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A no-fun wonderland: Winter is a time for sledding, throwing snowballs and building snow forts ... but not this year

Press Photo by Royal McGregor Water tower hill in Dickinson is normally a hot spot this time of year for sledding, shown here Wednesday. Due to the mild winter and lack of snow not many people have enjoyed the opportunity to head down the hill. There's minimal snow and, though winter has already started, it feels like an unending fall.

Walking outside in the second week in February, it's a little discouraging not to see a handful of snow on the ground.

Call it blasphemy, but I might be one of those people that wait for Jack Frost to show.

I grew up eight hours southeast of Dickinson in Watertown, S.D. I can't remember it being this nice outside this late in winter. I expected there to be inches, if not feet, of snow on the ground.

The lack of snow has stretched throughout the Midwest. Every time I talk with my mom on the phone, her first question is, "You got any snow up there?"

My reply is "No, not yet."

I'm all about feet of snow on the ground, because many fond memories that I have with my friends is outside in the dead of winter.

It doesn't matter how old a person is, everybody is always ready for sledding.

When I came back to Watertown for Christmas break, and sometimes Thanksgiving break from Vermillion, S.D., where I went to school at the University of South Dakota, my best friend, Scott Schulz, would always call me up and see if I was ready to go sledding down St. Ann's hill.

Sledding was not only fun, but it brought back a sense of childhood that, now that we are older, we will never get back.

My friends and I kind of progressed and then regressed throughout high school and on into our adult lives. When we were in grade school, we went sledding every day in the winter. We built ramps and see who could catch the most air.

Then, in middle school and high school, we dropped the sleds and went with snowboarding and snow skate. A snow skate is just a plastic shaped skateboard with no wheels and foam on the top for grip.

Now that we are in our early-to mid-20s, we have regressed back to sledding down a hill. Falling hurts much less when you are kids than when you are an adult.

There's nothing like traveling down a hill five times the size of water tower hill in Dickinson. It was a rush and it didn't matter if people did tricks down the hill; just getting there was an accomplishment in itself.

Another activity that I miss doing outside is ice skating.

When I was younger I played hockey. My dad and I would go out to a flooded ice rink and work on the fundamentals of hockey. My dad usually yelled at me, but I had some of the best times with my dad on that choppy piece of ice.

Then as I got older Sidney Crosby and Alexander Ovechkin flooded the minds of non-hockey fans, including most of my friends. They wanted to see if they could do the same moves. Of course they couldn't.

Yeah, you can skate in an indoor hockey rink, but there's something about the fresh air. Not to mention the smell of hockey players after a game. If there's a handful of smells you will never forget, that's one of them.

The final activities that I have missed due to a lack of snow are throwing snowballs and building snow forts. My dad and I once spent 20 minutes outside throwing snowballs to see who could hit the tree, a block away, the most. Of course, I was the winner.

Anyone who has had feet of snow on the ground has built a snow fort. You built them, so you could hide from your parents for hours on end to get out of doing chores. At least that's why I built them.

It was your own hang out because the hole to get into the fort was usually too small for an adult. Then you and friends would play and play until it was dark.

I wish the snow would come now rather than later in the spring. Ask yourself if some of the best times in your life have been sledding with your family, learning how to ice skate or just hanging out with your friends in the dead of winter.

I'm not asking for much, I'm just asking for the chance to remember some good times during an actual winter.

McGregor a reporter for The Dickinson Press.

He can be reached at

Follow him on Twitter @SirRoyal.