Winter fun at Carleton

Carleton offers plenty of activities to help students, faculty and staff remain active and beat the winter blues while maintaining a safe distance from others.

21 January 2021 Posted In:
Students snowshoe in the arb
Students snowshoe in the arbPhoto:

The thick of the winter season is upon us—shorter days, frigid temperatures and icy sidewalks surrounded by piles of snow. And while the winter months can be daunting, Carleton offers plenty of activities to help students, faculty and staff remain active and beat the winter blues.


The Carleton College Cowling Arboretum offers over 800 acres of prairie land for recreation, conservation and education. While the need to physically-distance from others is extremely prevalent during this time, the Arb offers plenty of space to spend time outside while maintaining a safe distance from others. The quiet solitude of the prairies, forests and oak savanna awaits, and students, faculty, staff and the community are encouraged to get out this winter and hit the trails—whether that be walking, running, snowshoeing or skiing.

Skiing in the arb
Skiing in the arb

The Arb’s trails are groomed for both classic and skate skiing. The trails in the Upper Arb are specifically groomed for skate skiing, while only small portions of the trails in the Lower Arb are wide enough to allow skate ski grooming. All trails are considered multiple use, so walkers or snowshoe users may be encountered at any time. 

Visitors who wish to walk, run or snowshoe in the Arb are expected to follow the winter trail use guidelines and avoid the track set for classical skiing (two parallel grooves.) If the trail has been packed for skiing, there should be room to the sides of the trail to walk, run or snowshoe without damaging the track. Stay to the edge of the packed area to avoid marring the ski surface with footprints, as they can be dangerous to skiers, catching ski tips or poles and breaking equipment or causing falls. If the snow is so soft that every step sinks in, consider walking elsewhere, and come back when the snow is firmer—usually after a solid overnight freeze.

“Our visitors are welcome to leave the trails to visit some of the more remote areas,” said Arb director Nancy Braker. “Remember, there is no bad weather in Minnesota if you wear the right clothing.”

Carleton staff and volunteers put in many hours of grooming to keep the trails a great place for skiing, and visitor cooperation in keeping the trails in good shape is much appreciated.

The Arb is open from dawn to dusk. Bring a mask with you to wear if a six-foot distance cannot be maintained, including when passing other trail users. Visitors are free to step off the trail as needed to maintain proper distancing.

Ice Rinks on the Bald Spot

Broomball adventures
Broomball adventures

Each winter, two ice rinks are resurrected on the Bald Spot offering the campus community a space for figure skating, hockey games and broomball. The rinks are often used by PE classes, intramural teams, or students simply wanting to take a break from their studies. Campus community members are encouraged to secure ice time by reserving an ice rink.

PEAR & the Rec Center

As campus works to support the objective of preventing the spread of COVID-19, the PEAR Department is utilizing a phased approach to opening its buildings for use. The Rec Center opened on Jan. 18 with limited capacity to students, faculty and staff. Learn more about what’s available, what’s not available for use, hours of operation and expectations before visiting the Rec Center.

Other PEAR spaces open for use include the Bell Field tennis courts, Laird Stadium outdoor track and practice fields. Please adhere to the posted physical distancing guidelines at each facility. More information about facility schedules, entry to the buildings, and user expectations can be found in the reopening FAQ for PEAR and the Recreation Center.

The campus community is encouraged to take advantage of the outdoor track and the Arb for walks, runs and workouts. The Rec Center offers equipment rentals at no charge so you can hit the trails without worrying about purchasing your own outdoor winter gear. Equipment is available from the front counter in exchange for a valid ID. Equipment available for checkout includes figure skates, hockey skates, snow shoes, classic cross-country skis, climbing equipment, racquetball and squash equipment.

The Rec Center is also offering a variety of virtual workouts and fitness opportunities including live, scheduled fitness classes via Zoom, pre-recorded workouts accessible at your leisure, workout plans with daily exercises, and more.

Please see the facility hours of operation and FAQ page for more information.

No matter what activity piques your interest this winter, there’s plenty to do while maintaining a safe distance from others. Make the most of the winter months, Carls!