Frightful or delightful? In Bedford, Milford, Amherst, Hollis, Brookline and Merrimack snow and ice offer opportunities for fun

When the holidays are over, it’s time to face the fact that there are long winter months ahead.

But instead of hunkering down with video games or staring out the window, put all that ice and snow to good use.

Summer sports can be fun, but what’s more exhilarating than sliding down a snowy hill at breakneck speed or gliding over ice in time to music?

All our local towns offer winter recreation programs, and their variety seems to grow each year.

Bedford Parks and Recreation, for example, has just about all the winter programs you can imagine, including a snowman-building contest in January.

Create a snowman in your own yard, take a picture and e-mail it to or The winning snowman will be awarded a prize and the picture will be posted on the Parks and Recreation website.

“We just need some ice and snow,” said Jane O’Brien, director of Bedford’s Parks and Recreation Department.

For those who want more thrills and chills, Bedford has two sledding hills, one by the town playground at 20 County Road and the other at Benedictine Park, off Wallace Road.

So far it hasn’t been cold enough for ice, but when it is people will gravitate to the town’s new ice rink at the new Bedford Village Commons, off Route 101.

There is also an ice-fishing workshop at the town safety complex on Jan. 17, at 9 a.m. As of Dec. 19, however, there were only eight of the available 20 spots left, O’Brien said.

For cross-country skiing or snowshoeing in Bedford try Legacy Park, off New Boston Road.

In Merrimack Matt Casparius, the new parks and recreation director, is getting ready for the town’s Winter Carnival on Saturday, Feb. 21 at Wasserman Park. There will be ice fishing, a cardboard box sled contest, and snowmobile rides courtesy of the local snowmobile club.

People can snowshoe at Wasserman or the Horse Hill Nature Preserve, and “plans are in the works for a more formal cross-country skiing area, but that’s probably at least a year away,” Casparius said.

More ice rinks

Both Milford and Amherst are expected to install their second ice rinks this winter.

Milford, which last year built a warming hut at Shepard Park, is building a hockey rink near the existing rink.

“Right now we’re getting quotes and hoping it will be ready this season,” said Stephanie Zubricki, program director for Milford’s Recreation Department, “and we’re hoping the one that’s set up now will freeze. We need that cold weather.”

Milford is also offering Saturday morning learn-to-skate and learn-to-play-hockey programs from Jan. 17 to Feb. 14 with Dan Fontas of The Hockey Academy. Register at

There are no formal sledding areas in Milford, but just over the town line there is Carnival Hill in Wilton, and in the other direction, Bragdon Hill off Route 101 in Amherst.

Milford’s many conservation areas, including the more than 400-acre Mile Slip Town Forest, are also good places to snowshoe.

The highlight of the town’s winter season is its winter festival, this year on Saturday, Jan. 17, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Shepard Park. The Shepard Park ice rink is open whenever there is ice, from dawn until 8 p.m.

Amherst’s second rink is planned for the tennis courts on the Bean Fields.

Snowshoes for rent

If you can walk, you can snowshoe, and there are plenty of opportunities for snowshoeing at Amherst’s Peabody Mill Environmental Center, located at 66 Brook Road, where there are snowshoes to rent in a variety of sizes for all ages. Call 673-1141.

A local hub for winter fun is the huge Beaver Brook property in Hollis, with its 2,200 acres accessed by 10 trailheads. The land is open from dawn to dusk for people to snowshoe and crosscountry ski.

Go to to find Beaver Brook’s January and February calendar filled with outdoor events, including full-moon hikes – there are two in January – fitness hikes, hiking with dogs, a parent-child nature hour and animal tracking hikes.

An after-school Forest Free Time program that begins Jan. 7 offers snowshoeing, animal tracking and other outdoor activities.

“It’s nice to get out of the house,” said Beaver Brook’s Director of Education Celeste Barr.

Kathy Cleveland can be reached at 673-3100, ext. 304, or kcleveland@