Pop-up cross country skiing events in DeKalb County this month

Winter fun in store for DeKalb County as snow settles in for the season

Finley Frankel, (front) 6, and Olivia Weller, 9, both from DeKalb, kick up some snow as the cruise down the sled hill Tuesday, Jan. 9, 2024, at Hopkins Park in DeKalb. Several inches of heavy, wet snow Tuesday was a headache for some and fun for others.

SYCAMORE – After a week-long onslaught of winter weather, officials with a Northern Illinois University program and a local park district think they have the answer for cabin fever: a pop-up cross country skiing event.

Sycamore Park District representative Sarah Rex said the 101-year-old park district is going to hold a cross-country skiing pop-up event at the Sycamore Park District Golf Course on Jan. 28 with the help of NIU’s outdoor recreation group, NIU Outdoor Adventure.

“We’re just today putting this together because it is a pop-up. Like we’ve got snow, we’ve got to do this,” Rex said.

Christine Lagattolla, associate director of external affairs for NIU Recreation, said NIU Outdoor Adventure does programming with Sycamore Park District year round, but this is an annual event they can’t schedule until Mother Nature cooperates.

DeKalb County was pummeled with two major snowstorms over the past week, leaving plenty of snow on the ground for some winter fun.

“We do this about every year, for the past several years, if we get lucky with some snow. And it looks like we’re going to have some snow for awhile, so that’s good,” Lagattolla said.

Information regarding how to register for the special event can be found on Sycamore Park District’s website. Lagattolla said the program is intended to help area residents take up an outdoor activity during the winter months. Organizers have made it a family affair by stocking child size cross-country skis and snowshoes rentals.

Registration for the pop-up event is open, but Rex said it’s one of the more popular programs every year so those interested should sign up sooner rather than later.

“We’ve done partnered programs with NIU Outdoor Adventure for a several years now, probably five or six years, and this is one of the most popular ones,” Rex said.

The sign at the First Nation Bank tells it all as temperatures are just cold enough to make the precipitation snow rather than rain Tuesday, Jan. 9, 2024, in DeKalb. Snow is expected to continue throughout the day with 7 to 10 inches of snow expected.

The pop-up cross-country skiing event – programming Lagattolla called a hidden gem – is a highlight of Sycamore Park District’s outdoor events for the winter season, but it isn’t the only type of winter activity that can be done on park district grounds.

The district’s second annual Fire and Ice Festival also took place over the weekend.

And just outside of Sycamore Community Center, 480 Airport Road, is the Northwestern Medicine Sled Hill – Sycamore Park District’s designated sled hill. It’s open from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. when conditions allow, including when there’s 2 or more inches of snow on the ground.

Rex said the community center, in a way, has made the sledding hill more accessible.

“What’s really cool about that is people who use a wheelchair or have a hard time with stairs or climbing up a hill, they can come inside, use the elevator up onto the track level and then just walk out the building and be on top of the hill,” Rex said. “We don’t encourage people who are just tired from too many sled rides down, but if grandma or grandpa, or someone who uses a wheelchair or any kind of crutches or cane, they can take an elevator to the top of the sled hill. Which is really cool.”

Alonzo Galvin, 5, from Cortland, takes advantage of the snowfall as he snowboards down the Northwestern Medicine Sled Hill Saturday, Jan. 6, 2023, near the Sycamore Park District Community Center.

The hill has seen near continuous use since Jan. 6, when a young snowboarder spent the day learning board control. Rex said she’s people out on the hill this past week as late as 9 p.m.

In the winter months, NIU Outdoor Adventure allows Sycamore and DeKalb residents to rent equipment including skis, snowboards and snowshoes. Equipment rentals and pickups run from 4 to 7 p.m. on Friday, Sunday and Tuesday at NIU Outdoor Adventure’s location in the NIU Recreation Center, 325 S. Annie Glidden Road, DeKalb.

Lagattolla said NIU Outdoor Adventure is getting ready to launch an online reservation system, and hopes effort allows more members of the NIU and DeKalb County community to rent equipment.

NIU Outdoor Adventure also has partnered with the DeKalb Park District to hold a second pop-up cross-country skiing event. The 90-minute session will be scheduled for a weekend afternoon or weekend early evening, according to a Jan. 10 announcement by DeKalb Park District. More details are expected.

DeKalb also offers a sled hill and an ice skating rink at Hopkins Park, 1403 Sycamore Road, DeKalb. The sled hill is open daily 30 minutes before sunrise to 30 minutes after sunrise. The ice skating rink opens when weather permits.

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