Winter break is over but winter fun is not. Any number of Columbians sled and skate their way through New York winters, but only the daring venture into lesser-known winter activity territory. Dare on. Spice up boots with snowshoes and ditch hockey for broomball at different parks in Queens, take a thriller of a dip in the icy waters off of Coney Island, or chase the moon with a snowy nighttime bike ride through Central Park. There is outdoor fun to be had by hearty Columbians of all stripes—even as snowflakes and temperatures continue to fall.
Snowshoe and broomball
Make tracks where Matinecock Indians and the original Yankees once did at Fort Totten Park. The park, which rests inside a modernized Civil War fortress, is located between Totten and 15th roads along Cross Island Parkway in Queens’ Bayside neighborhood. The trek to upper New York or Massachusetts for powder skiing may be too much for most students, but floating atop fresh fluff in snowshoes can be just as fun.
Fort Totten’s park services organize weekend snowshoeing events throughout the winter (weather permitting) and provide free snowshoes to boot. Literally, snowshoes attach to any old pair of boots. Events start at the park’s main gates on 212th Street at 1 p.m., which means students needn’t leave campus until after 11:30 a.m. The hour-and-a-half trek requires transfers from the 1 train to the 7 train to the Q16 bus. Snowshoeing is a couple-hour activity at most, so adventurers can still be back by dinnertime.
A slightly shorter hour and 10 minutes into Queens and accessible by subway alone (take the 1 then the E train to the 67th Avenue stop) is the 1,255 acre Flushing Meadows Corona Park. Here, those looking for a bit more physical exertion can cross-country ski around Meadow Lake or partake in a bit of classic Canadian broomball at the park’s World Ice Arena. Broomball is hockey, grassroots style—with brooms and balls instead of sticks and pucks. It takes a hefty chunk of change for a broomball team to sign up with the NYC Social Sports Club ($125 for a month-long session), but hey—brooms aren’t as easy to come by as they used to be.
Need some motivation to accomplish that New Year’s resolution to exercise more? Head over to Central Park for a bike ride under the night sky. Breezing through the park’s winter wonderland of snowy slopes will literally take one’s breath away.
Less than two hours in duration and under 10 miles long, the Moonlight Ride is a free guided bike tour through Central Park that meets on the first Friday of the month from July to March at the Columbus Circle entrance (Broadway and 59th Street) at 10 p.m. Far less hazardous than cycling alongside cars on the streets, the nighttime tour also avoids the pedestrians strolling the park all day long.
During the ride, bikers travel along the Central Park loop road and other park paths. Rollerblading is also welcomed—though not recommended for the faint of heart. Rollerbladers must be competent enough to keep up with bikers. And since moonlight can’t be counted on to entirely brighten the paths, smart riders might want to pack a bike light or flashlight.
The scenery in Central Park is especially picturesque in the winter with snow-capped trees enclosing the blanketed grounds and iced-over pools. Though the pace of the tour is leisurely to medium, stops are made at scenic spots, and the group rides past prominent landmarks such as the Bethesda Fountain and the Harlem Meer.
Not only is nighttime biking a workout to help students get closer to exercise-based New Year’s goals, but Moonlight Rides are also environmentally friendly. The monthly event is sponsored by TIME’S UP!—a New York grassroots environmental group that educates people about living sustainably in the city, in this case by choosing eco-friendly transportation.
Going green—and experiencing snowy white—is only a bike ride away.
Baby, it’s cold outside, but that hasn’t stopped fun-loving health enthusiasts of the Coney Island Polar Bear Club from plunging into the frigid Atlantic Ocean since 1903. As the oldest winter bathing organization in the United States, members of this offbeat sports club take a chilly dip off of Coney Island every Sunday from November through April.
Some Polar Bears cite the health benefits of winter bathing—such as improved stamina and immunity—but for others, it’s just plain exhilarating. After hopping off the 1 then Q trains, swimmers are invited to dip their toes and take leaps into the freezing waters. Participants can warm up afterwards with a steaming order of Nathan’s Famous hot dogs topped with a generous amount of sauerkraut. If that boardwalk favorite doesn’t cut it, head over to the towering Cyclone roller coaster—its twists and turns are enough to raise anyone’s heart rate back up.
This alternative winter sport takes a dive into the mainstream when the Polar Bears host their popular annual New Year’s Day swim. To the delight and shock of thousands of onlookers, participants brave the cold and sprint into the Atlantic to temperature-defying and hangover-erasing cheers. Donning itty-bitty bikinis, tiny Speedos, or full-on bathing suits, swimmers dot the Coney Island shoreline in this seasonal spectacle. The ensuing frolicking in the sea is for a good cause—helping to raise money for Camp Sunshine, a charity that supports children with life-threatening illnesses.
Winter bathing might just be the perfect winter activity for avid Columbian swimmers who are bold enough to turn up the heat while keeping their cool.