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Cross-Country Ski Enthusiasts Flock to the Dan Ryan Woods

By Howard Ludwig | February 11, 2014 6:41am
 The Dan Ryan Woods in Beverly have become a popular destination for cross-country skiers this winter. A roughly 3-mile loop through the woods follows a frozen creek.
Cross-Country Skiing
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BEVERLY — A walk in the woods isn't as easy with more than a foot of snow on the trail. As a result, some Chicagoans have turned to cross-country skis.

The Dan Ryan Woods in Beverly has become a popular destination for cross-country skiers this winter, according to Paul Weise, owner of Beverly Bike & Ski.

"We haven't had a winter like this in quite a while," Weise said.

He's been renting cross-country skis and snow shoes since 1996. Last winter, there were only two days he had any business. This year, business has been as steady as the snowfall. His shop at 9121 S. Western Ave. even began offering hot chocolate to skiers on Sunday afternoons.

Maura Halvey of Beverly and her sister Kathy Halvey of Atlanta were among Beverly Bike & Ski's customers over the weekend. They were taking their niece, Gracie Cotter, skiing for the first time on her seventh birthday.

"I feel like this is really a hidden gem of Beverly," Kathy Halvey said.

Skiers typically start their journey at 89th Street and Leavitt Avenue. A trail into the southern leg of the Dan Ryan Woods begins there. Others enter at 89th and Western Avenue, parking in the Cook County Forest Preserve lot.

Collins Fitzpatrick of Beverly is typically waiting on the trail to help newbie skiers and point the way for others unfamiliar with the path.

"I tell people all the time, 'If you can walk, you can cross-country ski,'" Fitzpatrick said.

He began cross-country skiing in the Dan Ryan Woods some 35 years ago. Strangely enough, the unofficial ambassador for cross-country skiing actually prefers downhill skiing.

"But this is nice and close. Plus, there's no drive and there's no lift ticket to buy," Fitzpatrick said.

He said the most popular trail through the Dan Ryan Woods is about a three mile loop.

Mary Pendergast and Tina Heffernan of suburban Evergreen Park rented cross country skis from Beverly Bike over the weekend as temperatures climbed into the mid-20s. The pair said they try to ski whenever there's enough snow.

"I love to be outside in the winter." Pendergast said. "To see God's beauty is amazing."