Outdoor Enthusiasts

News | March 11, 2021

On the Ice, The Lassers family
If you happen to drive through this quiet northeastern Davenport neighborhood, you’ll notice something in the backyard of the Lassers family. Could it be an inground pool? They sure hope not.

Two winters ago, Alex Lassers made his dream a reality when he purchased a backyard ice rink kit.

The Lassers, Alex and Christine, who are originally from Michigan, are big hockey fans — just ask their dog, Gordie, named for Detroit Red Wings’ Gordie Howe. Alex started playing hockey when he was eight years old and said he had a friend with an ice rink in his backyard.

But it was the opportunity for their kids — Freddie, Lizzie, and Teddy — that sparked the idea for the ice rink.

“It takes me back to being a kid,” Alex said. “It’s been awesome seeing the kids learn to skate. You can see their confidence grow and how excited they are they’re learning something new.”

And it’s a short commute to the ice rink…just a few steps out their back door. They are outside at least every other day, sometimes more than once a day.

The rink takes about an hour to set up, consisting of 5’ sections that snap together like Legos, and then comes the hardest part….waiting for it to freeze.

“Christine tells me it’s not going to freeze any faster if I stare at it,” Alex joked.

Christine and Alex collect used skates so friends and neighbors can join in on the rink. Less experienced skaters are required to wear a helmet and training walkers made of PVC pipe are available to help skaters become more comfortable on the ice.

When Christine isn’t outside with the kids, she’s taking hot chocolate orders inside.

“It’s just as good for me as for them,” Alex said. “It’s therapeutic for me to come out after the kids go to bed and take care of the ice.”

And the ice rink continues to grow. Alex created his very own homemade Zamboni — or ice resurfacer — to keep the ice clean and flat. Alex also crafted a wooden storage unit for when the rink isn’t in use and wooden chairs so skaters can sit while removing their blade covers prior to entering the rink.

In the future, the Lassers hope to have a wooden bench for when the kids get tired, for now Lizzie created her own bench out of a mound of snow, and outdoor lighting so they can skate all night long. Christine said the neighbors are so supportive of the rink, they’ll often turn their porch lights on so the kids have lighting when it’s dark.

What’s the kids’ favorite part of having an ice rink in their backyard?

“Skating whenever we want!” All three kids yelled.

What’s Alex’s favorite part?

“When my kids said ‘Dad, this is the best thing you’ve ever done.’”

On the Slopes, Steve Baril
Steve Baril’s recent Facebook post said, “I’ll probably ski every day this week. I have a skiing problem, and I’m not trying to fix it. I like skiing.”

Originally from Massachusetts, Steve has been skiing for 45 years. At age 11 he was drawn to skiing while a member of the Boy Scouts of America. Steve said the big attraction to boy scouts was ski trips in the wintertime.

“I’ve always loved winter and the way the snow looks — just to be places with the vistas and the views, the elevations. The things you experience when skiing that you wouldn’t see normally. When you’re on a precipice and you’re on the Rocky Mountains and you can see everything. It keeps me inspired.”

Steve says he’s motivated to stay in shape all year long so he’s ready when the weather turns colder. He plans to ski into perpetuity.

He is a member of Professional Ski Instructors of America which allows him opportunities to study and proceed to higher certification levels, giving him the ability to teach in different areas. Currently, Steve teaches at Chestnut Mountain in Galena, Ill. He has been a ski instructor for more than 13 years.

Steve travels about five or six times a year with friends and extended family to explore new areas. Among his favorites are Austria in Central Europe and Copper Mountain in Colorado. Steve travels to Copper Mountain with fellow skiers and St. Paul members Hans Schnekloth and Tom Hepner.

“It’s the most freeing thing I can imagine doing. Especially this year,” he said. “When everything goes silent and you can’t even hear your own skis, there’s nothing like it.”

On the Trail, Jules Irish
If you’re looking for Jules Irish, chances are she’s outside. Whether she’s picking up trash around the St. Paul neighborhood throughout the year or strapping on her snowshoes and hitting the trails — the weather never stops her.

“Winter is my favorite. I’m outside all the time,” Jules said. “It’s good for your mind. It puts your senses in order.”

About five years ago, Jules took her usual trip to the Black Hills of South Dakota – a trip she takes at least once a year. On this particular trip, she visited a nature center and was allowed to use a set of snowshoes for free. The rest is history.

“The Black Hills — that is where my soul is at its best,” Jules said. “The Black Hills are where I feel most grounded. I feel like I have a connection with the Earth there.”

But Jules finds plenty of opportunities around the Quad Cities to stay active. The Blackhawk College campus, Scott County Park, and Illiniwek in Hampton, Ill., are just a few of the spots Jules likes to frequent.

“For somebody my age, it’s such great exercise — anybody can do it. If you can walk, you can snowshoe,” Jules said. “It’s just a joy, it’s like you’re floating over the terrain.”

Getting started with snowshoeing is a relatively simple process. It requires snowshoes with special spikes, poles, waterproof boots, and warm clothing.
What keeps Jules so active outside all year round?

“The connection with God in nature,” Jules said. “The sense of wonderment of just everything in the world and how God created it all and it’s all connected. I have always had that and I will always have that.”

Leave a Comment