(credit: EMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP/Getty Images)

by Amy Bocchetta

Is all this snowy weather giving you cabin fever – but don’t feel like packing the car to hit the slopes? Well, snowshoeing is the perfect excuse to don your cold-weather gear and get outside this winter. You’ll burn calories and maybe even spot some snow-loving animals along the way. There really is nothing quite like exploring a pristine forest, covered with a white blanket of snow. Here are some tips.

Snowshoe Rentals

Hours: November-March: Open Sat/Sun 11 a.m.- 5 p.m., Closed M-F

Reminiscent of the area explorers and traders of long ago, traditional snowshoes were made of wooden frames laced with rawhide. Today’s version is lightweight and super comfortable. Available at most major sporting goods stores, a pair of snowshoes will cost about $50. Several area Nature Centers also have snowshoes for rent, including Springbrook Nature Center in Itasca. You can also rent snowshoes at any REI sporting goods store; visit rei.com for a store locater. Test them out in your backyard and then head to a local forest trail to explore the winter wildlife.

(credit: DON EMMERT/AFP/Getty Images)

Workshops and Group Hikes

December 10, 2011; January 21 and February 18, 2012
Noon – 4 p.m.

Snowshoeing is a great workout. It’s easy and inexpensive, and risk of injury is low. We all know that kids love to trample around in the snow – and this is the perfect chance to let your kids get some fresh (albeit chilly) air. As with any outdoor sport, wear layers and cold weather gear, though you’ll likely break a sweat.

Northerly Island offers snowshoeing instruction and group hikes for all ages during its annual Polar Days. This snowy day of winter fun will be held on December 10th, January 21st, and February 18th this winter season. Bring your camera – you’ll want to catch Lake Michigan in all its icy, pristine glory as you snowshoe along its beaches.

For a true winter treat, try out nighttime snowshoeing, when you can trek through the quiet woods at your own pace, under the light of the moon.

Amy Bocchetta is a Chicago-based freelance writer. She blogs at tiramisumom.com!