The area’s newest winter attraction — Snow Park at Alpine Hills — is scheduled to open for its second season this week and the popular Illinois Snow Sculpting Competition — set for its 31st year — is not far behind.
They are among a multitude of winter attractions and activities offered by the Rockford Park District and the Winnebago County Forest Preserves that allow residents to embrace the season.
And with all that’s available, there’s no excuse to stay indoors.
ROCKFORD PARK DISTRICT
Snow Park at Alpine Hills, 4402 Larson Ave., Rockford, features a 5-acre snow park split into separate tubing and terrain sections as well as on-site snowmaking equipment. Hot and cold refreshments available at The Lodge. Admission: $10 resident, $13 non-resident. Group rates available. Information: (815) 966-8737
CROSS COUNTRY SKIING
Trails are available at Sinnissippi Golf Course, 1401 N 2nd St, Rockford, and Aldeen Golf Club, 1902 Reid Farm Rd, Rockford. The district says a minimum of four inches of snow is required for trails to be groomed for use. Information and updates at (815) 889-2001.
The district offers sledding at three sites: Twin Sisters Park, 3001 Harney Ct; Rockford; Aldeen Park, 623 N. Alpine Road, Rockford; and Sand Park, 1041 E. Riverside Blvd., Loves Park. Sledding at Aldeen Park is only allowed on the north side of the dam. Sledding is free during normal park operating hours. The Park District reserves the right to close hills depending on conditions. Information: (815) 987-8800.
ICE SKATING, HOCKEY
Eclipse Lagoon, Nicholas Conservatory & Gardens, 1354 N 2nd St, Rockford. The newly-renovated lagoon is located in Sinnissippi Gardens and features ice skating and open hockey daily from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. Access is free, no skate rentals on site. Open only if conditions are safe with at least four to five inches of ice. Information: (815) 987-8858
The park district permits riders on snowmobile trails at Lockwood Park, 5201 Safford Rd, Rockford, and Searls Park, 4950 Safford Road, Rockford. Trailside Centre at Lockwood Park offers restroom facilities. Trailer parking is also available at Lockwood Park. The Rockford trails connect to the Tri-County system, which in turn connect to trails throughout northern Illinois and into Wisconsin. Information and updates at (815) 889-2001.
WINNEBAGO COUNTY FOREST PRESERVES
Trails will be posted open when there are at least four inches of snow on the ground. Maps displayed at each preserve’s information structure indicate trails. Snowmobiling is not allowed at other forest preserves and is at the operator’s own risk.Snowmobiles cannot be on the trails after 10 p.m.
Pecatonica River, 7260 Judd Road & 14260 Brick School Road, Pecatonica; Pecatonica Wetlands, 5750 Best Road, Pecatonica; Four Lakes, 10207 Fish Hatchery Road, Pecatonica; Sugar River 10127 Forest Preserve Road, Durand; Two Rivers, 12251 Harrison Road, Harrison; Seward Bluffs, 16999 Comly Road, Seward.
CROSS COUNTRY SKIING
There are more than 50 miles of ungroomed trails in the Forest Preserve system. The most popular included Kieselburg, Hononegah, Sugar River, Pecatonica River, Oak Ridge, and Deer Run. Winter recreation (cross-country skiers, snow shoe, skating, and sledding) are allowed in the preserves after dark, although some of the preserve gates will be locked.
Blackhawk Springs Forest Preserve, 5360 Mulford Road and 5801 Perryville Rd, Cherry Valley, 4 miles; Hononegah Forest Preserve, Hononegah Road, Rockton, 2.7 miles; Kieselburg Forest Preserve, 5801 Swanson Road, Roscoe, 2.9 miles; Kishwaukee Gorge Forest Preserve, 4643 Blackhawk Road, Cherry Valley, 3.1 miles; Kishwaukee River Forest Preserve, 6303 Mulford Road and 5757 Blackhawk Road, Cherry Valley, 1.8 miles.
Also, Espenscheid Memorial Forest Preserve, 4800 South Perryville Road, Cherry Valley, 1.6 miles; Pecatonica River Forest Preserve, 7260 Judd Road and 14260 Brick School Road, Pecatonica,9.8 miles in the lower portion; Oak Ridge Forest Preserve, 8322 Blomberg Road, Cherry Valley, has 5.3 miles and connects to Deer Run Forest Preserve if the river can be safely crossed;
Also, Deer Run Forest Preserve, 5691 River Road, Cherry Valley, 9.4 miles; Seward Bluffs Forest Preserve, 16999 Comly Road, Seward, 8 miles; Sugar River Forest Preserve, 10127 Forest Preserve Road, Durand, 5.9 miles; Sugar River Alder Forest Preserve, 10255 Haas Road, Shirland, 4.9 miles; Colored Sands Forest Preserve, 10602 Haas Road, Durand, 2.8 miles.
ILLINOIS SNOW SCULPTING COMPETITION
A winter highlight in these parts is the annual Illinois Snow Snow Sculpting competition at Sinnissippi Park. The 2017 edition runs from Jan. 18-21 and is open from sunrise to 10:30 p.m. Teams from around the state will compete for the right to represent Illinois in the 2018 U.S. National Snow Sculpting Competition, and high school teams from the Rockford area will compete in the high school division the same week.
— There’s no excuse to stay indoors with so many winter options —