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Sledding

The tobogganing hill at Mahoney State Park near Ashland is a popular destination for families in the winter.

It’s December. Snow has fallen. It’s winter, for all practical purposes.

There is a no need to be a couch potato this time of year, staying cozy by the fire for hours or binge-watching a preferred television show. Not when there are fun things to do outside.

There are several activities that can be done in Nebraska throughout the winter. So get your winter garb ready, here are some ideas for you.

Cross country skiing/snowshoeing: A number of cross country skiers and snowshoers fully experience nature by taking to the snow-covered trails in the Nebraska state park system. If you want excellent aerobic winter workouts and opportunities to get vitamin D, cross country skiing and snowshoeing would be perfect fits.

Bird watching: Winter is a wonderful time to observe birds. It is easy to entice birds to your yard in winter by offering food, water and shelter. Or visit to a nearby park or green space. As part of the Winterfest celebration in the Nebraska state parks, there are many guided birding activities scheduled that are open to beginning birders and experienced ornithologists.

Hiking: Most folks think when the cold weather comes, the hiking season is over. Not so. Nebraska’s 77 state park areas are open for recreational use and have dozens of miles of hiking trails available. The nice thing is these trails are not crowded in the winter.

Sledding/tobogganing: There is no better way to enjoy winter than by zooming down a snow-packed hill on a plastic sled, toboggan, saucer or inner tube. Mahoney State Park near Ashland is truly the place to be for the ultimate in sledding and tobogganing. The park has three specially designed, hilly runs to slide down; one of them is ideal for the smaller kids.

Soccer/touch football: Have snow cover? Then, perhaps a game of snow soccer or snow touch football is in order. To establish a snow soccer or touch football field, round up four bright, colorful, old shirts. Set them on the ground to mark the goal lines and get the ball.

Ice skating: This is a great way to stay active during the cold winter months. In eastern Nebraska, a popular ice skating option is at Mahoney State Park. The park has a large, covered, open-air skating rink where you can rent skates.

Ice fishing: Manufacturers and retailers in the ice-fishing equipment industry are luring an increasing amount of new ice anglers to the lifestyle with products that put even more emphasis on safety, comfort, technology and mobility. The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission offers ice-fishing clinics each January to teach novice ice anglers important precautions and basic skills.

Late-season hunting: Hunting gear should not be put away for the winter. Hunters should bundle up and take advantage of low hunting pressure, colder weather, a completed crop harvest, and concentrated and more predictable game, plus landowners more receptive to hunting access.

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Greg Wagner is a public information officer in the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission’s Communications Division. Read his blog, “In the Wild,” at OutdoorNebraska.org. Contact him at greg.wagner@nebraska.gov.

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