Lots to do in the Snowy Arb

12 January 2024
Winter Trail

Winter trail in the arboretum – please don’t step in the ski grooves you can see on the right! Photo credit: Heather Leudke ‘20

Winter has arrived in the arboretum, turning it from beautiful forest to frigid wasteland, right? Not so! There’s plenty to do and see in the arb, even in the midst of (admittedly quite a mild) Minnesota winter.

The cold and snow might seem dreary, but that’s what snowball fights, and sledding, and a hot beverage after a walk outside are for. These time-honored midwest traditions are guaranteed to help keep the dreariness at bay for at least an afternoon. The arb is a great place for all of these, plus there’s walks to enjoy the dusting of fallen snow, and hopefully soon we’ll have enough snow to get out the skis and snowshoes.

Did you know that the rec center loans out cross-country skis and snowshoes totally for free? This is a great chance to get out and try classic Minnesotan activities and explore the arb in a new way! When there’s enough snow, the arboretum also grooms the trails in the lower arb for skiing. This creates parallel grooves that classic skis can glide along smoothly and a flat surface for skate skis. Remember to walk and snowshoe on the side of the trail, away from the grooves and flattened surface! If skiing isn’t for you, snowshoeing is almost as easy as strapping them on your boots and going for a walk, and lets you explore the whole arb, not just the trails.

Winter is also a great time to look for animal tracks! The best time to do this is the day after a big snowstorm, when there’s fresh snow to hold tracks. Snowshoes let you follow the animals almost anywhere, but be careful to take a friend and/or your phone for GPS. Deer tracks are abundant, and winter’s lack of underbrush lets you explore the arb on their trails. Squirrel tracks are also abundant, and lead right to holes they’ve dug to find their stashed nuts. With a little luck, you can also find fox or river otter tracks, or other shyer critters that you might not be able to spot. Bundle up and go see what you can discover in the arb this term!

— Gerrit Hoving ‘25 for Cole Student Naturalists

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