Why We Stay: Winter with Ted McClelland

By Kevin Robinson in Miscellaneous on Jan 12, 2011 7:20PM

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Photo via Ted McClelland.
Today we launch a new series in which we talk to notable Chicagoans about what they love about winter in Chicago, and why they stay in the coldest months of the year.

Ted McClelland is an author and writer living in Chicago. Raised in Lansing, Michigan, he's the author of "Horseplayers," "The Third Coast," and "Young Mr. Obama," an upcoming book on the president's years in Chicago.

"I don’t think it sucks here at all. If I moved to Los Angeles, I couldn’t go cross country skiing. I grew up in Michigan, I started skiing there when I was seven or eight years old. Skiing and sledding. I always look forward to the first snowfall of the year and I want it to linger as long as it can, so I can get in as many weeks and weekends of skiing as I can. Last weekend I went down to the forest preserve in Palos, and then on Sunday I went up to Skokie lagoons. I even ski on the lagoons when it’s cold enough. I ski on the ice. Sometimes I’ll go over to the golf course at Waveland or the one at Warren Park, and then I’ll slide my skis under the fence and jump over the fence. And you know, there’s fresh snow there, because no one else can go there in the winter. I like ice skating too, although I’m not as good at it as I am at cross country skiing. Whenever I played hockey when I was a kid I had to be goalie because I couldn’t skate well. We played hockey in my friend’s backyard, we’d flood the backyard.

"I really don’t do much sledding. If I did, there’s a hill in Warren Park, and then there’s another hill at James Park in Evanston. And then there’s a rink at Warren Park, and I’ve been to the rink downtown at Millennium Park, that’s really beautiful. You could skate on the canals, I’m sure those would freeze over. Those are small enough to freeze over. And then the lagoons, they freeze over, so there are places you can skate on natural ice here. I would think Wolf Lake would freeze.

"I don’t like hot weather, so that’s another reason I stay here. I live right on the lake, so I don’t even need air conditioning, all I have to do is open the window. If anything, I’d like to live in a place with even more snow. I mean, this is the climate I like, that I grew up with. I mean, you can’t have snow without cold. I don’t understand people that complain about the winter - you need to learn to have fun with it. We have five months of cold weather, we have more winter here than we have summer. I don’t understand people who complain about the snow. What do you expect when you live here? I think the city building those rinks in the last few years has been terrific. Using winter as an amenity, as an asset.

"Cross country skiing is the most strenuous sport there is. Skiers have the highest lung and heart capacity of any athlete. It works out your whole body, it works out your arms, it works out your legs, it’s not like just running. I belong to a gym, but I don’t like to exercise indoors even in the winter. I go out and run outside all winter. A couple of winters ago I spent the entire winter training for a marathon. I was doing twenty mile runs in the snow. Cold air is healthy.

"I went [skiing] with someone last weekend. You can see deer at Skokie lagoons. It’s really quiet, that’s the thing, you’re in the woods in the winter, and it’s very very quiet. You can rent skis down at Camp Sagawon in Lemont. Last winter I did a biathlon where you do the skiing and the shooting. I had to go up to Wisconsin for that. For the hills, but also for the guns. I really want to try the skate-skiing this winter. I have not done that yet. I went there and everybody had the skate-skis, everybody had the racing skis. I just have the classic skis. I’ve never actually tried the downhill skiing, because it’s flat here. But here I can just go right out my door. I wouldn’t be able to that anywhere in Loa Angeles. I think it would be boring to have the same weather all the time. If you’ve got to have cold weather, you want to have snow."