Minnesotans are no strangers to making the most of the chilly months, but outdoor activities are set to be more popular than ever this year as COVID-19 rages on. If you're looking for to fend off stir crazy feelings, consider the following. Washington County is full of wonders to explore, and you won't have to travel far from home to do so. Keep the current pandemic in mind, however. Health officials still encourage people to don masks, especially if headed to a popular park or trail, and to keep a distance of six feet or greater from others.
Minnesota may not boast the mountains that other states have, but its miles of rolling landscapes make it perfect skiing—cross-country skiing, that is. Also referred to as Nordic, cross-country skiing is much different from the downhill variety. For one, the skis are generally shorter, heavier and firmer, and they attach only to the front part of the foot, leaving the heel free for the long strides forward. It is also easily adaptable. Depending on your experience level, you can find challenging trails that will give you a full body workout or just a leisurely glide through a park on a snowy day. Just make sure you purchase the right pass before you go. This year, Washington County Parks will no longer take the Greater Minnesota Ski Pass. Instead, skiers must purchase a Washington County Ski Pass online or at a pay station ($6/day, $30/year).
You probably won't have to travel far to find a place for ice skating, making it a good option for those days you want to enjoy the winter scenery without trekking into the wilderness. Outdoor ice rinks are created and maintained by most city public works departments throughout the winter. In Stillwater, check out Northland Park, Bergmann Park, Lily Lake or the Old Athletic Field, and in Forest Lake, Beltz Park and Tower Park.
Somewhat of a cross between dogsledding and cross-country skiing, skijoring makes for a great workout for people and pups alike. Along with basic skiing equipment and a dog who likes to run, you will need a pulling harness, a skijor belt and a tugline in between. All regional park trails designated as multi-use are open for skijoring.
Have snowshoes, will travel. The special footwear straps over and distribute a person's weight over a larger area so that their foot does not completely sink into the snow. It makes for a great low-impact workout and lets you extend the hiking season through the winter. You can snowshoe anywhere in Minnesota's state parks and recreation areas, save for trails that are specifically groomed for another activity, such as skiing or snowmobiling.