February can be a dreary time for many — it’s been cold out for nearly half a year and it often seems like the sun will never emerge. But for some students and faculty, it’s a time of year that is a prime opportunity for outdoor sports and recreation. Meet the winter sports enthusiasts of Hillsdale.
Sophomore Jason Cimponer has ice fished for most of his life. A Minnesota native, Cimponer said he is used to cold temperatures and frozen lakes.
“My dad and I would always go up by the Canadian border to Red Lake, it’s one of the biggest lakes in Minnesota and we’d go ice fishing,” Cimponer said. “When you go up there people have trucks and trailers and there’s thousands of people. The ice is about 20 inches thick. So you’re just on the ice and it’s kind of like camping on the ice which is pretty cool. People stay up there for weeks, I don’t usually go for too long because it’s cold, but that’s how I started.”
Upon moving to Hillsdale, Cimponer said he wanted to bring his passion for fishing to college with him. He did his own research to find a local lake with trout.
“I found Bear Lake and saw there were trout there, so I checked it out one day and talked with a few of the locals out there and got a taste for if they caught anything,” Cimponer said. “I went out the next week and I caught two trout so I cooked them up and then ate them.”
Cimponer said that although Hillsdale has warmer temperatures than his home state, he still has to wear snow pants and three layers of pants underneath to keep warm on the lake.
“When I go out I have two miniature 12 inch fishing poles and you’re over a little hole that’s about 6 inches in diameter. You have to be careful on the ice, three inches is the minimum you want to walk on,” Cimponer said. “There’s a certain temperature fish bite. When it gets to the low teens or zero degrees fish will usually be pretty dormant. It’s usually when temperatures are in the twenties, maybe low thirties that the fish will come up. I relate it to people — when it’s super cold, everybody stays inside, nobody’s really going out for anything and then when it gets warmer people start going out and doing errands. That’s kind of how fish are in a way.”
Cimponer said the varying temperatures this year have made it harder to ice fish, but that he caught fish five out of the six times he went last year. According to Cimponer, his favorite part of the experience is escaping stress and being outside.
“I love the nature aspect of fishing in general, especially when I go over to Bear Lake, it’s just you and nature,” he said. “It’s a good time to have relaxation, soak it all in, and get away from the world.”
Junior Anna Cannon, who was on a ski retreat at Caberfae Peaks this past weekend, is another student who enjoys winter sports. Cannon said that even though she is from Texas, she skied every year as a child when her family traveled to New Mexico.
Cannon said she loves the thrill of going down slopes and the stunning views that come with it.
“One of my favorite parts is that you get going so fast, you go down a whole mountain in a matter of minutes,” Cannon said. “It’s fun to experience being just on skis going down a mountain, it’s really fun and exciting. And there’s a beautiful view.”
One of Cannon’s favorite mountain views was in the Alps when she was studying abroad in Europe.
“I went skiing in the Alps in Austria and that was beautiful,” Cannon said. “When you go skiing here there’s a mountain and you go down it and that’s all it is. But in Austria you’re in the Alps, which stretches farther than you can even see.”
Cannon said she still loves the views in Michigan, and tries to go skiing locally when she can. She has been on independent ski retreats and on the SAB sponsored trips to Bittersweet Ski Resort. Cannon said students who are looking to get into skiing should go on the SAB trip.
“Bittersweet is a great place for beginners, they have a really nice beginners course,” Cannon said. “I would say go there and watch some ski videos just to learn the technique. It really is something where you have to get muscle memory and get the feel for it.”
For those interested in even more localized skiing, Assistant Professor of Sports Studies Bill Lundberg recommends visiting the trails at Hayden Park. According to Lundberg, about seven years ago the Hayden Park Clubhouse was able to invest in skiing equipment after receiving a grant from the Student Federation.
“I went to an outdoor equipment company called REI and I went and purchased and set it up eight sets of skis and 14 pairs of boots to handle different kinds of sizing,” Lundberg said.
Although the lack of lake effect snow in southern Michigan can make skiing difficult at times, Lundberg said there has been enough snow at the park to ski for the past several weeks. Recently, the volleyball team spent an afternoon skiing on the trails.
“We have a 5K, 6K, 8K, and 10K cross country that we’ve designed over the years. We go on a lot of those trails for cross country skiing,” Lundberg said. “It’s not like a lot of places up north where the conditions are just perfect for skiing and there’s a way to groom those trails. Here, it’s just people getting out on the skis and the tracks are made from people skiing often. It’s been good, and a privilege to be able to provide for the students and staff and families.”
According to Lundberg, it is refreshing to see the community engage in winter sports at the park.
“You’ll see families come out with their sleds and kids really enjoy being out in the snow. It’s a family-oriented and fitness-oriented setting where people can enjoy things in different seasons.”