great experience, so when the snow piles up beyond three inches, take the short trip along Lake Shore Drive to give this activity a shot. More information can be found here.