Nothing is easier and more fun than snow tubing down a beautifully groomed slope on your belly.
Cross-country skiing, on the other hand, can be fully exhausting and demands a range of skills. Participants propel themselves silently across the snowscape while enjoying views of woods, fields and various wildlife. Fun? Yes. But make no mistake about it; this is serious exercise of the calorie-burning type.
“The real allure of tubing is that anyone can do it because there are no special skills or equipment required,” says A.J. Stack, senior marketing manager at Camelback Mountain Resorts in Tannersville, Pennsylvania, the country’s largest snow tubing park. “If you can get up the hill and lay in a tube, you are pretty much ready to go.”
Indeed, that is the beauty of this sport. No real investments are needed, other than a day or hourly pass. That means no skis, no poles, no snowboards or special boots. Simply dress to defeat the elements (waterproof clothing, boots, hat, sunglasses or goggles) without overheating, get on your tube and have a great ride. You can lie on your belly, sit upright, dive straight ahead or spin your way to the bottom.
Of course, there are a few things you might want to keep in mind before heading for the tube chutes. For starters, you’ll need to take a day trip, because there are no snow tubing parks here on Long Island. Several, however, can be found within a two-hour drive of Manhattan. Head out on a weekday when crowds are lighter and search for places with as many tubing lanes as possible. Camelback, for example, has 42, the most in the country. Mountain Creek in Vernon, New Jersey, has 30 while Campgaw Mountain in Mahwah, New Jersey has 18 (but also features a huge conveyor belt to move tubers quickly up the mountain.)
Note that all snow tubing facilities have minimum size limits for kids to participate, usually 33 inches to 42 inches, so be sure to check ahead. Most allow only tubes from the resorts to be used and require the signing of a waiver to access the slopes. Some also require reservations.
Snow tubing season starts in late December or early January based on temperature, so be sure to check that your destination is open and conditions are good before finalizing your plans.
CROSSING PATHS WITH NATURE
If speeding downhill in an uncontrolled doughnut is the essence of tubing, staying in control at all times is the prime directive for cross-country skiing.
“I love the sport,” says Karen L’HommDieu, 52, of Cutchogue. “It provides a great cardiovascular workout while forcing you to slow down enough to really see your surroundings as you glide along in silence. Because most trails are on park lands, it’s a terrific way to encounter wildlife like deer, turkey and various birds in their natural environment, all while burning away the calories.”
The key to appreciating cross-country skiing, explains L’HommDieu, is to recognize it as exercise. “You can go as fast or as slow as you want,” she emphasizes, “but realize that it will test your stamina at some point. Newcomers to the sport do best if they start slowly and on shorter trails before building up to longer, tougher excursions.”
While tubing requires a day trip to a mountain resort, Long Island has plenty to offer in the way of “crossing” trails. Many state and county parks offer trails that are ideal for beginner and intermediate skiers. Even better, you’ll find few serious hills here that might break your spirit before you even get started.
L’HommDieu suggests beginners rent equipment from a ski shop if possible. “You need to try this out before investing in expensive gear,” she cautions. “Once you are ready to buy your own skies and poles, consider purchasing used gear from a shop that rents cross country, cross-country skiing skis. You can get some great bargains that way, especially during the off season. Be aware many cross country, cross-country skiing ski areas do not have rental equipment for you to use.”
Although Long Island offers great starter trails and the opportunity to get out for a quick trek now and then, serious cross country, cross-country skiing skiers will eventually look to travel for more room, better snow and superior nature and wildlife viewing opportunities. Still, you needn’t go too far. Those seeking the thrill of skiing and snowboarding year-round can visit Big SNOW American Dream www.bigsnowamericandream.com, a 180,000-square-foot, 16-story indoor ski and snowboard center set to open Dec. 5 in nearby East Rutherford, New Jersey, adjacent to The Meadowlands Sports Complex. The site, a short trip from the Island, includes 4 acres of snow-covered slopes, a 160-foot vertical drop, 1,000 feet of length for skiers of all ages and skill levels — and four surface and aerial lifts.
You’ll find plenty of opportunity in the great outdoors at parklands such as Fahnestock Winter Park in Carmel, just 90 minutes from Manhattan. Make it easy on yourself and hit the closest ones first. If you fall in love with this sport you’ll naturally progress to longer, more challenging courses farther away.
In any case, joining a cross country, cross-country skiing ski club is a great way to meet others who enjoy the sport, trade tips, go on trips together, and shorten the learning curve. The Long Island cross country, cross-country skiing Ski Club (liccsc.org/skisite/) is a good place to start your search for x-country skiing companionship.
DAY TRIP SNOW TUBING HOT SPOTS:
Camelback Mountain: 301 Resort Drive, Tannersville, Pennsylvania; 570-629-1661; www.skicamelback.com
Cost $25 for unlimited weekday runs, and $30—35 for three-hour sessions on weekends and holidays.
Drive Time Roughly 90 minutes from Manhattan.
Minimum Height For Kids 33 inches
Features Largest snow tubing park in the U.S. with 42 lanes, two magic carpet lifts and nighttime Galactic Snow Tubing with techno music, disco lights and laser lights.
Campgaw Mountain: 200 Campgaw Rd.; Mahwah, New Jersey 07430; 201-327-7800; www.skicampgaw.com
Cost $21 for two-hour session Monday — Thursday, $23 on Friday and $26 on weekends and holidays.
Drive Time Less than 1 hour from Manhattan.
Minimum Height For Kids 42 inches
Features Steep, straight runs are quick and exciting. Massive conveyor whisks you to the top of the mountain in under 4 minutes for less waiting and more slope time.
Mount Peter: 51 Old Mt. Peter Rd., Warwick, New York 10990; 845-986-4940; www.mtpeter.com/tubing
Cost $24 —$30 for a two-hour session; $17-$22 for tubing-and-snow play on Little Tikes Tubing Hill
Drive Time Approximately 1 hour from George Washington Bridge
Minimum Height For Kids 42” for adult tubing. Under 42” can use Little Tikes Tubing Hill.
Features 600-foot tubing run is great for family fun while Little Tikes Tubing Hill allows inclusion of younger children. A smaller facility, but generally not overcrowded.
Mountain Creek: 200 State Rte. 94, Vernon, New Jersey; 973-827-2000; https://www.mountaincreek.com/snowtubing
Cost $30 per two-hour session
Drive Time Approximately 1 hour and 15 minutes from Manhattan
Minimum Height For Kids 42 inches tall (plus 5 years old)
Features With 30 snow tubing lanes you’ll see plenty of time on the slope.
POPULAR LONG ISLAND X-COUNTRY SKI TRAILS
Several Long Island parks maintain trails that can be used for cross-country skiing. Prices and equipment availability vary so call for details.
Muttontown Preserve, Syosset: 516-571-8500; https://www.nassaucountyny.gov/2839/Muttontown-Preserve
Caumsett State Park, Lloyds Neck: 631- 423-1770; https://parks.ny.gov/parks/23
Bethpage State Park & Golf Course, Bethpage: 516-249-0701; https://parks.ny.gov/parks/108
Caleb Smith State Park, Smithtown: 631-265-1054; https://parks.ny.gov/parks/124
Quogue Wildlife Refuge: 631-653-4771; https://quoguewildliferefuge.org/visit
Montauk State Park: 631-668-3781; https://parks.ny.gov/parks/61
X-COUNTRY SKIING DAY TRIPS
Fahnestock Winter Park: 1570 Rte. 301 Carmel, New York 10512; 845-225-3998; https://parks.ny.gov/parks/147/details.aspx
Drive Time Approximately 1 hour from Manhattan
Trail Fees Adult: $12; Senior (62 plus): $10; Junior (under 17): $10
Ski Rentals Adult: $17/day; Junior: $15/day
Features 18 kilometers of mapped trails. Gentle terrain for beginners and plenty of challenges for more advanced skiers.
Winding Trails Cross Country Ski Center: 50 Winding Trails Drive, Farmington, Connecticut 06032; 860-677-8458; https://www.windingtrails.org/cross-country-ski/
Drive Time: Approximately 90 minutes from Manhattan
Trail Fees Adult: $14; Senior (62+); $10; Child (3 to 15): $8
Ski Rentals Adult: $17; Junior (15 and under): $10
Features 20-kilometer trail system groomed daily. Ski through 350 acres of prime woodland, brooks and spring-fed ponds.
Minnewaska State Park: 5281 Route 44-55, Kerhonkson, New York 12446; 845-255-0753; http://nysparks.com/parks/127/details.aspx
Drive Time Approximately 90 minutes from Manhattan
Trail Fees Free
Ski Rentals No
Features This 22,275-acre preserve is on the Shawangunk Ridge in Ulster County. It is a fun challenge for skilled skiers who can also handle hills and ungroomed trails.
Westchester County Parks: Many Westchester County Parks allow for cross-country skiing. For a complete listing and additional information, visit https://parks.westchestergov.com/cross-country-skiing-and-skating.
X-COUNTRY SKI EQUIPMENT SALES AND RENTALS
Sundown Ski & Patio: Five Long Island Locations; https://www.sundownski.com. Rents and sells cross country, cross-country skiing ski equipment.
Sno-Haus / 44 Board: Two Long Island Locations; https://snohaus.com. Sells cross country, cross-country skiing ski equipment; does not rent.
Sun & Ski 197 South Service Rd., Plainview, New York 11803; 516-249-7980; https://www.sunandski.com/plainview. Sells cross country, cross-country skiing ski equipment; does not rent.