If you aren’t already driving your mini Dorothy Hamill to the ice rink or watching your Shaun White-in-training do turns on the half-pipe, then here are a few alternative winter sports to try. The best part: You and the kids can dive right in — no enrollment required. Plus, you get bragging rights. Braving the cold for the sake of fun is an Olympic sport in itself, right?

photo: Chicago Park District

SNOWSHOEING
Fun, easy and inexpensive, snowshoeing is getting hugely popular as a great way to slip fitness into your winter days. And it’s a perfect way to wear out the kids.

Chicago Park District – Northerly Island
The saying goes, “if you can walk, you can snowshoe,” and the Chicago Park District gives you a chance to experience it for yourself during select snow-trekking dates at Northerly Island. Two hours of snowshoe (or cross-country ski) rental is just $5, and you can hunt for wildlife and enjoy the Chicago skyline at the same time.

1521 S. Linn White Dr.
Select dates: January 7, 14, 28, February 4, 11, 18 and March 4 from 10 a.m.- 2 p.m., weather permitting (there must be at least 3 inches of snow).
Call 312-745-2910 ahead of time to verify that snow-trekking is taking place.
Online: chicagoparkdistrict.com

Morton Arboretum
There are 1,700 acres of natural beauty to explore at this Lisle attraction, and they span conifer forests to spruce gardens. Bring your own snowshoes or rent them from the Visitors Center. Kids’ and adults’ sizes are available on a first-come, first-serve basis, December through mid-March.

4100 Illinois Route 43
Lisle
630-968-0074
Online: mortonarb.org

photo: courtesy of U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service – Midwest Region via Flickr

POND HOCKEY
Those nostalgic images of kids chasing a puck on a frozen pond might seem like mere fairytales to some of us in the city, but kids and adults alike can participate in informal pick-up games at their local ice rinks. Combined programs with a “Stick & Puck” session (allowing kids to practice stick handling and shooting skills) are just the cost of admission ($7 per person resident, $10 for 1 child and 1 adult; $14 per person non-resident, $10) and include the cost of skate rental.

Find pond hockey at the following places and times in Chicago:

McKinley Park, 2210 W. Pershing Road, 312-747-5992
Saturday: 10-10:45 a.m. stick & puck; 10:45-11:30 a.m. pond hockey

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Mt. Greenwood
Tuesday: 6 p.m.-6:45 p.m. stick & puck; 6:45-7:30 p.m. pond hockey

Riis Park, 6100 W. Fullerton Ave., 312-746-5735
Saturday: 10-10:45 a.m. stick & puck; 10:45-11:30 a.m. pond hockey

Rowan Park, 11546 S. Avenue L, 773-646-1967
Saturday: 10-10:45 a.m. stick & puck; 10:45-11:30 a.m. pond hockey

Warren Park, 6601 N. Western Ave., 773-761-8663
Saturday: 10-10:45 a.m. stick & puck; 10:45-11:30 a.m. pond hockey

Wentworth Park, 5625 S. Mobile Ave., 312-747-6993
Saturday: 10-10:45 a.m. stick & puck; 10:45-11:30 a.m. pond hockey; Wednesday: 7:30 p.m.-9 p.m. pond hockey

Online: chicagoparkdistrict.com

winter-frisbee-golfphoto: courtesy of Axle via Flickr

FRISBEE GOLF
Super-fun in the summer, Frisbee golf is great in winter too (as long as it’s not too windy… but then who wants to be out in winter wind anyway?). There are more than 50 free disc golf courses located in the Chicago area, however only two are actually in Chicago. Check midwestdiscgolf.com for a full list of area courses; they range from 9 to 24 holes and you have to bring your own equipment.Have a winter blast, everyone!

What winter sports does your family love? Let us know in the Comments section below.

— Maria Chambers & Ruth Rau