Even if you are familiar with the Adirondacks and the Catskills in summer, these regions are just as wonderful when the thermometer dips — and for once you won’t have to worry about ticks. While skiing and snowboarding hog much of the attention when it comes to winter, New York State offers a wide range of activities, from snowmobiling to ice-fishing and snowshoeing. And then there are slightly more unusual outings, like ice golf and snowshoe softball, which can be found, respectively, at the Raquette Lake (nwsdy.li/adirondackevent) and Saranac Lake (nwsdy.li/saranac) winter festivals.
Here’s a selective guide to get you started. And remember to dress wisely: Hats, gloves and layers are your friends; cotton (which gets wet and stays that way) is not.
With 11,000 miles of trails, New York is heaven for snowmobile fans. One of seven hamlets making up the town of Webb in the western Adirondacks, Old Forge (oldforgeny.com/snow), pictured, is a magnet for those who love zooming down snowy roads at full throttle, thus earning the nickname of “Snowmobile Capital of the East.” It’s such a draw that every year the four major manufacturers (Yamaha, Ski-Doo, Polaris and Arctic Cat) present their upcoming models at the Snofest. Be there March 10 and 11 if you want to try 2018 models.
Another good spot, slightly closer to Long Island, is Delaware County (nwsdy.li/catskillswest), in the western Catskills, which offers 350 miles of trails maintained by local clubs.
Snowshoe fans usually prefer their nature free of the noise made by the snow-motoring crowds. You tend to find this hardy breed traipsing along in quiet woods and on ungroomed trails. The northern part of the Catskills (nwsdy.li/catskillsnorth) is particularly suited to winter-wonderland exploring. In the southern Adirondacks, the Lapland Lake Nordic Vacation Center (laplandlake.com), pictured, offers more than seven miles of dedicated trails on its 200 acres of private land, or you can access the public 133-mile Northville-Lake Placid trail. The resort also offers kicksledding — a hobby popular in Scandinavia — in which you sit on a chair-like seat positioned on blades while someone pushes you from behind. It’s more restful than snowshoeing — as long as you’re the one sitting down.
The rolling hills around the Finger Lakes (nwsdy.li/fingerlakes) are perfect for cross-country skiing. With the area’s abundance of trails, you can always find a pristine corner of a state park to work on your glide. Half an hour from Ithaca, for instance, the Lime Hollow Nature Center (www.limehollow.org/visit/trails.htm) offers rentals and groomed trails. If some family members want to do downhill, you can head to alpine resorts such as Bristol Mountain (nwsdy.li/bristolmt), pictured, or Greek Peak (nwsdy.li/greekpeak), which also accommodate Nordic practitioners. The Greek Peak trail network even includes a warming hut where you can thaw out mid-session.
It’s hard to talk about winter in New York State without mentioning the Lake Placid area, which becomes the unofficial sportsman’s capital between December and March. The legacy of the 1980 Winter Olympics is still felt all over town, and unlike other organizing cities, this one continues to use much of the games’ infrastructure. For instance, on Feb. 24 and 25, competitive skiers should head over to the Lake Placid Nordic Festival (nwsdy.li/placidnordic), which features 25k and 50k races on the Mt. Van Hoevenberg trails — courses similar to the ones from 1980.
Another Olympic legacy is the Lake Placid Oval (nwsdy.li/whitefaceskating), pictured, where Eric Heiden won five gold medals in speed skating. The giant outdoor rink is a boon to speed skaters, and a must-visit for anybody serious about their blades.
The Mirror Lake loop (nwsdy.li/mirrorlake) is another hot spot for speed skating, as well as Nordic skating — an athletic combo that involves poles and skates with heel-free bindings, and which is popular in, you guessed it, northern Europe.
The area also features more intimate places where you can skate outside — the vibe is considerably different from doing loops on perfectly Zambonied indoor ice. The Geiger Arena (mylonglake.com/what-2-do/skating) at Long Lake’s Mt. Sabattis is fairly small, but the small-town atmosphere is lovely, and there is a free sledding hill nearby.
Fishing upstate doesn’t stop just because a lake or river is covered with ice. Put on your warmest base layers, check regulations and make sure the ice is thick enough. Perch, northern pike, walleye, trout and landlocked salmon can all be found in upstate waters. An outfitter like Upstate Guide Service (upstateguideservice.com) can help set up a half- or full-day trip in the Adirondacks or the Finger Lakes, providing gear and a heated shelter.
Ready for some action on your own? Head to Lake Eaton and Long Lake for their ice-fishing derby on Feb. 11 (nwsdy.li/icefishingderby).
Pictured: Ice-fishing on Tupper Lake in the Adirondacks.
More ice, but this time vertical rather than horizontal. With an abundance of water sources and cold temperatures, the state is full of options for ice climbing, which is similar to rock climbing but is done on frozen gullies, runnels or waterfalls.
And unlike its summer sibling, which can be done with minimal equipment if you are so inclined, ice climbing requires gear such as mountaineering boots, crampons, picks and axes. Which means that if you are just starting, you really want a reputable outfitter to look after your needs, not to mention keep you safe. Some of the closest to Long Island are in the Catskills, especially Greene County, where Alpine Endeavors (alpineendeavors.com) and High Exposure (high-xposure.com) can set up trips from their New Paltz base. And there is a lot to explore, as the Catskills feature about 300 climbs. Farther north, Adirondack Mountain Guides (adirondackmountainguides.com) is based in the High Peak region near Lake Placid.
Pictured: Ice-climbing at Mohonk Preserve in the Shawangunk Mountains outside of New Paltz.
Sure, you can sled down the molehill in your local park on a piece of cardboard. But why not whoosh through a dedicated lane without worrying about cutting someone’s line? Hunter Mountain (huntermtn.com/winter/snow-tubing) offers a tubing park with 20 chutes. While the resort is known for hosting some of the most aggressive skiers and riders in the Northeast, not to mention big weekend crowds, the tubing park has a looser atmosphere — not to mention a conveyor belt to help you back to the starting gates.
You can also find tubing at nearby Windham Mountain (nwsdy.li/windhammtpark), along with a “winter adventure park” featuring ice skating, and snowmobiling for kids.