Where the trails lead to lifetime adventure
Winter fun day at Prairie Woods proves to be an opportunity to introduce people of all ages to fun, lifetime activities
SPICER — Perfect weather and the Prairie Woods Environmental Learning Center conspired last Sunday to encourage “adult onset” cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, fat-tire biking and kick sledding.
Prairie Woods ELC hosted about 200 people for the return of its Winter Family Fun Day. The day is an opportunity for parents to introduce their children to fun, winter activities.
The reverse is true too, with children sometimes introducing their parents to these activities.
Matthew Kuefler was trying out his legs on cross-country skis when encountered on the trails last Sunday. He said it was his first time on the trails at Prairie Woods ELC, and he credited his daughter Ella for it. She experienced Prairie Woods as part of a Kerkhoven-Murdock-Sunburg school group who came during a bitter cold snap, but wanted to return for the “full experience,” he explained.
Kuefler said the entire family came out Sunday to do exactly that.
Consider Robin Arends as a possible adult onset cross-country skier now. She gave the sport her first try ever while following in the tracks of her 3½-year-old daughter, Olivia. Robin said only her husband had tried cross-country skiing before, but on Sunday, the whole family did. “She’s doing the best out of the five of us,” said Arends, laughing while speaking of Olivia.
The star of the day was clearly the weather, said Mari Klebe, PWELC office manager and time travel program leader. Blue skies and temperatures in the 30s made it the perfect time to get outdoors.
“A lot of people have a love-hate relationship with Minnesota winters,” said Klebe. “If there is some way to find some sort of winter activity you enjoy doing it sure makes winter go a lot quicker.”
This has been a very good winter at Prairie Woods ELC to learn a winter sport. The ample snowpack had made this a spectacular year for cross-country skiing, she said.
Snowshoeing and kick sledding have been popular as well.
Unfortunately, the snowpack this winter had been too deep for fat tire bicycling. Prairie Woods had not been able to groom the fat tire bicycle trails until recently, said Klebe. She said there’s been growing interest in fat tire riding, and she anticipates that will continue.
The fun day was a chance to try it all. For a modest fee, a family could try out the fat-tire biking, skiing, snowshoeing, kick sledding, or step inside and give the climbing wall a try.
“Everybody in the family should be able to find something they are interested in,” said Klebe.
The annual winter celebration dates to at least 2014, when Fred and Joy Zwart and Gary and Kathy Stai helped launch a winter Sleigh and Ski event that included sleigh rides, live music and a chili feed.
Prairie Woods has continued to host a winter event ever since, with the exception of the past two years due to the COVID pandemic.
The mission here is to get people interested in outdoor activities so they can enjoy the outdoors and care about them for a lifetime, explained Klebe.
Prairie Woods ELC hosts programming through the year, much of it focused on young people. Last year, PWELC hosted about 16,000 visitors, many of them part of school groups.
There’s plenty of winter (and fun) still ahead. PWELC equipment rental and the trails are open as long as trail conditions allow. Check the Prairie Woods ELC website for trail conditions.