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Opting Outside

Outdoor Recreation Doesn’t Have to End When the Temperature Drops

BY Marla DeFoe

Warm summer days have ended. The flip flops, shorts, bikes, and rollerblades have been put away for the season. With the end of warm temperatures, we all tend to tuck under a blanket and wait for the snow to melt. At least I know I’m guilty of hibernating once the weather turns cold.

There are so many reasons to get outside during the winter, though. Vitamin D is so important, and absorbing the sunlight and breathing the crisp fresh air has both physical and mental health benefits. There are endless opportunities to get outside and enjoy winter in the Grand Forks area. I’m here to offer you a few fun and new ideas.

Grand Forks is one of the top hockey towns in the US. The Grand Forks Park District offers ten areas equipped with warming houses and lighted outdoor rinks. Weather permitting, these rinks are open for public use generally mid-December through the end of February. There are warming houses located at ICON Sports Center, Ben Franklin, Kelly, Cox, Jaycees, Lincoln Drive, Lion’s, Optimist, Riverside, and University Parks. While the outdoor rinks can be used anytime, the warming houses are open with staff on-site 3:30 – 8:30pm on weekdays and noon – 8:30pm on weekends. “Both kids and adults love to ice skate at our outdoor rinks,” said Jill Nelson, Director of Operations & Community Relations for the Grand Forks Park District. “With supervised warming houses and rink lights available at all of our park rinks, skaters can enjoy the outdoors even after the sun sets.”

The Grand Forks Park District also has two winter feature parks, with plenty of activities for kids of all ages. Besides the outdoor skating rink and warming house, Lincoln Drive Park and Riverside Park also offer cross-country ski trails, sledding, walking trails and snowshoe trails. Ice skates, snowshoes and cross-country skis are available on-site with first come, first served availability. “The Grand Forks Park District has tons of outdoor activities available,” said Nelson. “We have activities for people of all ages and abilities, so they can get out and enjoy the winter.” The Grand Forks Park District website has more information on events and activities during the winter.

Kids love the whoosh of cold air as they fly down the hill on their trusty snow sled. The Grand Forks Park District offers sledding hills at Lincoln Drive and Riverside parks as well. “Kids will sled for hours upon hours,” said Nelson. “It’s even fun to watch the parents join in. Before you know it, the whole family will be laughing, covered in snow, and having an amazing time outdoors.”

Have you ever thought about trying cross-country skiing? The Grand Forks Greenway offers over fifteen miles of groomed cross-country ski trails. You can view a map of the best places to access the trails on their website. See Dick Run, in Downtown Grand Forks, has a cross-country group ski every Thursday in the winter. Just meet at the store to learn more or join the fun.

In Lincoln Drive Park, there is a double classic cross-country trail available. “For those who like to venture into the woods and beyond, a classic ski trail follows the length of the Greenway from Riverside Dam to 47th Avenue South,” said Kim Greendahl, Greenway Specialist for the City of Grand Forks. “A solid pack trail is also available adjacent to the classic ski trail for those who prefer to walk, snowshoe, or bike.”

You may be asking yourself, “Biking in the winter?” Yes! The first snowflakes of winter do not mean you have to hang your bike for the season. Simon Murphy of the Ski & Bike Shop was excited to tell me all about the newest winter outdoor sport: fat tire biking. “The Greenway has packed trails that make for perfect fat tire biking conditions,” said Murphy. “We have a club that meets once a week to go on group rides.” If this sounds like something you would like to try, the Ski & Bike Shop has all the gear you need to get started, and anyone is welcome to join the group rides.

Downtown Grand Forks doesn’t shut down when the weather gets cold, if anything, it thrives! In Town Square, you can enjoy a beautiful downtown ice-skating rink open for public use all day. There’s nothing more picturesque than skating under the beautiful cafe lights in the heart of downtown. “The DDA is a huge advocate for embracing the winter season,” said Jill Proctor, Chief Operating Officer for the Downtown Development Association. “We believe in offering things to do in all four seasons so we can help create an active and vibrant community that people want to stay in.”

As for new activities in 2023, the Downtown Development Association is working with the Community Foundation of Grand Forks, East Grand Forks & Region, and the Knight Foundation to bring street curling to Town Square. “Curling is one of the fastest-growing Olympic sports,” said Proctor. “It’s a great new activity to add because almost anyone can do it, no matter age or ability.” They are also planning the “Average Person Winter Olympics,” an event where community members can compete to see who can shovel the fastest, speed dress in winter gear, and more!

Looking for something a little more “Instagrammable?” The Downtown Development Association also has plans to install snow sculptures and ice tables throughout downtown Grand Forks and East Grand Forks. “We are working with Copilot Designs to create ice tables to place downtown,” said Proctor. “The tables will be completely functional and able to hold your hot chocolate as you take pictures to share with all your friends.” You can find out more information about Downtown Frosty Forks on the Downtown Development Association’s website.

No matter your pace or activity level, there is plenty to do outside in the Grand Cities during winter. Bundle up, grab your gear, and enjoy everything the city has to offer. It’s the best way to fight the long, dark nights and the winter blues. G

// To view the full story, check out the digital issue here

From Issue 4, 2022

PHOTOS BY: Grand Forks Park District


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