One of the more readily apparent effects of global warming here in the Northeast is that Old Man Winter is not nearly the troublesome curmudgeon he used to be. And while that is not without its benefits in day-to-day life on Long Island, it’s a definite liability for those who enjoy getting out of the city and immersing themselves in an old-fashioned rural winter wonderland, complete with all the traditional seasonal activities and aesthetic beauty.
This is especially true if you have to lock in your dates and make nonrefundable payments well in advance. And there are few more disappointing words, especially if children are involved — than “Oh, no! No snow!”
Consider going boldly where you might never have gone before — up, up, and away to those more distant northerly destinations.
Here are three of the Northeast’s multipurpose, family destinations that are sure to spark winter memories.
The Adirondack Mountains of New York
In addition to their way upstate location and enhanced elevation, the Adirondacks are well positioned to receive heaping helpings of lake (Ontario) effect snow and the Adirondacks serve up their own unique rustic winter vibe. Explore the resort towns of Lake George and Lake Placid, where you can ski, snowmobile, ice skate and more.
Skiing: Two premier resorts, Whiteface and Gore Mountain, both owned and operated by the state of New York, plus a handful of smaller ones, most notably McCauley Mountain in Old Forge and Titus Mountain in Malone
Snowshoeing and cross-country skiing: Among the handful of Nordic centers offering rentals are Cascade and Mount Van Hoevenberg in Lake Placid, Garnet Hill in North River and Lapland Lake in Northville
Snowmobiling: Guided-tour outfitters include Adirondack Snowmobiles in Lake Placid, Farmhouse Snowmobiling in Gabriels and C & C in Chestertown
Snowtubing: Most downhill ski resorts offer tubing, but there’s also Tubby Tubes in Lake Luzerne and Maple Ridge in Lowville
Ice skating: Indoors at the Olympic Center in Lake Placid and Civic Center in Saranac Lake, outdoors on Mirror Lake in Lake Placid, Lake Flower in Saranac Lake and Lake George
Carnivals: Winterfest in Lake George (weekends through March 5) and Winter Carnival in Saranac Lake (Feb. 3 -12)
Unique attractions: The Olympic Center and Museum and public toboggan run, both in Lake Placid, Ice Castles in Lake George, Wild Lights at the Wild Center in Tupper Lake
Nearby towns to explore that bring the winter thrills: Lake Placid, Lake George, Saranac Lake, Blue Mountain Lake, Keene and Old Forge
Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom
Vermont is as quintessentially New England in winter as it is in fall. That’s no secret, of course, with marquee resort destinations such as Stowe, Killington and Waitsfield attracting hordes of skiers and boarders often well into April. To avoid the crowds — and minimize the high prices — carry on into “The Northeast Kingdom” (NEK), the state’s wide-open (2,000 square miles) and decidedly less chichi upper-righthand corner, which routinely receives some of the highest annual snowfall totals in the Northeast. You’ll be driving more between activities, but also seeing more of winter in its natural state.
Skiing: Take your choice of big (2,153 vertical and tram-serviced) Jay Peak, medium and lower-key Burke Mountain or small and very much old-school (it still has a rope tow) Lyndon Outing Club
Snowshoeing, cross-country skiing: Craftsbury Outdoor Center in Craftsbury, Dashney Nordic Center at Burke Mountain, and Jay Peak
Snowmobiling: N.E.K. Adventures in St. Johnsbury (guided tours only)
Ice skating: Ice Haus Indoor Arena at Jay Peak, Fenton W. Chester Arena in Lyndon, Gardner Park (outdoors) in Newport
Carnivals: Winter Festival in Newport (Feb. 25)
Unique attractions: Pump House Indoor Waterpark at Jay Peak, Fairbanks Museum (natural history) and Planetarium in St. Johnsbury
Nearby towns to explore that bring the winter thrills: Victorian St. Johnsbury, lakeside Newport, Currier and Ives-worthy Craftsbury
The White Mountains of New Hampshire
There’s a reason the highest mountains in the Northeast are called “the white mountains,” and that reason is welcome news for winter warriors who have an abundance of outdoor recreational opportunities in the dramatically scenic, thickly forested expanse that accounts for a full fourth of the Granite State.
Skiing: Choose from among nearly a dozen downhill resorts, some small, but mostly medium to large such as Attitash, Bretton Woods, Loon Mountain Resort, Wildcat Mountain, Cranmore Mountain Resort, and Cannon Mountain
Snow shoeing and cross-country skiing: Full-service Nordic centers include Mt. Washington Valley, Great Glen Trails Outdoor Center, Jackson XC, the Franconia Inn, and Waterville Valley
Snowmobiling: Northern Extremes offers rentals and tours in Bartlett and Bretton Woods; SledVentures (guided tours only) in Lincoln, and Northeast Snowmobile in Gorham and Fryeburg, Maine
Snowtubing: Bretton Woods, Cranmore and Loon
Ice skating: Some resorts have outdoor rinks open to the public, as does the town of North Conway. The most evocative by far, however, is Victorian Nestlenook Farm in Jackson (also offering sleigh rides)
Unique attractions: Mt. Washington Cog Railway, Mt. Washington SnowCoach, Ice Castles in North Woodstock
Nearby towns to explore that bring the winter thrills: Sprawling North Conway at the southern end of the Mount Washington Valley, working-class Littleton near the Vermont border and Lincoln and North Woodstock in the central Pemigewasset Valley