We may not have the sprawling mountains and luge runs of Russia, but you and your little ones can embrace your inner Olympian at wintry sports destinations in and around Chicago. Even in the infamously flat Midwest, there are great places to ski, sled and skate. After a family day in the snow and on the ice, you’ll deserve a medal for parent of the season. Read on to find out where to go.
Photo: Raging Buffalo Snowboarding & Ski Park
Raging Buffalo Snowboarding & Ski Park
Who knew? Snowboarding heaven is just a snowball’s toss from the city. At Raging Buffalo in west suburban Algonquin, there’s an impressive hill for ‘boarders, and it’s complete with half pipes and kickers. There’s a beginner slope for novices, and the Burton Riglet Park is an entire area reserved for kids ages 11 and under. Here, instructors help guide kids on snowboards and ease them into the sport on slight inclines. General slope tickets are $32 and equipment rentals are $45; Riglet Park tickets are $20 and include equipment rental.
19-265 Western Ave.
Chestnut Mountain Resort
Regardless of the forecast, there will be snow at Chestnut Mountain. The Galena resort is home to the mightiest snow-making system in the Midwest, ensuring that the seven-acre skiing paradise is rife with fluffy white stuff all times. With 19 slopes on premises, there’s something for everyone and every age, from the simplest beginner’s trail to speed demon-friendly black diamonds. Chestnut Mountain also offers a bevy of kids’ programs, from ski games and group activities designed for ages four to six, to learn-to-ride programs for those seven and older. The adjacent 120-room lodge overlooking the Mississippi River doesn’t hurt. Slope tickets are $40 and equipment rentals are $32.
8700 W. Chestnut Rd.
Photo: Norge Ski Club
Norge Ski Club
Most people leave ski jumping to the pros, but at Norge Ski Club in Fox River Grove, there’s nothing to be intimidated by. It’s the oldest continuously operating ski club in the country, founded in 1905 by a group of Norwegian skiers. It’s long been a family-friendly destination for ski jump tournament viewing. Nowadays, the club is accessible to all, offering training programs for juniors starting at age three. Classes are held Tuesdays and Thursdays, with jump lessons starting out small at two and five meters, eventually progressing as skiers become acclimated.
100 Ski Hill Rd.
Fox River Grove
Four Lakes Alpine Snowsports
One of the most kid-friendly skiing destinations in the region is this tame wonderland. A haven for skiing newbies, Four Lakes boasts two bunny slopes and skiing lessons all day long, including the Little Bumper program, a one-hour ski program for kids ages four to eight. There are also two intermediate slopes for those capable of letting loose a little bit. Slope tickets are $28 and equipment rentals are $20-$38.
5750 Lakeside Dr.
Photo: McCormick Tribune Ice Rink via Riana Elizabeth E. on Yelp
McCormick Tribune Ice Rink
The most picturesque ice skating in Chicago happens in the shadow of the Bean in Millennium Park. Every winter, hordes of families lace up and flock to the rink for a leisurely skating session. Surrounded by the Loop skyline and illuminated with bright white lights, it’s a scenic stunner. The rink is free for those who BYO skates and rentals are $10.
Michigan & Randolph avenues
Johnny’s IceHouse East
For skaters with more of a serious figure skating or hockey inclination, this indoor ice paradise is the answer. Although not open for casual skating sessions, the West Loop indoor rink offers figure skating lessons curated by Figure Skate Chicago. Hockey fiends are sure to love the rink’s youth hockey programs, from the beginner friendly to more intensive hockey camps. Another fun option is just to come and watch the Chicago Blackhawks practice, which is free and open to all.
1350 W. Madison St.
McFetridge Sports Center
Ice skating and hockey converge at this indoor arena, open almost year-round. The rink is frequently open for casual ice skating, and it also offers skating lessons. It hosts youth hockey leagues as well, so kids can embrace their inner Blackhawk.
3843 N. California Ave.
Photo: Soldier Field / Chicago Park District
Now that the Chicago Bears are done for the season and Soldier Field is quiet, its grounds transform into a winter wonderland for sledders. Manmade sledding hills are located just outside the stadium on the southeast side, with artificial snow machines to ensure it stays sled-able throughout the season. Now, if only it had a bobsled run.
425 E. McFetridge Dr.
Henry C. Palmisano Nature Park
This massive sledding hill is a piece of heart and soul in Bridgeport. Previously a landfill space and now affectionately nicknamed “Mount Bridgeport,” the massive landscape provides sledding fun for all during the winter. The incomparable southern view of downtown doesn’t hurt, either.
2700 S. Halsted St.
What Olympic sport do you want to try? Let us know in the Comments section below.
— Matt Kirouac