Array

Cross-country skiing near the Waveland Clock Tower.

[This piece originally ran in Newcity.]

Although Chicago is a superior city in most respects, I suspect that Minneapolis, a much colder, snowier town, is actually a place where more people enjoy the winter. This is because residents of the Twin Cities, with their strong Scandinavian heritage, know how to embrace the season, donning cheerful woolen clothing and diving into cold-weather fun like sledding, skating and snowball fights, followed by large quantities of glögg.

Here in the Windy City, most people dress in black and view winter as something to survive, not celebrate. They see it as a series of hassles and indignities: freezing ‘L’ platforms, slushy sidewalks, salt-choked air and parking spots selfishly reserved with old furniture.

Not me. I’ve got a two-pronged strategy to make the most out of cold weather. The first is indoor coziness and/or winter denial: gastropubs, rock clubs and hot tubs; Hala Kahiki and the Garfield Park Conservatory. As I type this, I’m sitting in the ninth-floor winter garden of the Harold Washington Library, surrounded by leafy trees and ivy-covered walls.

My second tactic is making sure to get plenty of outside time in the brilliant winter sunshine. I bundle up and ride my bike daily, and take long walks around Logan Square after fresh snowfalls create an atmosphere of hushed beauty. One of these days I’m going to get up early, pedal to the Belmont Harbor peninsula and do (clumsy) yoga as the sun rises over the steaming water — I mean it.

Array

So I decided to strike a longstanding item off my winter to-do list: cross-country skiing along the lakefront with a friend. Since I don’t own a car, I tie up my two pairs of thrift-store skis and poles with inner tubes, sling them on my shoulder and hoof it to the Logan Square train station to catch the #76 Diversey bus east. I get plenty of funny looks as I wait for my ride, but the sweet-tempered bus driver doesn’t object to my outlandish cargo. “Have a fun time,” she says with a smile.

After I transfer to the Halsted bus and pick up my friend in Lakeview, we take the Roscoe underpass to the Lakefront Trail, clip into the bindings and start shushing north, flanked by high-rises. We come to the Waveland Clock Tower, a Gothic gem, and enter the Marovitz Golf Course, with its refreshingly wavy terrain and stately spruce. At the north end of the links, a couple of homeless guys have pitched tents.

We unclip and scramble over a fence to exit the links, then ski over to Montrose Harbor and Cricket Hill, where we “herringbone” our way to the summit, swarming with pint-size sledders. Zooming down the slope on skis is a rare treat in this pancake-flat town.

Array

On our way back we take a trail that hugs the lake, enjoying breathtaking views of the bleak expanse. A crowd of ducks and geese bob among the ice floes — they don’t seem to mind the cold. After completing our Nordic skiing excursion, we celebrate at Ann Sather’s with an après-ski feast of Swedish meatballs and cinnamon rolls, toasting our trip with cups of hot coffee. Take that, winter depression.

flattr this!

  • http://twitter.com/aka60643 AKA60643

    Sounds like a perfect way to celebrate winter.

  • http://www.facebook.com/cameron.puetz Cameron Puetz

    Do you know if skis can be carried on Metra or South Shore trains? Seems like there would be great skiing steps from the Dune Park South Shore Station or the Zion Metra Station.

    • http://gridchicago.com John Greenfield

      Yes! I I’ve taken skis and snowshoes on the South Shore Line to the Dunes several times before. Afterwards I always stop at Miller’s Pub, Wabash and Adams, for a hearty meal and a pint of stout before catching the Blue Line home. I’m guessing skis would be no problem on Metra either.

  • jared.kachelmeyer

    Metra says no skis, South Shore doesn’t mention skis and John’s done it so I guess they’re allowed.

    • http://gridchicago.com John Greenfield

      Thanks for checking on that. I’ll try sweet talking my way on with skis some time and see what the conductor does. If you bring your skis on the South Shore and put them in the overhead rack, be sure they don’t drip on other passengers!

  • Adam Herstein

    There’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=16827896 Kevin Mulcahy

    I take the Blue Line out to Cumberland to ski the Des Plaines River Trail a couple times a year. You ALWAYS get funny looks and great conversations.