Snowy fun in the Shingobee Hills
This year cabin fever will hit many of us hard. The holidays have ended, we just got out of another lockdown, yet we’re still encouraged to social distance and avoid crowds. The winter weather does not help.
Or maybe the winter weather does help. Minnesota winters provide plenty of recreational activities that can be enjoyed with just your household family, or if you need to get away from them, activities you can enjoy alone. And fortunately for the Walker area, many of those activities can be enjoyed nearby, in the Chippewa National Forest.
Just south of Walker is the Shingobee Hills Recreation Area. Six miles of trails await for a nice day out of the house, ready for. cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. And then there’s the sliding hill. The locally-famous hill is great for sledding or snow-tubing. Visitors from as far away as Oregon have called it “world-class sledding” on Tripadvisor — a site for reviews of popular destinations — and warn that the sledding hill “rivals ski hills for a vertical drop.”
For those who may not be ready to muster such a drop (our Oregon visitor uses the word “chickens”), there is a side of the hill with a more gradual slope. Of course, you don’t have to visit from the West Coast to know that the Walker, Minnesota area offers sledding hills that rival skiing. Locals from all over the area will remember taking their turn down the Shingobee Hill as children, trying out the freshly-fallen snow. Many locals grew up to watch their own children go sledding or tubing down the hill. Then they make the steep climb back up. They’re ready to get snow in their face no matter how bundled up they are, and then it’s time to sled down again!
Shingobee Hills was the first downhill ski area in Minnesota. It was built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in 1940. Back then, the area had downhill ski runs and a rope tow along with a different “luge-like” sledding run. A partner group not only operated it but also named the area the “Shingobee Winter Playground”. The group from Walker operated the rope tow and offered food at the historic chalet until the operation closed in the early 1980s. They found it tough to run a ski hill with a south-facing slope.
If you’re a real child at heart, there’s a chance that you’re out there going down the hill, right along with the kids. It’s such a fun experience and a great time, whether you’re making memories, documenting the littles, or on your own sled or tube.
Like so many other activities in the last year, we must warn you that sledding at Shingobee Hills will look a bit different this year. Due to COVID-19, the Shingobee warming chalet will remain closed until further notice. We know you have fond memories of connecting with friends around a fire there, but this gives you an opportunity. Now, you can make hot cocoa at home with the family after a day of sledding or snow-tubing. You can shed off your layers at home, curl up, and discuss the day of winter fun that you had together.
As for congregating at the top of the hill, we know that many cherish those memories of gathering with friends and chatting with visitors from near and far. But to keep everyone safe and healthy, and so that we can gather again as soon as possible, we ask you to continue doing your part.
Enjoy Shingobee Hill this year in a socially-distanced manner. Spend time at the top of the hill with only the members of your household. Stay 6 feet away from other guests, so that everyone can enjoy sledding. And, amid all of those layers you’re bundled up wearing in the snow this year, wear your mask. Keep it over your mouth and nose, because even though you’re outside, it’s safest among everyone else who is talking about their fun and shouting for glee.