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5 winter activities to try in New York State: Ice biking, snowmobiling and more

A group heads out on a guided snowmobile

A group heads out on a guided snowmobile tour with C+C Adirondack Snowmobile Tours, based in upstate Chestertown. Credit: Craig And Cathy Kennedy

When it comes to outdoor activities in the winter, the same thing that may keep you indoors is exactly the reason to venture outside: the cold.

"It's my opinion that people should start embracing the winter, as opposed to just enduring the winter," says Lisa Florczak, inventor of the ice bike and owner of Ice Bikes of Buffalo. She acknowledges her city has "a reputation of being a very snowy wintry place," but also a friendly and affordable place and home to The Ice at Canalside, a space along the Erie Canal that has a lot to offer those who like to play upon frozen water. "Ice skating? Check, we have that. Curling? Check, we have that. Ice bike? This is the birthplace of the ice bike," as she notes.

If you’d like to try some of the winter pursuits that bank on how cold New York State can get, these are options to explore.

COVID restrictions vary per venue; be sure to check what’s presently in effect before visiting.

SNOWMOBILE RIDING

C+C Adirondack Snowmobile Tours

Snowmobile operation does require some training, but this Warren County company offers one- and two-hour tours for anyone, even the inexperienced. Guests will be fitted with a helmet and given a tutorial and practice time before all line up their vehicles for a trail ride along wooded paths. Guests will also get opportunities along the way to stop and take photos, and all trips are guided. One-hour tour: $95, two people on a vehicle: $120, passenger with guide: $55; two-hour tour: $169, two people on a vehicle: $214, passenger with guide: $95. Guests must be 17 to operate a snowmobile, 6 and older to ride with a parent. Participants are asked to dress for the weather. Season runs though mid-March; all tours should be booked through the website.

INFO 5408 Rt. 8, Chestertown; 518-796-1308, candcsnowmobiletours.com

ICE BIKING

Ice Bikes of Buffalo

Each 26-inch coaster bike (designed for people 50-inches in height and taller) has had its front wheel replaced with a steerable blade and the rear studded so it grips without damaging the ice. At The Ice at Canalside, riders use their bikes alongside skaters, so the free-standing, self-balancing cycles do not move too quickly and are very hard to upend. Florczak says that ice bikes have proved popular with seniors and the special needs community, as well as with people who've never learned to ice skate. The idea she says is that this is a way for non-skaters to glide along with those who can. Available to rent most Saturdays (10 a.m.-8 p.m.) and Sundays (noon-4 p.m.) through Feb. 27; $12 for 30 minutes.

INFO 44 Prime St., Buffalo; 716-681-4643, waterbikesofbuffalo.com, buffalowaterfront.com

SKIING

Belleayre

With its lifts running daily, this ski resort in the Catskill Mountains offers more than a couple dozens trails that run over 9 miles of terrain, with a summit of 3,429 feet and a vertical drop of 1,404 feet. Downhill skiing and snowboarding is open to all ages, but for those in need of a tutorial there’s group lessons for ages 7 and older (or private lessons for those as young as 3). The cross-county skiing trails are currently closed, but will open as natural snow arrives (and are free to use), and once in operation are ideal for either hiking or snowshoeing. Guests looking for a bird's-eye view can also take a trip to the summit in the facility’s Catskill Thunder gondola. Rates vary daily and are subject to change; advance online purchase is required for all lift tickets, lessons and rentals. Purchases and rates are available via the website; multiday tickets are also offered, as are season passes.

INFO 181 Galli Curci Rd., Highmount; 845-254-5600, belleayre.com

SNOW TUBING

Holiday Valley Ski Resort

A way to slide down a snowy hill without much skill, tubing only requires the ability to get off the tube once it stops and then walk it back to the lift. Holiday Valley hosts a Tubing Park where guests pick a tube, get on a conveyor lift that takes tubers to the top of a hill where you then pick a lane carved from the snow. Once given the signal, all push off and slide down to the bottom. The facility’s larger hill is open to all ages 7 and older and there’s the "Li’l Tubers" smaller hill for younger participants. There’s an outdoor bonfire pit and a warming hut equipped with a snack bar ready for when it’s time to shake off the cold. $27 for a two-hour slide, $7 ages 6 and younger; helmets can be rented for $5, tickets must be purchased in advance online. Open Thursdays through Sundays until March 20.

INFO Located at Rt. 242 and Bryant Hill Rd. (4 miles from the ski resort); 716-699-2345, holidayvalley.com

ICE FISHING

Fifield Outfitters

Located in Washington County, this experience (led by a licensed fishing guide) is available as half- or full-day expeditions, the fishing is done from within a shanty that’s kept at about 65 degrees. The hut also holds an underwater camera that shows where the fish are swimming nearby, and chairs to sit in while waiting to land a catch — which can be cooked on-site if desired. Tailgate lunches are included for full-day trips ($50 for half-day sessions) and an option of wild game tasting (such as venison or black bear) can be added. Locations vary; participants will be contacted in advance to determine the time and place. Rates for up to four people are $450 half-day (approximately four hours), $650 full-day (around eight hours); $75 per additional participant. People 16 and older must possess and bring a valid New York State fishing license. Rods, tackle and bait are included; anglers should arrive dressed properly for the weather and conditions.

INFO 518-321-8682; fifieldoutfitters.com

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