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Fun ways to enjoy the start of winter

Fun ways to enjoy the start of winter Fun ways to enjoy the start of winter

Though winter doesn't officially begin until Dec. 21, 2023, here in northeastern Montana winter often comes early.

Many people lament the arrival of winter, perhaps thinking the colder temperatures and shorter hours of sunlight will compromise their chances to have fun. Even though particularly chilly thermostat readings or stormy conditions can hamper some plans, when people dig deeper they may find that even the coldest days present opportunities for enjoyment.

Here are some activities that can make for an entertaining way to enjoy winter in Montana.

• Build a snow creation. Once the ground turns white with the cold white stuff, organize a snowman, snowwoman or snow-animal-making event or contest. Waterproof gloves are a necessary piece of equipment, as are buckets for moving snow, shovels, carving and shaping tools (which can be plastic cutlery) and accessories to dress up the final product.

• Go sledding on the best hills. Sledding is a popular wintertime activity that doesn’t require too much equipment. Sleds can be purchased at sporting goods stores or toy stores. Sledders of all ages should consider wearing helmets to protect against injury if they will be traversing especially steep hills.

• Host a winter block party. Many cities and towns across North America participate in WinterFest events, which run the gamut from food and craft festivals to sporting events. Individuals can take cues from these type of activities and plan neighborhood festivals right on their streets. Neighbors can wheel out their fire pits or utilize outdoor propane heaters to keep spots cozy. Hot cocoa and cider stations and warm treats can keep everyone from feeling too cold. Electric slow cookers can keep everything from soups to chilis to stews warm and participants can enjoy a buffet of hearty foods. The Wolf Point Chamber of Commerce and Agriculture will host their own version of a winter block party, the annual Christmas Stroll, on Saturday, Dec. 2. Northeast Montana Health Services Charitable Foundation will be holding their Festival of Trees at the Wolf Point Elks Event Center the same night from 5 to 7 p.m. The foundation will hold a second event in Poplar at Independence Bank on Friday, Dec. 8, from 2 to 4 p.m.

• Visit an ice rink. Whether a rink is indoors or outside, ice skating is a quintessential wintertime activity. Skaters of all skill levels can take to the ice and enjoy some exercise and laughs. Check area rink schedules to take advantage of open skate times when hockey games or practices are not dominating the ice.

• Mark the winter solstice. The winter solstice, also known as the start of astronomical winter, is the shortest day of sunlight on the calendar. It occurs when either of the Earth’s poles reaches maximum tilt away from the sun. In the Northern Hemisphere, this occurs on Dec. 21, 2023. Because there will be only roughly seven hours of daylight, take steps to make the fact that the sun will set at its earliest a little easier to swallow. Children can run around outdoors with glow sticks, while adults can deck their homes in twinkle lights if they are not decorated for Christmas. Lanterns, campfires and candles can be lit, and everyone can gather outdoors to chat and socialize.

• Ice fishing is also a favorite activity for area fishermen and women. Ice fishing is more than just a way to fill the days between the closing of one open water fishing season and the opening of the next. It is a chance to breathe the cold, clean winter air; to spend quiet time outdoors with family and friends and to relax and collect one's thoughts. Ice fishing is fun, but safety must come first. Visit Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks for ice fishing safety at safety.

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