Winter in the White Bear area has generally been a busy time. Whether you like to ice skate, cross-country ski or play a pick-up game of hockey, outdoor activities have been a popular way to spend those chilly days. Even during the early decades of our community, when most summer residents were back in their St. Paul homes, some returned to their cottages for a winter retreat to enjoy the frozen lakes and other amenities.
One large attraction that drew adventurous crowds was the toboggan slide on the south end of Clark Avenue. Popular during the 1910s and ’20s, the slide allowed the courageous to climb up and careen down the track. The then-unpaved surface of Clark Avenue packed with snow provided the landing platform. The toboggan was highlighted during winter festivals and community activities for a number of years.
Other less strenuous adventures awaited those who preferred to keep their feet on the ground. Snow was cleared in patches to form rinks all over the covered lakes; it was commonplace to see skaters engaging in relay races, pick-up hockey games or other spontaneous endeavors.
White Bear became nearly as well known for its winter offerings as it had for the summer opportunities. This eventually evolved into a local variation and connection to St. Paul’s Winter Carnival. For many years, the White Bear Rod and Gun Club hosted a world famous ice-fishing contest on White Bear Lake. In recent years, groups have hosted the Bear’ly Open golf tournament on ice and Art Shanty Projects to draw people out, continuing the cold-weather tradition.
Sara Markoe Hanson is the executive director of the White Bear Lake Area Historical Society.