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Winter chills and thrills outdoors on the Island

Jessie Leete of Floral Park and Michael Chieffo

Jessie Leete of Floral Park and Michael Chieffo of Bayside, skate at Christopher Morley Park in Roslyn-North Hills. (Jan. 12, 2010) Photo Credit: Newsday / Karen Wiles Stabile

Who's afraid of a big bad Long Island winter? Snow means sledding and cross-country skiing at local parks. And snow or not, when it's cold outside you can ice-skate, hike and even camp out if you're so inclined - the latter in silent fields brimming with wildlife.

What's new for winter outdoorsmen and women? The Battle Row Campground in Old Bethpage is open this winter for the first time in years, says Nassau County parks spokesman David Ring. The hilly campground has 64 campsites designed for RV camping, but hardy types can bring their tents (516-572-8690, nassaucountyny.gov/parks).

The outdoor Port Jefferson Village Center ice-skating rink has extended weekday evening hours and a new sound system that plays skating music.

Here's a guide to embracing winter's thrills - and chills.

WHEN IT'S COLD

Go ice-skating outdoors:

The Rinx at Harborfront Park / Port Jefferson Village Center: 631-403-4357, portjeffrink.com

Cost: $4.50-$11

The 115-by-100-foot rink features real (not artificial) ice and a scenic view of the harbor. It's steps away from the village center, so you can clunk in with your ice skates, warm up and buy a vending machine hot cocoa, says Ron Carlson, village parks and recreation director.

Christopher Morley Park: 516-571-8123, nassaucountyny.gov/parks

Cost: $4-$14

In Roslyn-North Hills, Christopher Morley Park is a scenic outdoor ice rink that's surrounded by trees. It's open seven days a week, including Friday evenings, through mid-March.

MORE: Ice skating rinks across Long Island

Take a hike:

Fire Island National Seashore / William Floyd Estate: 245 Park Drive, Mastic Beach, 631-399-2030, nps.gov/fiis

When: Feb. 13 at 9 a.m.

Cost: Free

"It's a great time to get out and hike the labyrinth of historic trails," says Fire Island National Seashore spokeswoman Paula Valentine. "When the ground is cold, you can walk out on the salt marsh." FINS is hosting an introduction to The 13th annual Great Backyard Bird Count Feb. 13. The "citizen science project" will be held nationally Feb. 12-15 (birdsource.org/gbbc). You'll take a three-mile hike around the 613-acre estate property, which stretches down to Moriches Bay.

Also try: Although the William Floyd Estate is closed for winter, you can explore the wildlife and natural history of the estate on walks led by a nature expert (9 a.m. Feb. 21, 28, March 13 and 28).

Go maple sugaring:

Caumsett State Historic ParkLloyd Harbor, 631-423-1770, nysparks.state.ny.us

When: Feb. 21 10:30 a.m.-Noon

Cost: $4

That sweet stuff you put on pancakes actually comes from a tree. Learn how to identify and tap a maple tree so you can make syrup at home. To participate, you need to be 12 or older.

WHEN IT SNOWS

Go sledding: 

Bethpage State Park Golf Course: 99 Quaker Meeting House Rd., Farmingdale, 516-249-0701, nysparks.state.ny.us

Cost: Free

On snow days, the golf course opens two hills for sledding, between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. (No inflatables or tubes allowed.) Operations supervisor Kevin McCann recommends calling ahead after 7 a.m. to find out if the hills are open.

MORE: Sledding spots across Long Island

Try cross-country skiing:

L.I. Cross Country Ski Clubliccsc.org

When there's sufficient snowfall, you can pursue this Nordic sport at a number of local parks. Ski club president Kim Schultze of Centerport says members post messages about Long Island outings on the Web site forum page. Her favorite cross-country terrain: Muttontown Preserve, Bethpage State Park and Caumsett State Historic Park.

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