We typically associate “alfresco” with summer dining on patios and restaurant sidewalks, but here in the lake area, we have the privilege of assigning a winter-fresh twist on this outdoorsy phrase. Three Rivers Park District’s popular parks are blanketed in white—destinations with abundant family activities to while our winter cares away. So bundle up and head out for some alfresco fun, Minnesota style.
Cross-country skiing is an affordable and soothing winter experience. Glide over the scenic, groomed trails at Glen Lake Golf & Practice Center in Minnetonka, Baker Park Reserve in Maple Plain or Carver Park Reserve in Victoria. Both Baker and Carver offer a wide variety of trails and more opportunities for beginners. Glen Lake is smaller, hilly and can be tricky for first-timers.
“Having been someone who at first just strapped on a pair of skis and gave it a go, I recommend beginners take a lesson,” says o recreation specialist Ann Schinas. “There are very few natural athletes who immediately master the kick-and-glide motion of cross-country skiing.” Schinas recommends starting with a lesson on classic technique and working up to skate-style skiing. Give it a try January 13 or 26 at Baker Park Reserve or January 19 or 27 at Carver Park Reserve. Private lessons can also be arranged by appointment.
Rental equipment including traditional skis, boots and poles is available at each location for $8 per adult and $6 per youth. Ski/skate-style rentals are available at Baker Park Reserve for $15. A cross-country ski pass ($50/season, $4/day) is required for all skiers age 12 and older. threeriversparks.org/activities/cross-country-skiing
You’ve probably heard of dogs pulling sleds over snow-covered terrain. Have a dog but no sled? Try skijoring, a Norwegian sport where man’s best friend pulls a cross-country skier. Outdoor recreation supervisor Alex McKinney’s German shorthair , Lucy, is “diesel-powered,” he says. “We’ve been skijoring for four to five years. It’s my favorite winter activity.”
Dogs should be at least 30 to 35 pounds and have a desire to pull; if they meet these qualifications, skijoring is a great way for them to work off pent-up energy. Three Rivers Park District offers a skijoring lesson February 10 at Eagle Lake. McKinney says skijoring equipment is available for purchase at skijornow.com or at REI. threeriversparks.org/activities/skijoring
Get the family off the couch and into the car. Drive to one of Three Rivers’ parks for a day on the sledding hill. This traditional winter activity doesn’t require lessons and it’s free. The only equipment you’ll need is warm clothing, a sled and possibly a thermos of hot chocolate. Sledding hills are available at Baker Park Reserve and Carver Park Reserve near the park facilities with restrooms and concessions. Children should be supervised, so be sure to make it a family affair. Once you’ve raced down those hills, you’ll head home with a rosy glow and a smile on your face. threeriversparks.org/activities/sledding
Try a winter walk in a pair of snowshoes. This simple recreational activity requires only a pair of snowshoes (available for rent), warm clothes and a sense of adventure. Three Rivers offers trails of varying difficulty at Baker Park Reserve, Gale Woods Farm and Carver Park Reserve for snowshoers of all skill levels. There are also guided snowshoe hiking events. Try a beginner snowshoeing event, a women-only snowshoe hike, family snowshoe days or hikes specific to Girl Scouts and Cub Scouts.
Don’t miss the Valentine’s Day dinner and snowshoe event at Baker Park Reserve on February 11. For $25 per person, adults can enjoy a romantic catered meal in a log cabin lodge. Dinner is followed by a candlelit snowshoe walk through the winter woods to a campfire. Reservations are required. threeriversparks.org/activities/snowshoeing
Baker Park Reserve, 2309 Baker Park Rd., Maple Plain; 763.694.7860
Carver Park Reserve, 7025 Victoria Dr., Victoria; 763.694.7650
Gale Woods Farm, 7210 County Rd. 110 W., Minnetrista; 763.694.2001
Glen Lake Golf & Practice Center, 14350 County Rd. 62, Minnetonka; 763.694.7824
Eagle Lake, Maple Grove