Weathering Winter | Where to Find the Cold-weather Fun

Skiing in Iowa? Yes! At Sundown Mountain Resort in Dubuque!

WINTER IS UPON US, forcing us to leave countless outdoor activities behind and turn to alternative, often indoor-based ways to entertain ourselves. If you’re anything like me, you can appreciate the natural beauty of winter in Iowa—but you’re also likely to be one of the first people to say "I’m tired of this" after the second snowfall. Here are some ways to keep your sanity during the winter months, whether or not the weather outside is frightful.

Mild Weather Day

• Try geocaching ( Geocaching is, at its core, a high-tech treasure hunting game. Participants use GPS receivers to navigate to predetermined coordinates to find containers of varying sizes hidden in places like tree stumps, park benches, and fence posts. The ultimate goal is just to make it to GZ (ground zero), locate the cache, and sign your name in the logbook. Aside from the initial cost of a GPS receiver (starting around $80 for a basic model), this is a low- to no-cost way to spend anywhere from a few minutes to several hours outside on mild-weathered days.

The best part? Winter-friendly Geocaches are listed as such, which makes it easier for you to decide how easy it’s going to be to find certain caches when the ground is covered in snow. Regardless of how much time you spend Geocaching, the fresh air will do you good and you’ll get to experience the outdoors without waiting for spring.

• Visit the Amana Colonies. Just 30 minutes away from Iowa City, the Amana Colonies bustle with life during the winter months. Depending on the day, visitors explore the Amanas’ many shops, gaze at the real decorated Christmas trees in the Tannenbaum Forest, enjoy live music and poetry, partake in refreshments, and watch demonstrations. Those with children can even visit Santa and his reindeer on certain days.

For more information, visit

Sample local wines at Fireside Winery ( Aside from the obvious benefits of spending an afternoon or evening sampling wine, Fireside Winery (Marengo, IA) has a little something for everyone.

Pack up the family and spend the afternoon touring the vineyard and looking at the beautiful rolling hills of Iowa, or gather with friends around one of the fireplaces for a relaxing evening with a bottle of hand-crafted native Iowa wine.

Visit George Wyth Memorial State Park (Waterloo, IA). This park, located near Waterloo, has four lakes that can be accessed for ice fishing, snowmobiling, or just general wildlife watching. There is also a trail that connects the park to the Cedar Falls trail system, providing park-goers with an excellent cross-country skiing route. The park has an urban setting so it is close to motels and restaurants, opening up the potential for a weekend away from home—something that’s a bit of a rarity for the winter months.

Go skiing or snowboarding at Sundown Mountain Resort (Dubuque, IA). People more familiar with the slopes in Colorado might scoff at the idea of skiing or snowboarding in Iowa, but the truth is that the state is home to the only Midwest recipient of the National Ski Area Association’s Award of Excellence. Sundown has two mountaintop lodges that overlook 100 square miles, 21 scenic trails, and two remarkable terrain parks carved out of a century-old cedar forest reminiscent of Colorado. The resort offers lessons and equipment rental and is close to tons of restaurants and hotels if you want to make a weekend out of the trip.

Cold and Snowy but Travelable

• Indoor ice skating (Iowa City, Cedar Rapids, Quad Cities). Few activities embody the season better than ice skating. If the weather outside is too much to handle without the protection of an automobile, load up some friends or your family and make your way to an indoor ice skating rink. Skate rental costs are typically reasonable and last for several hours. Whether you’re a first-time skater or you’ve taken the ice many times before, spending time at an indoor rink is a great way to get exercise and experience a typically winter-only activity.

Freezing, Ice-covered Conditions

Stay inside without becoming sedentary. Inevitably, there will be a time or two this winter where you’ll be advised not to leave the house. While the idea of lounging on the couch and watching television all day might seem appealing, it’s those types of activities that will ultimately leave you feeling lethargic and ripe with cabin fever.

Instead, make exercise goals for the day. Even if you plan on watching your favorite rerun or courtroom reality show on TV, tell yourself that you’ll do ten pushups during each commercial break. Make a commitment to opt for water or a bowl of fruit instead of downing soda and munching on chips all day.                                  

Visit the index for more articles Iowa recreation and sports.