Published January 19, 2024

Stay Safe and Enjoy the Outdoors this Winter

Winter weather is in full effect, with snow falling and temperatures below freezing. Wildlife have prepared for the coldest season of the year by growing thick coats of fur and storing food – and you should be prepared, too. Five Rivers MetroParks’ Chief of Public Safety Mark Hess offers several tips to help you stay safe outdoors this winter. 

Go outside with others. Hike, bike, ski and do other outdoor activities with a friend when possible to avoid going alone. If you are hiking or going outdoors alone, let someone you trust know exactly where you are going and when you expect to be back. For example, if you’re going hiking or cross-country skiing, identify which trail or trails you’ll be using and the name of the park.  

Know your limits. If the trail looks too challenging, or gets too challenging, cancel for the day and go back to your car. You can still spend time outdoors by taking a walk around your neighborhood or wait until the conditions are better. 

When participating in any outdoor activity, make sure to dress in layers so you can control your body temperature. You don’t want to sweat too much in the sun and then get very cold in the shade. Make sure you have high-quality hats, gloves, socks, clothing — and especially boots or other cold-weather-appropriate footwear. 

If you’re spending time being active outdoors, bring water with you. It is easier to dehydrate in the winter than you might think, as the cold air is often very dry. 

Keep your fully charged cell phone on you in an inside pocket where it will stay dry and warm.  

Sled at designated sledding areas only. In your Five Rivers MetroParks, these can be found at Germantown, Englewood and Taylorsville MetroParks. Never face backwards on the sledding hill – it’s safer to see where you’re headed.  

If you want to go ice fishing, learn from someone with experience who knows the lake and how to check the ice. MetroParks staff do NOT monitor ice conditions. The best winter fishing areas in your MetroParks are Carriage Hill MetroPark’s Cedar Lake and pond, the ponds at the 500 Old Springfield Road entrance at Englewood MetroPark, and the fishing ponds at Possum Creek. 

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Do not walk across, or skate on, frozen creeks, rivers, ponds or lakes. They often have varying and unpredictable thicknesses of ice.  

Instead, ice skate in a controlled environment, such as the MetroParks Ice Rink at RiverScape MetroPark, open daily through March 1, 2024. Also consider wearing a helmet, elbow pads, wrist protectors and knee pads.  

If you are interested in learning how to ice skate, several skating lessons for youths and adults will be held at RiverScape MetroPark. Registration is required; visit metroparks.org/ice-rink for more info and to register. Upcoming dates include: 

Don’t overdo it. The cold weather and cold-weather activities can put a bigger strain on your body and drain your energy more quickly. Take regular breaks and check on one another often. This is especially true for older people. Lots of heart attacks occur during snow-shoveling. Call for help as soon as you think you might need it.  

While it’s important to keep safe, there are many ways to explore the outdoors in colder temps. From ice skating to sledding, cross country skiing to hiking, it’s fun and easy to get out and live this winter. Build a snowman, make a snow angel or have a snowball battle, look for animal tracks in the snow, take advantage of the beautiful and dramatic scenery to take some photos, or simply bundle up and take a walk around your favorite MetroPark.  

Chief Hess and other MetroParks staff offer additional winter safety tips and recommendations for the best winter hiking trails at each MetroPark here. 

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