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Western New York Family

February 2008

Western New York's Winter Wonderland: 40 places to enjoy outdoor fun
By Christine A. Smyczynski

While some people choose to escape western New York’s winter weather by heading off to warmer climes, the majority of us have to stay put and deal with the cold and snow. However, instead of complaining and staying cooped up indoors, why not embrace our winter weather, head outdoors and have some family fun.

There are many activities to choose from including skiing, skating and sledding for the more athletically inclined to nature centers and festivals if you prefer something a little less strenuous. Here is just a sampling of what western New York has to offer. Most of the attractions mentioned are just a short drive away from the metro Buffalo area.

Downhill skiing and snowboarding

Bristol Mountain 5662 Route 64, Canandaigua. 585-374-6000, Bristol Mountain has the tallest vertical rise in western New York, as well as a great view of the Bristol Hills. The resort has 22 slopes, 4 lifts and one tow rope. Lessons can be scheduled for both adults and kids, and childcare for younger children is available. Upcoming events include Lincoln’s and Washington’s ski and snowboard camps for kids held the week of February 17.


Cockaigne 1493 County Rd. 66, Cherry Creek.716-287-3223, Located in western New York’s ski country, this family-oriented ski resort offers slopes for beginners as well as advanced skiers. Slopes are 300 feet wide; they also have 15 foot wide New England style trails. Ski and snowboard rentals and lessons are available. A Teddy Bear Picnic, BYOB (bring your own bear) will be held on February 9-10.

Holiday Valley Route 219, Ellicottville. 716-699-2345, This is probably one of the most popular ski resorts in the Buffalo area. They have 52 trails and twelve lifts. Ski rentals and lessons are offered. Overnight accommodations are available on-site and in nearby Ellicottville. The annual Penguin Paddle, a fundraiser for the Bill Lounsbury Adaptive Ski Program, will be held on February 23. Participants slide down the slope on their belly “penguin style.” You don’t have to be a skier to participate. Pre-registration is required. The annual Winter Carnival will take place throughout Ellicottville on March 8-9, featuring parades, music, food and more.


Holimont Ski Resort NY 242, Ellicottville 716-699-2330, The largest private ski resort in North America, with over 50 slopes and trails. Non-members can ski on weekdays. Lessons are available for both children and adults.


Kissing Bridge, Route 240. Glenwood. 716-592-4963 (ski report hotline 592-4961) Kissing Bridge is located about 30 minutes south of Buffalo in Western New York's famous Colden Snowbelt. There are 36 slopes plus ski and snowboard rentals and lessons. Their Winter Carnival is Mar 11-12. Tubing is available at the adjacent Colden Tubing Company.


Peek-N-Peak, 1405 Olde Rd., Clymer. 716-355-4141 Chose from 27 slopes and trails serviced by 10 chairlifts. Lessons and rentals are available. Other activities include cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and tubing. Overnight lodging is available at this newly renovated resort, which now has a full service spa.


Swain Ski and Snowboard Center, Swain. 607-545-6511 www.swain,com. This family-friendly ski area has 5 lifts and 21 trails. In addition to skiing and snowboarding, tubing is available. Downhill and snowboard lessons are offered. There is live musical entertainment in the lodge on Saturday evenings.

Cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and ice skating

There are many places throughout WNY to go cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and ice skating; here's just a few. For Erie County parks, you can call their 24-hour hot-line 858-8513 for conditions and more info. Note: Some of the downhill ski places listed above also have cross-country trails. Unless indicated, you need to furnish your own equipment.


Akron Falls Park, Route 93, Parkview Dr. Akron. Enjoy sledding, cross-county skiing and ice skating at this 285-acre park.


Allegany St. Park, three exits off route 17, just west of Salamanca. 716-354-9121. The Art Roscoe cross-country ski area in the park is named in honor of Art Roscoe, a park forester who developed Nordic skiing in the park. There are 35 miles of cross-country trails, which includes eight loop trails, ranging from 1.5 miles to 6 miles.


Beaver Island, 2136 W. Oakfield Rd., Grand Island. 716-773-3271. Enjoy cross-country, sledding, tobogganing and snowshoeing at this park. On the north end of Grand Island cross-country ski at Buckhorn Island State Park, East River Rd., Grand Island, 716-773-3271, a 895-acre nature preserve.


Bryncliff Resort, Route 20A, Varysburg. 585-535-7300. This resort offers 20 km of groomed cross-country trails, including 7km illuminated for nighttime skiing. There are also snowshoe trails. Ski rentals are available. The annual Cardboard Olympics will take place on Sunday February 17. Participants create sleds using only cardboard and tape. This year’s theme is Pirates of the Seven Seas.


Erie County Forest, Genesee and Warner Gulf Rds. East Concord 716-496-7410. Trails that are used for hiking in the warmer months can be used for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing in winter.


Como Lake Park, 2220 Como Park Blvd., Lancaster. 716-683-5430. Cross-country and ice skating are available at this park.


Cumming Nature Center, 6472 Gulick Rd., Naples. 585-374-6160. Open Saturday-Sunday 9-4:30. Cross-country skiing and snowshoeing (rentals available $12 for skis, poles and shoes; $5.00 for snowshoes). More information in this article under Nature Centers.


Darien Lake State Park, 10289 Harlow Rd., Darien Center. 585-547-9481. (winter phone.) Enjoy ice skating, snowshoe trails and snowmobiling.


Delaware Park, Off Route 198, between Parkside and Elmwood, Buffalo. 716-884-9666. This park offers cross-country, ice skating and sledding.


Fort Niagara State Park, Youngstown 716-745-7273. Enjoy cross-country trails along the Niagara River and Lake Ontario. Snowshoe rentals available at nature center,


Genesee County Park and Interpretive Center, 11095 Bethany Center Rd., E. Bethany. 585-344-1122. Cross-country, snowmobiling, snowshoe and  skating available. Also Braille and large print nature trail for non-skiers.


Golden Hill State Park, 9691 Lower Lake Rd., Barker.716-795-3885. Enjoy cross-country skiing in this park which overlooks Lake Ontario.


Spring Lake Winery, 7373 Rochester Road, (NY 31) Lockport. 716-439-5253; Friday-Sunday 10-6. Reservations required. Enjoy winter scenery when you explore 60 acres of land at this new Niagara County winery, including a trail around their 8 acre lake. The cost of $20 per adult includes a day of skiing or snowshoeing, wine tasting and a light snack. Children 12 and under are free. Ski rentals are available and lessons will be offered twice a month.


Tifft Nature Preserve, 1200 Furhmann Blvd., Buffalo. 716-825-6397. Enjoy a snowshoe trek through nature at this 264-acre nature preserve just 3 miles from downtown Buffalo.


A number of parks also have ice skating, including Akron Park, Chestnut Ridge Park, Como Lake Park, Darien Lake State Park, Delaware Park, Emery Park, Ellicott Creek Park, Genesee County Park.


You can also enjoy Buffalo’s only free, outdoor ice skating rink at Rotary Rink, 40 Fountain Plaza, Main St., Downtown Buffalo (between Chippewa and Huron). 716-856-3150. Open Tuesday.-Friday 11-2 and 5-9; Sat 11-10; Sun. 11-6. Skate rental is $3 adult, $2 children. Rotary Rink, which will remain open until March 16, is celebrating its 10th anniversary.

Sledding, tubing and tobogganing

Just about any hill is fun to slide down, either in your own backyard, a local park or at a ski resort. However, each year more than 15,000 kids under age15 are treated in hospital emergency rooms for sledding injuries, so please be careful when slip sliding away.


Here are some of the places to go in our area for sledding, tubing and tobogganing. Many town and village parks may also have small hills, suitable for the smallest sledders, and most of the ski resorts mentioned in this article have tubing available.

Beaver Island, 2136 W. Oakfield Rd., Grand Island. 716-773-3271. Sledding and tobogganing can be enjoyed at this park located along the Niagara River in the southern portion of Grand Island.


Bond Lake County Park 2531 Lower Mountain Rd. Ransomville. 716-731-3256 (Niagara County) Located near Lewiston, this park has a 100-foot high sledding hill. Only inflatable sleds are permitted. Cross-country skiing is also available.


Chestnut Ridge Park 6121 Chestnut Ridge Rd., Orchard Park. 716-662-3290. Almost every outdoor winter sport you can think of is available at Chestnut Ridge, the only public park in New York State with four toboggan runs. Other activities include downhill and cross-country skiing, sledding, saucering, snowmobiling, and ice skating. All activities are dependent on weather conditions. Bring your own equipment; all activities are free!


Colden Tubing Company, Located adjacent to Kissing Bridge Ski resort, Route 240 Glenwood. 716-592-4963. Western New York's largest downhill tubing park. Climb aboard one of their tubes and get towed to the top and then hold on as you go for the slide of your life. Fun for all ages, but participants must be at least 7 years old, with only one person allowed per tube. Call for hours and prices.


Ellicott Creek Park, Ellicott Creek Rd. at Niagara Falls Blvd., Tonawanda, NY 716-693-2971. This popular park has a sledding hill.


Elma Meadows, 716-652-5475. Sledding and Tobogganing are popular here.


Letchworth State Park, 585-493-3625. Sledding is allowed near the Trail Side Lodge; enter park at Castile entrance. Inflatable items only.


Polarwave Snowtubing 3500 Harloff Rd., Batavia, 888-727-2794; This park features lighted runs for nighttime tubing and state-of-the art snowmaking equipment. There are no age or height requirements. Call for hours and prices.


Nature Centers

Most nature centers are open year-round; with many informative winter programs. Cross country skiing and snowshoeing are permitted at most locations.


Beaver Meadows Nature Center, 1610 Welch Rd., North Java. 585-457-3228; Visitors center open Tues.-Sat. 10-5, Sunday 1-5. Nature trails are open daylight hours for hiking, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. There is a free family nature walk each Sunday at 2pm. A Maple Harvest Festival is planned for Saturday March 29 from 1-4. This event includes hikes, maple sugaring demonstrations, crafts, games and more.


Cumming Nature Center, 6472 Gulick Road, Naples. 585-374-6160 Open Saturday-Sunday 9-4:30. This 900 acre environmental center, part of the Rochester Museum and Science Center, has six miles of thematic walking trails. During the winter there are 15 miles of groomed cross-country skiing trails and 2 trails open for walking or snowshoeing.


Upcoming activities include Nordic Hot Dog Days, Feb16-17. The sale of hot dogs, chili, cider and cookies will benefit the Genesee Valley Nordic Ski Patrol, who keep the trails safe. A Moonlight Ski is scheduled for February 16 at 5:30; must pre-register, includes a light buffet dinner.


Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge, 1101 Casey Rd., Basom. 585-948-5445 (located between Buffalo and Rochester) Grounds are open 7 days a week. Visitors center open Mon.-Fri. 7:30-4; open weekends starting in March. (no restroom facilities available when visitor’s center is closed). Hiking, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing are available.


Jamestown Audubon Nature Center, Jamestown, NY 716-569-2345. Their annual Snowflake Festival takes place Sunday February 3 from 11-5.. Indoor and outdoor activities include crafts, food, snowshoeing, sledding and cross-country skiing on five miles of trails. Winter hours (Nov.1-Mar.31) Sat 10:00-4:30, Sun. 1:00-4: 30.


Letchworth State Park Nature interpretive program 585-493-3625. Nature walks Saturdays 10:00 AM and Sundays 2:00 PM starting at the Trail Side Lodge at the South end of the park (Castile entrance).


Regional Park Interpretive Programs Office P.O. Box 1132, Niagara Falls, NY 14303-0132. 716-278-1728. A number of programs are offered at area state parks, including nature walks, cross-country and snowshoe tours, birding and more. Call for a compete schedule; you must pre-register.

Tifft Nature Preserve, 1200 Furhmann Blvd., Buffalo. 716-825-6397 This 264-acre refuge located less than 3 miles from downtown Buffalo is dedicated to environmental education and conservation. Grounds open 7 days a week, visitor’s center open Tues.-Sun. 9-5. Visitors can hike and watch a variety of wildlife such as beavers, foxes and migrating birds. Cross-country skiing and snowshoeing are available during the winter.


Other winter events

Here are just a few of the many fun winter events happening throughout Western New York in the next month or two.


Arcade Winterfest, Feb. 8-10 585-492-2420 or 716-807-4706, It’s “Carnivale Time” in the Wyoming County village of Arcade, with a variety of activities taking place during the three day event. Enjoy a parade, softball in the snow, horse-drawn wagon rides, kid’s games, arts & crafts show, 5K fun run, musical entertainment and even a comedy show by nationally known comedian David Crowe. (Tickets are sold pre-sale for the comedy show and they usually sell out)

Mayville I.C.E. Festival, Lakeside Park, Mayville.

716-753-3113, Feb. 16-17, 10-5. Blocks of ice taken from Chautauqua Lake are used to build the ice castle; the southernmost ice castle in the U.S. If Mother Nature doesn’t cooperate and the lake doesn’t freeze, the castle will be built of straw and spayed with water to freeze to look like ice. Other events include a broomball tournament, ice carvings, snow sculptures, entertainment, food, bonfire and fireworks on Saturday evening, a kid’s corner, snowball throwing contest, pony rides, ice skating and more.


39th Annual Polar Bear Swim, Olcott Beach. 716-778-8362. March 2nd from 12-4. Watch as brave souls venture into the frigid waters of Lake Ontario. This annual event, one of the country’s oldest and largest polar bear swims, has a carnival-like atmosphere. The annual event is a fund raiser for the Olcott Lions Club.


Sleigh Rides at Chautauqua Institution, Sat and Sun 1-4 during February. 716-357-2151 (Chautauqua bookstore). $3.00 adults, $2.00 children. Take a 20 minute horse-drawn sleigh ride through the grounds of the historic Chautauqua Institute. Rides begin and end at the bookstore.


So what are you waiting for? Get going and enjoy these winter activities while you can. Whatever your interests, I guarantee that there's an activity that you and your family will enjoy.