Art Hill is notorious as a widowmaker, a breaker of limbs and tailbones, a rite of passage that can serve as fodder for happy childhood dreams or as the stuff of nightmares, most of which revolve around tears freezing on your face as you careen into the trees. This reputation is based entirely upon Art Hill's snowy guise; in the warmer months, Art Hill is a beloved friend, home to Frisbee games and afternoons of freeze tag.
Few people know that Art Hill has yet another identity. In the winter months, when the ground has been frozen for several weeks and there is no snow in sight, Art Hill is one of the premier locations for the avid dirtboarder.
Dirtboarders are kin to skateboarders, but with subtle differences. Dirtboarders are generally older, in worse shape physically and less inclined (or able) to indulge in the flip-trickery of their younger cousins. Instead, they prefer a wider board (at least nine inches across) with oversize, deeply treaded, soft rubber wheels. This allows them to power through deep grass and over sticks, rocks and empty bottles, which the Dirter does with a rough-hewn grace, opting for mid-speed slaloms, nose-walking and the occasional layback slide. With its steep incline and lack of both golfers and picnickers, a suitably frozen Art Hill provides the perfect playground for the old Dirter. -- Paul Friswold
Hearken to Hikin'
Whatever you say, deer
You think you know the pleasures of hot cocoa, a crackling blaze in the fireplace and leaning back in the La-Z-Boy to read a good novel in the wintertime? To experience the true pleasures of being warm indoors, first freeze your butt off outdoors at the St. Louis County Parks Winter Hike. Seriously, though, this excursion promises that crystal-clear winter silence in which small sounds seem to carry farther, meaning that you'll be better able to hear the scratches and strides of elk, deer and buffalo. Hiking through the winter stillness with a naturalist, visitors will wind up contemplating the glory of Mother Nature, along with those big philosophical questions that keep popping up, such as "What's the meaning of it all?" and "How long before I can drink that cocoa?" (Lone Elk Park, North Outer I-44 near Hwy. 141, $3, call 314-615-4FUN for reservations). -- Byron Kerman