Into the Woods: Skating in Forest Park

Running in forest park is a classic diversion for WashU students. The trails vary in sights and lengths. A short run can make an easy workout break from studying or Netflix binge. Running from the AC to Art Hill and back makes for a run that is short and steep. Or, my preference, a run can be 5 miles long with glittering and expansive views including the St. Louis Zoo, the stables, the history museum, the boathouse, the science museum, the St. Louis Arch, and a rewarding view of downtown. Sure, perfect temperatures for this run can be found in the late fall and spring, but my favorite time to go is when the frostiness of winter rolls in. While the winter can be cold, snowy, and a little bitter, there’s something sweeter about the sweat and frosty breathes that comes with it.

The sights and scenery have appeared and melted away in the crossfades of a cold and windy run. The patches of green and gravel have been traded for taller yellow grasses and little bridges, it feels as though you’ve run yourself into a different forest entirely. Then it appears: Steinberg Skating Rink. All of a sudden, instead of a standing in a park larger than New York’s Central Park itself, it feels like its own little wooded wonderland.

I’m not running alone today and the opportunity to skate and enjoy a hot chocolate is too tempting at the end of our cold run. We purchase tickets and rent skates. At last, I text my mom a photo proving the ice skating lessons when I was 10 were worth it. I brilliantly share the one way I remember how I moved in a forward trajectory without falling: the appropriately named “swizzle”. A playlist mix of the Top 100 of middle school dance parties plays loudly. The crowd is mild, those who can actually skate chase each other in the center of the rink. Those of us who have less skill timidly trace the edges, lightly letting go every now and to test the frozen waters.

Once the music stops, the Zamboni comes to clear the ice. Most make it off the ice quickly and those who are struggling are politely guided out by attendants. The tickets are neon stickers we applied to our thin jackets. Jackets which were appropriate for running and skating but now seem inadequate. There’s a simple solution at hand—we pop inside for hot chocolate to sip outdoors by the firepit adjacent to the rink. Despite cold air and lack of layers, the hot chocolate resting between our gloves, and soft heat of the fire makes being outside even on this snowy day it feel cozy.

And once the music starts playing again, we’ll take back to the ice and do it all over again.