Brrrring It On!
The best advice we received when considering a move from Texas to Central New York was to learn to enjoy the winters. “If you don’t find something fun to do during winter, you’ll be miserable and complain during the long cold months,” we were told.
Heeding this recommendation, we started hitting the slopes as a family. Most winters, Central New Yorkers are blessed with ample snow and no shortage of reasonably priced family activities to help enjoy the cold white stuff. Finding the right activity for your young ones will help ensure great memories of wintry fun.
Snowshoe. If you know how to walk, you already know how to snowshoe! Simply strap on the lightweight and size-appropriate “shoes” and take to the trails. Closely related to hiking, this family activity can be the perfect way to get out and about in snowy weather. Beaver Lake Nature Center (8477 E. Mud Lake Road, Baldwinsville) offers the chance to try snowshoes with a one-hour intro followed by a short hike. Snowshoe rental is $3 per person, plus $2 for parking. Provided there is sufficient snow on the ground, Beaver Lake holds the sessions every Saturday and Sunday at 12:30 pm through the end of February. Call ahead to check snow conditions and preregister at 638-2519.
Cross-country ski. Learn how to ski without having to worry about lift tickets—or your fear of heights or uncontrolled speed. Cross-country skiing might keep your feet mostly on the ground, but it isn’t a sissy sport. Using every major muscle group, Nordic skiing is the sport that burns the most calories per hour of execution. Can you think of a better way to get rid of those holiday-cookie-related pounds? Highland Forest Park (Route 80, Fabius; 683-5550) offers lessons on the basics of this fun sport for older youngsters and adults of all skill levels. Get a one-hour lesson and equipment rental for $20 during their weekend sessions on Saturdays at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m., and Sundays at 1 p.m. Parking is $2.
Downhill ski. The most prominent of all snow sports is very popular in Central New York with many local ski resorts and trails. It is a difficult sport to master but once learned can be a lifelong hobby. Starting youngsters skiing early ensures that they learn quickly, and your child’s natural flexibility can help avert injury. New York ski areas are offering the Fourth Grade Ski & Ride Passport Program, which lets your fourth-grader ski for free when accompanied by a paying adult. Apply for the passport at www.44free.com. Some ski areas offer a series of three beginner learn-to-ski lessons for around $20 each, which includes equipment rental, group lesson, and access to the beginner slope. The national Lids on Kids program encourages parents of children participating in snow sports to use an approved helmet to prevent head injuries. Check out its Web site at www.lidsonkids.org for more information on how to choose the right helmet.
Snowboard. Teens and young adults, especially, get into snowboarding. (Just so you know, skiers “ski” while snowboarders “ride.”) The basic freeride style is the most common, with riders coming down traditional ski slopes. But skillful riders soon work up to freestyling, which incorporates man-made terrain features such as rails, boxes, jumps, half-pipes and other exciting elements to launch and somersault from. All local ski areas extend the slopes to snowboarders, with the addition of terrain parks for the more daring set. Equipment rentals are usually about the same as ski equipment. Boarders will use more flexible boots and a single wide board to carve down slopes or launch into the air. As with downhill skiing, protective equipment and helmets will help prevent injury.
Sled, toboggan or tube. Anyone can enjoy sledding, but consider safety first. Always choose sleds that are appropriate for the age and size of rider, and the terrain. Never go sledding in areas where rocks, tree stumps or other dangers may be hidden beneath the fluffy snow. Choose an approved course such as the one at Skyline Hill near Highland Forest Park. Tubing, which is riding down a snowy hill on an inflated tire-shaped tube, is as popular as traditional sleds, disks, and toboggans these days. Most have rudimentary steering handles or ropes. The thrill of whizzing down a hill with snow flying in your face is followed by dragging your sled back up the hill for another run. Use safety equipment, make sure kids don’t overload a sled (which can lead to toppling or head-thumping injury) and always check to make sure the coast is clear before gliding down.
Sleigh ride. Even Grandma can take part in this winter activity! Climb aboard the horse-drawn sleighs at Highland Forest for an invigorating ride through the woods. Offered Saturdays and Sundays from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., the cost is $5 per person, (under age 5, free) plus $2 parking fee. At the end of the ride, enjoy a hot beverage!
Ice skate. Gliding along on sharpened blades strapped to the soles of boots first happened in Finland about 4,000 years ago. Skating was then considered far more efficient and convenient than walking across frozen bodies of water. Now, skating is just for fun. The city of Syracuse’s Department of Parks, Recreation and Youth is doing its part to keep this ancient pastime alive by offering skate rentals at rinks in three neighborhood locations: Clinton Square, downtown Syracuse (423-0129); Meachem Rink, West Seneca Turnpike; and Sunnycrest Rink, 699 Robinson St. (both 473-4330, Ext. 3000). Prices range from $5 to $6 for adult admission and skate rental. Call for hours, which often include extended skating sessions during winter break.
Bundle up this winter and take the family along on an outdoor adventure that encourages appreciation of the coolest season of all. What you start now may provide hours of entertainment and physical fitness. Who knows, you may actually find yourself eagerly awaiting winter’s arrival.