For Lowell resident Michele Johnson, cross country skiing at Lemon Lake County Park is a family affair.
She began going to the park as a young girl with her grandmother, Teresa Stoner, and continues to ski there today.
Her grandmother, who passed away in August 2013 at age 89, skied at the county park in March 2013, only months before her death.
"I love it there,” Johnson said. “If I can’t trail run it is because there is snow on the ground, so I bring my skis.”
She brings her own skis and enjoys the miles of trails.
“I don’t run into as many people as I would think, when it’s an absolutely beautiful day out and miles of snow,” she said. “I am grateful for such a nice park so close to my home. I have many great memories of my grandmother taking me there since I was a child. She passed away last year, so the park brings back sweet memories of her whenever I am there.”
Lemon Lake is one of three Lake County parks that offer cross country skiing opportunities between Dec. 1 and March 31 when snow conditions allow, said Sandy Basala, superintendent of visitor services at the Lake County Parks and Recreation Department.
Lemon Lake County Park, on 133rd Avenue between Crown Point and Cedar Lake, has eight miles of trails through wooded areas and flat open fields and is ideal for people with any level of skiing skill.
At Griffith’s Oak Ridge Prairie County Park, there are three miles of trails that are perfect for beginning and intermediate skiiers.
Stoney Run County Park, which is located east of Crown Point, has seven miles of trails winding through a wooded, hilly area as well as flat open spaces.
The three parks have ski rentals available. For more information on times and cost, visit lakecountyparks.com.
Basala said the parks have been a popular attraction for skiiers this winter. On one January weekend Stoney Run had about 50 ski rentals, and that doesn’t include the number of people who came with their own equipment, she said.
She said park conditions are ideal when there is a four-inch snow base that can support the glide of skiing.
“It’s a great family activity because all ages can do it at their own pace, and they can all ski together,” she said. “It’s basically stride and glide.”
She said staff at the parks can fit people with the proper size boots, skis and poles.
“With brief instruction, most people feel comfortable trying it out. It’s like any other activity, though, the more you do it generally the better you get,” she said. “Will you fall down? Probably, but it’s not like downhill skiing where you are traveling at a fast pace. The kids seem to bounce right back up. Of course, I’m convinced they like to fall down!”
Michelle Lionberg, of St. John, recently went skiing at Lemon Lake for the first time with her husband, Bill and three of their five children.
At $5 a person for ski rental, she said it was a fun, inexpensive way to spend a few hours of family time.
After being fitted for skis, they took a map and headed out.
“It was really great exercise and something fun to do outside as a family during the weather,” she said. “We’re hoping to go back again in the next few weeks.”
For those who want to cross country ski in other areas, try the South Bend Adventure Club. The group, which is based in South Bend, attracts members from all around Northwest Indiana and Southwest Michigan. More information about the club can be found on their website, outsidethebend.com, or on their South Bend Adventure Club Facebook page.
The group was started by Kerry Regan, a graduate student at Notre Dame in biology, and her husband, who is a laboratory manager in the biology department. The couple came to Northwest Indiana from Florida and wanted to bring Florida’s outdoor culture to the area.
They regularly take ski trips to St. Patrick’s Park, Madaline Bertrand Park as well as Potato Creek State Park and Love Creek County Park.
Regan said between 10 and 25 people attend each skiing trip.
“The skiing at each of these places is beautiful and is a very unique experience,” she said. “So far, my favorite park is certainly Love Creek, since it has very interesting terrain and longer trails.”