So your nights have been reduced to sitting around and complaining about the cold.

“There”s nothing to do here,” you whine. You dream of spring break, or rather winter break, but it seems far in the future.

Fortunately Ann Arbor offers many ways for you to take advantage of this long winter season and also many options for you to try to escape it.

So peel your butt off that couch and go play! I”m not talking snowball fights and snow angels (but you can if you want). I”m saying put that butt on a sled and fly down a snowy hill. Strap on some ice skates and pretend you”re graceful. The Ann Arbor area is full of opportunities to have fun in the excruciating cold.

On the other hand, if you still don”t want to brave the coldness, then read on to find out how to escape the dreariness of winter, at least for a little bit.

Love It

Probably the most popular winter sport, would have to be downhill skiing and snowboarding. Since we are in Southeastern Michigan, mountains are nonexistent despite what the names of some ski resorts might suggest. Mother Nature”s generosity with snow this winter has given pristine conditions so even if you have never skied or it has been a while, now is the time.

f About 25 minutes north on US-23 will bring you to Mt. Brighton (810 229-9581), the closest ski resort to Ann Arbor. Tricksters can shimmy around the half-pipe and otherwise skiers and snowboarders can shake down Mt. Brighton”s 26 trails.

Weekdays a lift ticket costs $19 and $25 on weekends. Ski rental is $18 and snowboard rental is $28.

f Mt. Holly (800 582-7256) is about 40 minutes away and offers the basics on its 17 trails (no half-pipe). An all-area day pass is $22 Monday through Friday and $27 on Saturday and Sunday. The coolest thing about Mt. Holly is that, if you feel like skipping your Monday classes, two people can ski for the price of one (not counting rental). You have to get there before 2 pm. though.

f Alpine Valley (248 887-4183) is quite popular with its 25 slopes, a half-pipe and a special terrain area. A day pass is $21, ski rental is $18 and snowboard rental is $28. The Valley is just west of Pontiac so it will take a little more than an hour to get there.

f Another way to have fun outdoors is cross-country skiing. A few parks offer cross-country ski trails along with equipment rental. Rolling Hills Park (484-9676) on Stony Creek Road in Ypsilanti has skis for $4 on weekdays and $5 on weekends and $3 will get you the required vehicle permit. They also have a lodge with a fireplace and a kitchenette where you can make your own food.

f Huron Hills (971-6840) also has cross-country ski rental for $7 on weekdays and $8 on weekends. The rental price includes the cost of using the trails, otherwise skiers with their own equipment have to pay $3 on weekdays and a mere $3.75 on weekends. That fee covers the cost of grooming the trails. Huron Hills is located close to town on E. Huron River Drive.

f Various parks in the Ann Arbor area have cross-country trails but most of them do not have equipment rental for the less savvy skiers. More information can be found by either calling Washtenaw County Parks (971-6337) or Michigan State Parks and Recreation (800 44-PARKS).

f Sledding also can be found on the hills of many area parks. While the classic Arb hill by the Geddes Street entrance is always fun, Rolling Hills Park lives up to its name. You can rent a toboggan or a tube to shoot down their really big hill. Toboggans come in two-person or four-person sizes and are $1.50 an hour on weekdays and $2 an hour on weekends. The same rates apply to the tubes.

f Ice-skating can be a daredevil sport if you want to do it the old-fashioned way, but for this reason no locales condone skating on frozen lakes or ponds. However you can sport it the modern way on a skating rink. The Ann Arbor Ice Cube (213-1600) by Scio Church Road and Oak Valley Drive has an Olympic size rink for public skating. Times vary and admission is $4 and skate rental is $3. Besides ice-skating, the Cube also has open hockey that costs $7.

f Buhr Park (971-3228) on Packard heading towards Ypsilanti also has an ice skating rink. Skate rental is $2 and entrance is $3.

f A couple special events around town put some fun in the lack of sun. The Annual Chili Open Golf Tournament (994-1163) takes place this Saturday at the Leslie Park Golf Course. For $12 you can shoot six holes of golf, whip lots of snow around, and eat chili. Yo” mama so fat, when someone sez it”s chilly outside she runs out with a spoon. Well, your mother certainly would enjoy this event because pipin” hot chili will keep you warm.

f February 2-4 is the Chelsea American Legion Winter Carnival (475-1824). Chelsea is 15 minutes west of Ann Arbor off I-94. The festival takes place downtown and includes more chili, euchre tournament, a fishing derby, Monte Carlo night and concerts.

And when you”re done playing in the snow, don”t forget about chicken noodle soup and hot chocolate with marshmallows.

Leave It

The easiest way to pretend you are somewhere warm is by going to the tanner. For these times when real sun is minimal, basking in the artificial rays can provide a viable escape from winter”s gloom. Just as you would with regular sun, don”t forget to protect yourself from the harmful rays. Close your eyes and imagine that the soft hum of the lamps is the distant roar of the ocean.

Y A favorite tanning salon of UM students is Tanfastic (213-2279), located just south of Madison on South Main Street. Six dollars will be your entrance to a sunny haven, but if you want to make it a weekly affair, throw down $36 for six visits.

Y Closer to campus is South Exposure (997-9000) on South University Street. Call for rates and ask about high pressure tanning. Apparently it is closer to the real thing.

Y Now you need to dive into the warm salty ocean. A cautious dip into the chlorine waters of the hot tubs of Oasis (663-9001) is the closest it can get. Grab your hubby and sit in the bubbly for some steamy relaxation. An hour will cost $25-30 depending on when you go.

Y An easy escape from the cold is the sauna. Campus Recreation Buildings have dry saunas where you can pretend the cold has not permeated your bones. Nothing says you can”t bring homework.

Y A last resort is to flee Michigan for the weekend. The best deals are to be found online. Almost all major airlines offer special last-minute deals from their websites and many of them allow you to sign up to receive a weekly email listing of cheap fares out of Detroit. This week Northwest Airlines offers some extravagant deals, with round-trip fares to Paris or Rome for $319 and London or Amsterdam for $299. If you want to keep it in the sun they have fares for $189 to Jacksonville, Florida and $159 for Greenville, South Carolina. You must leave on Saturday and return Monday or Tuesday if you are traveling within the U.S., otherwise dates vary for international flights. And don”t forget that the prices do not include charges and taxes that range from $50 to $130.

Y STA Travel has a few weekend getaways that may appeal to your spontaneous side:

Is Jamaica sunny enough for you, mon? Leave on a Thursday and stay three nights starting at $499. That includes airfare and all hotel expenses.

Las Vegas will warm you up with its desert sun and free casino drinks. Leave on a Thursday or Friday and stay 3 nights. Ranging from $369-399, you can stay at various hotels.

Y Check travelocity.com for vacation packages. For $442 you can spend three nights in the Sheraton Safari Resort right next to Walt Disney World. The price includes the flight on Continental Airlines out of Cleveland.

I suppose another option would be to transfer and never return to Michigan winter again, but don”t get carried away now. Go make some pina coladas instead.

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