Fight off cabin fever with activities tailor-made for winter weather.
Anyone can have a ball in 70-degree temps. It’s having fun during the 7-degree days that takes real creativity. But even though winter in this frozen tundra could easily be a big fat lemon, neither snow, nor wind, nor ice is keeping these all-season thrill jockeys from making lemonade—i.e., getting some much-needed cold-weather kicks.
Cast a line
After several consecutive days of subzero temps that thicken the ice to a safe four-inch base, the city’s most dedicated ice fishermen hit the popular harbors (Burnham, DuSable and Montrose), says ice-fishing expert Steve Palmisano, owner of Henry’s Sports & Bait Shop (3130 S Canal St, 312-225-8538). The sport is so big in Chicago that, since 2000, Palmisano hosts an annual ice-fishing derby. This year’s contest at Belmont Harbor takes place January 19 at 6:30am.
Carve it up
Dan Rebholz’s friends call him “Ice.” Last year, he was ranked the seventh best ice carver in America. Rebholz also teaches a sporadic Ice Academy class ($750; to register, call 847-350-0551) out of his World Class Ice Sculpture studio (2625 American Ln, unit C, Elk Grove Village). If handling a chain saw isn’t your idea of fun, you can watch Rebholz compete against other pros in the National Ice Carving Championships (nica.org) in Downers Grove on February 9 and 10.
Go fly a kite
Instead of hanging it up during the winter, kiteboarders morph into snowkiters. They use skis, snowboards or ice skates, not to mention large kites, to zoom across any icy terrain. Some kiteboarders take over sledding hills like the windy Cricket Hill at Montrose Avenue and Lake Shore Drive, while others, like Gerard Alleje, founder of ChicagoKiteboarder.com, drive out to the sticks and speed over frozen cornfields and lakes. “It’s not really dedication,” Alleje says, “it’s like being a drug addict—we need our fix.”
Sweep the competition
Take hockey, remove the skating requirement, cut out the bone-shattering hits and bloody fights, add alcohol and laughter, and you’ve got Chicago’s Sports Monster broomball league ($85; call 773-866-2955 through January 24 to register). Each team gathers at a local bar before suiting up at Warren Park’s outdoor ice rinks (6621 N Western Ave). “It’s more of a social activity than anything,” says Brenden Berry of the six-week season. “A lot of the bars give the players half-off beers and burgers after the games, and that seems like motivation enough.”
Winterize your wheels
Two inches of new snow means it’s a snow-biking day for devotees of Chicago Bike Winter (bikewinter.org/main.php), a floating band of all-weather cyclers. At 7pm, the group convenes at Handlebar Bar & Grill to knock back a few muscle-loosening cocktails before conquering one of the city’s sled hills. “Most of the time you just find a good spot with snow drifts, fly down the hill and kind of smash into them,” says CBW’s Dave “Mr. Bike” Glowacz, author of Urban Bikers’ Tricks & Tips. “Sometimes a good snowball fight ensues.”