Defeat the January gloom
by Jim Killam | 3-minute read   Here’s one way to fight the post-Christmas COVID doldrums: Get outside. So far, the January weather is not that bad. In fact, lingering […]
Jim Killam
January 6, 2021
by Jim Killam | 3-minute read


Here’s one way to fight the post-Christmas COVID doldrums: Get outside. So far, the January weather is not that bad. In fact, lingering snow and daytime highs just below freezing make for great sledding and skating weather. Social distancing is easy and this may be the only time when wearing a mask actually makes you more comfortable.



There’s a reason Rockford has not produced Olympic bobsledders or downhill skiers. For the most part, we have the same topography as a 4×8 sheet of plywood. Which makes it all the more astounding that Rockford’s Debbie Genovese did compete in the luge in the 1980 Olympics, after she and her husband built a practice ramp in their yard. That’s a lot of work and a lot of lumber if you’re just looking for a family outing. Surprisingly though, the Rockford area does offer a few decent sledding options. It’s not Colorado, but it’s also not sitting in front of the TV with your rambunctious kids. Bundle up and get out there!


Snow Park at Alpine Hills

The Rockford Park District’s 5-acre snow park has lots to offer. Hours are 4-8 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays and 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. on weekends. Reservations are required and park hours can change based on weather conditions, so check the website before you go.

  • Tubing: $8 a person for a 90-minute time slot and tube rental.
  • Skating: $5 a person for an hour of skating, plus $2 for skate rental if needed.
  • Terrain Park for snowboarders: $12 a person for a 3-hour lift ticket. Snowboard, helmet and boot rentals available.


Free sledding options

Rockford Park District
  • Levings Park
  • Sinissippi Golf Course – Hole No. 2
  • Twin Sister Hills Park
  • Sledding is no longer allowed (boo!) at Aldeen Park or Sand Park.
Cherry Valley
  • Baumann park has a decent hill, especially for younger kids.
  • Hospital Hill. Perhaps the worst-ever name for a sledding site, but it did really used to be the site of Beloit Memorial Hospital. Now it’s just a good hill next to the golf course on Olympian Boulevard, near the Rock River.


Outdoor skating

We made a joke about Olympic bobsledders, but the Rockford area really has produced Olympic ice skaters including Janet Lynn, Sandi Lenz and Scott Hamilton. In addition to several indoor rinks that are open year-round, you can skate outdoors and chase your Olympic dreams. Along with the Snow Park at Alpine Hills, options include:

  • Riverside Ice Arena, Doty Park in Belvidere. $5 for adults, $3 for kids. Skate rentals available. Hours can vary, so check the website before you go. You can even rent the whole place for a party.
  • Eclipse Lagoon at Sinissippi Gardens, Rockford. Free. No skate rentals available. The ice has to be 4 to 5 inches thick before the Rockford Park District will open it for skating, so check first.
  • The Olivo Taco food truck brothers have set up a temporary ice rink outside their Olivo Door Buster retail store in Forest Plaza. Check their Facebook page for information.


Have a favorite sledding or skating spot we didn’t mention? Let us know and we’ll add to the list. Send us pictures, too! Post on social media using the hashtag: #firstfreewinterfun.


Photos © Rockford Park District, by Ben Wiegel / edited by Jesse Fox.

Jim Killam
Jim Killam is a journalist, author, teacher and terminal Cubs fan. He and his wife, Lauren, live in Rockford and work internationally with Wycliffe Bible Translators.


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