Snow Days

Winter Wonderland

I love snow. And as a kid I loved it even more.

I remember praying for snow days and feeling jealous when every school but my own closed. I remember building snow forts at recess and later the smell of mittens and sweaters drying on the school’s radiator.

I remember my friends and I wrapped up like the Michelin man and playing one of the greatest pickup football games in history while the season’s worst blizzard swirled around us. I also remember entire neighborhoods of kids locked in battle; snowballs were our ammunition and puffy down coats were our armor. In the end no one lost those games. Everyone was a winner.

As we grew older, however, the yearning for snow was somehow lost. It was less fun. It was no longer the focus of so much joy and laughter; instead it was something heavy we needed to shovel from the sidewalk every evening and plow from the driveway every morning. Snow was an obstacle when we drove to work, and it reminded us of the cold on the way home. Alas, snow was beautiful only when it fell on someone else’s lawn. How did we become so jaded?

Maybe we need to spend a bit more time playing in the snow and trying to remember what it was like to be a kid. Perhaps winter wouldn’t be so long and wicked. We live in a winter paradise after all, replete with so many snow-filled activities. Surely one will put a smile on your face.

Madison has its own winter wonderland, with cross country ski trails, ice-skating and hockey rinks, and sledding hills in every corner of the city. In other words, there’s no excuse not to rediscover the fun snow brings.

On the southwest side, families flock to Elver Park to enjoy all of the above. If you don’t have your own skates or skis, you can rent them there for a nominal fee. Elver’s best feature is its tall slope—perfect for a long, exciting run to the bottom of the hill. And if you don’t think you can find a sled that can comfortably accommodate your aging posterior, think again. For a small amount of money and some compressed air, Farm & Fleet will sell you a large tractor inner tube that can exceed the performance of even the best sled or oak toboggan you had as a kid. And, like us, it will have a bit more cushion.

Tyrol Basin, just outside of Mt. Horeb, is the closest ski slope and offers one of the best snowboarding venues in the state. If you’ve never tried snowboarding, don’t let your inhibitions get in the way. Tyrol has experienced instructors and affordable lessons to show you how to have fun on a snowboard in no time.

Cascade Mountain near Portage is just a half hour north, and offers snow tubing in addition to the other downhill sports. No experience or lessons are necessary, just a desire to have fun.

For a day trip or an overnight getaway, the Granite Peak Ski Area, located outside of Wausau in beautiful Rib Mountain State Park, is one of the Midwest’s largest ski destinations, with a mountain-lodge atmosphere, more than seventy runs and seven ski lifts to get you to the top of them. It might not be Aspen, but a seven-hundred-foot vertical drop will thrill the kid in anyone—and you won’t get stuck at the airport.

So whether it’s a snowball fight or a snowboarding lesson, find your inner child this winter season. If mother nature dumps another hundred inches on us this year, you’ll go stir crazy without an adventure or two.

Todd Klassy is a writer and photographer who delights in capturing both the ordinary and extraordinary scenes of Madison and the Midwest. View his Winter Wonders slideshow.

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