There’s no getting around winter. So you might as well get into it. Right? Enjoy a good book, binge-watch Netflix, savor warm drinks, and cozy up beside the wood stove or fireplace for hours with your music (and your sweetie).
But, being active and getting outside are vital for our health. And most northern New Yorkers will tell you that access to year-round outdoor recreation is a bonus; one of the blessings that comes with living here. We have the Adirondack Park, along with many other local and state parks, forests, waterways, recreation areas, and trail systems that make the region attractive and accessible to families and friends who enjoy getting outside together. Unless it’s dangerously cold, winter weather is no reason to stay indoors.
For kids, winter is the season of snowballs, snow forts, snowmen, snow sculptures, snow angels, sledding, tobogganing, tubing, ice skating, and fat (tire) biking. And for families and friends, there’s snowmobiling, downhill skiing and snowboarding, cross country skiing, snowshoeing and winter hiking, winter camping, dog sledding, ice fishing, and winter carnivals.
If you live in northern New York, you live in the middle of, or at least near, some of the best outdoor recreation in the east. In fact, outdoor winter recreation is a rich part of the region’s heritage and a vitally powerful and sustainable economic engine that supports local businesses and contributes to healthy local communities.
So, put on your long johns, layer up (consider several high-quality, moisture-wicking layers), and grab a warm coat, hat, boots, perhaps a scarf, and a well-insulated pair of toasty gloves or mittens. Because, as I’ve heard it said, ‘there’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing.’
At different times in my life, I’ve favored several different winter activities. Among them have been:
Sledding is really such an elementary experience. You hop onto your sled; launch yourself off of a snow-covered obstacle-free incline; and away you go! Simple. Yet it can provide hours and hours of invigorating, adrenaline-charged fun.
I’ve never met anyone that didn’t like zooming down a hill on a sled, saucer, toboggan, or inner tube, at some time during their life. I can remember riding on cafeteria trays and pieces of cardboard when I was young.
Little ones may find it a little scary at first (like any new and exciting experience), but if you start by pulling them around on a sled behind you, before moving on to the small hill behind the school or any other close-to-home kid-sized hill where you can spend your day sliding, their initial qualms, if any, usually tend to disappear fairly quickly and are often gone completely after just a few runs.
But sledding isn’t just for little kids. It’s a free, fun, and easy way for older teens to get out there and reconnect with their inner child, while working up to the really big hills; the ones that someone younger wouldn’t even consider. And young adults with (or without) kids of their own can get together with family and friends for sledding parties. You’ll be having so much fun that you won’t even realize what a great workout you’re getting in.
Like sledding, snow tubing doesn’t require any real skill. You just set your rear end in a tube and hold on. And when you tube at ski areas on maintained multi-lane runs designated for tubing only, you can experience exhilarating speeds with very little risk of injury (unlike hurtling down a mountain hanging onto a tractor inner-tube for dear life or whizzing down the back roads in tow, behind a snowmobile or pick-up truck) and make use of motorized towlines that bring you and your tube back to the top of the course.
Tubing is available at two local ski areas; Titus Mountain in Malone (518-483-3740) and Mount Pisgah in Saranac Lake (518-891-0970). The tubing park at Titus Mountain is currently open on Friday nights and all day Saturday and Sunday. The tubing park at Mount Pisgah is not operating at this time, but should be up and running sometime in February.
Snowshoeing / Winter Hiking
If you like to hike, but there’s snow on the ground, why not strap on a pair of snowshoes and check out the trails? Snowshoes distribute your weight evenly over a larger area than regular snow boots, effectively providing flotation, which allows the wearer to walk, even run, across snow-covered ground without slogging or sinking.
You won’t need a lift ticket or specialized clothing. And, since most snowshoe bindings are built to accept a wide variety of shoe and boot styles, you won’t need specialized footwear, either. You might, however, consider investing in a pair of gaiters, which prevent snow from getting into the top of your boots, especially in deep powder conditions.
The Village of Saranac Lake will be hosting its annual Winter Carnival from Feb. 4th through Feb. 13th. Highlights of the festival include the Ice Palace (construction of which is underway, as I write this) and the Gala Winter Carnival Parade scheduled for Saturday, Feb. 12th, starting at 1:00 PM. The 10-day event features two parades and three fireworks shows, along a variety of sporting events and performances. For more information, visit saranaclakewintercarnival.com.
Photo at top: Cornell University Students enjoying a snow day (using anything that will, or at least might, work as a sled). Photo credit: Michael Wenye Le; Cornell Daily Sun Senior Photographer