Activities abound at Horseshoe Bend

Speeding down a snow-covered hill is perhaps one of the most popular winter pastimes.

And in the Iowa Great Lakes there is one place that brings people from near and far to do exactly that.

Horseshoe Bend Wildlife Area in rural Milford also has a Winter Sports Area complete with a tubing hill and warming house open 11 a.m.-5 p.m. on winter weekends when Mother Nature allows.

The key is having enough snow. While the area has been open at least one weekend so far this winter, it is closed until a bit more snow blankets the region.

The hill requires at least six inches of snow pack to be open. When open, a day pass is $10 with season passes going for $45 per person.

“We have a pretty good base out there, so if we get another good snow we’ll be good to go. It just needs another coat,” said Kiley Roth, community relations coordinator for the Dickinson County Conservation Board.

During weekends the tubing hill is open guests can cut out the most tiresome part of this popular winter activity, trudging back up the hill for another run.

Horseshoe Bend comes complete with an automated tow rope that deposits tubers right back at the top of the hill.

Tubers can also take advantage of the warming house, which offers concessions at $2 apiece as well as a toasty fire to thaw out next to before heading back outside.

Even when the hill isn’t open for business, there is plenty for people to enjoy at Horseshoe Bend during the winter season.

“We have our trail system through the park that people are welcome to walk any time of year,” Roth said. “There are snow shoeing opportunities. Cross-country skiing — you have to break your own path — and people will follow the river for snowmobiling.”

The tubing hill itself is open for anyone who wants to bring their own sled. There are other hills in the area sledding enthusiasts are free to take advantage of as well.

A popular area for tubing and skiing since the 1970s, Horseshoe Bend even used to have artificial snow to keep the hill running more consistently.

It’s an idea, Roth said, the conservation board has been discussing bringing back if possible.

“We’re researching how to make it feasible here and cost-effective,” Roth said. “So hopefully we can bring that sometime in the future, but right now we’re at the mercy of Mother Nature.”

Keep an eye on, as well as the conservation board’s Facebook and Twitter accounts, for weekly updates on weather and tubing hill conditions.