As the largest Madison Community Park, Elver Park provides outdoor fun at any time of the year. Take advantage of the ice-skating rink, including a warming shelter, skate rentals, and concessions. Cross country skiing, running, and snowshoeing trails will give you reasons to keep coming back. You could stay active the entire winter with over 250 acres of partial woods and hills, especially with the many winter events offered at Elver Park and other Madison Community Parks. Elver Park takes affordable winter fun to the next level by offering snow making to make its ski trails usable by anyone holding an Madison Trails ski pass ($7/day $30/annual).
Speaking of winter fun, let’s not forget about sledding! Offering Madison’s best sledding hill, Elver Park is the perfect destination for a playful winter workout.
WHEN TO GO:
What are you doing the weekend of February 3? You need to check out the best of Elver Park during Madison’s Winter Festival, February 3 -5. This multi-day event includes activities for the whole family, including pets! Over 14 different events (here’s a map) include a 5 K Run, kid friendly fun run (free!), and learn to ski clinic (also free!).
Bring your snowshoes at night for a candlelight ski and snowshoe tour. Run with your dog or check out other events, including sledding, adaptive and open ski opportunities, and ice skating.
Whether you join in the fun during February 4 and 5 or come back to give it another try, do not miss sledding at Elver Park this winter. The thoughtful Madison Parks system manages to address any excuses you might have.
Busy schedule? The lights on the ice rink make nighttime sledding a blast. No snow? Snow is supplemented by the parks’ snow making efforts, so you can sled on unexpected days. Don’t have a sled? Use of the hill is free and you can even rent sleds at the warming shelter during Winterfest.
Sledding may be the perfect Wisconsin winter day out. It’s fun for everyone, partner friendly, and unlike skiing or skating, requires limited technique to have a great time. While you can simply head out and enjoy the ride down, why not combine your workout with interval training for a partner and family friendly challenge that will make your whole body stronger.
ELVER PARK SLEDDING INTERVALS
BEFORE YOU GO:
Expect to work hard during this workout. That means, your body is going to sweat and you’ll need plenty of breaks (mostly during the downhills and at the bottom).
Stay hydrated and warm. Plan a stop for hot cocoa (and maybe a bottle of water) after you finish your intervals. Make sure that your clothing (and boots!) are water and windproof. Dress in layers, including a wicking layer near your skin. In this case, synthetic fabrics beat cotton as they will keep you warmer and keep moisture away from your body. You’ll also want a scarf or mask that can easily be pulled on and off of your face. Remember that mittens will keep your hands warmer than gloves if the temps are frigid.
Icy days are better spent on the skating rink or your home gym. Falling or skidding out on a steep hill isn’t worth the risk. Always look out for what is below you on the hill before you head down, and above you before you head up. Look out for surroundings as well. If you’re sledding with a little one, make sure hands and feet are well tucked inside and keep your eyes peeled for the occasional abandoned sled, boot, or toddler that can impact your path down the hill.
Warming up at Elver Park will take care of itself with a slow walk up the hill. This hill is massive. Before you tackle it, get your core engaged with a 1 minute plank hold. When you get to the top, everyone finishes ten full range squats, taking your bottom as low as possible with legs outside of hip distance. This will get your big muscles warm and your joints ready, while cuing your proprioception to adapt to the icy environment.
SIMPLE HILL REPEAT INTERVALS:
Thanks Madison Trail Runners for this simple but effective interval workout. Your first workout is hill repeats, up to ten. If you have a group, your race is to be the first to finish. The loser needs to spring for hot cocoa at the warming shelter. Since it’s easy to lose track of how many rounds you’ve completed, I recommend bringing poker chips and moving them from one pocket to the other every time you reach the bottom of the hill. If you’re working with a partner, it’s man to man (or woman). The quick run up the hill will engage all the muscles of your lower body, especially your quads and glutes.
- FAMILY FRIENDLY: Parents get your kids involved by partnering up on the sled with one child and one adult per sled. Depending on the age of the child, you may alternate the sled/child and use the child as a weight (making this a real sled pull).
- LARGE GROUP: This workout is a blast as a relay for time. Gather your team of four or more and alternate races to the bottom (and top) of the hill. Harder-core athletes can up the intensity by completing ten burpees as a team (or push-ups or squats) when the runner makes it to the top of the hill, before the next sledder takes off. Keep it honest by tagging each other in at the top and using poker chips to count your rounds.
- FINISH FOR REPS: If you’re nervous about signing on for ten snowy hill sprints or just want to guarantee a solid workout, set a timer on your cell phone and complete as many rounds as possible in 20 minutes (or longer). You can do this with or without the burpee add on’s.
It’s easy to forget how hard your body is working during all of the fun. With cold temperatures and icy ground, it’s natural to feel a bit tender that evening or over the next few days. Get ahead of the game by taking time to recover with a warm Epsom salt bath and gentle yoga that evening. Even just a few targeted poses can leave your body feeling better and coming back strong.