Tag Archives: Cross-country skiing

A Last Hurrah for Winter Adventures

As March rolls around, winter season is indeed melting away. Soon, the snow blanketing everything in sight that previously transformed the ground into a wondrous, pristine white, will retreat to give way to the flourishing green of trees, various vegetation, and the cheerful movement of wildlife. But before we say our final goodbye to winter season, here’s a last hurrah for winter adventures that we’re sure you’ll enjoy.

Cross-country Skiing

cross country ski

Miles of icy, snowy open terrain are ready to be explored while cross-country skiing. [Image: http://spgweekends.com/]

Cross-country skiing is one of the more popular winter sports in the country. It’s a form of skiing that utilizes one’s own locomotion to move across snow-covered terrain. Fun fact: Did you know that this form of skiing was actually first practiced around 600 BCE in China? Incredible how far it has gone since then!

While it’s now generally practiced for fun, some still use it for transportation, just as it was originally utilized. It’s now generally considered a popular recreational activity for individuals and groups who want to explore the snow-laden country with friends and family.

Ice Fishing

ice fishing

Ice fishing in the middle of a frozen lake. [Image: www.adventure.howstuffworks.com/]

Ice fishing can be a fun activity to do during the winter. Many local wildlife and park departments even offer free fishing activities for their visitors to participate in. While ice fishing requires some skill and knowledge, pretty much anyone can enjoy this sport with some research and guidance beforehand.

This sport requires only a couple of key pieces of equipment: Lines and fish hooks or spears. With the weather heading on to the milder March where spring will soon step in to take the chill away, now is the perfect time to go ice fishing on a frozen body of water. As a precaution to protect oneself from frostbite, dress comfortably with layers (heavy shirt, pants, socks, and a wool or fleece sweater). Research some cold survival tips before going out to stay safe and warm while outdoors.

Ice Skating

ice skating

The ice skating rink in Rockefeller Center, New York is a seasonal landmark during the winter season. [Image: www.indiatimes.com/]

Ice skating is a popular sport for all ages—who doesn’t love the thrill of being on ice? Challenging one’s balance and coordination, it’s one of the oldest winter recreational sports. It’s particularly popular among children, which makes it a great family activity.

Snowboarding

snowboarding

A snowboarder showing off some moves. [Image: www.snowbrains.com/]

Snowboarding is another activity that can be done during winter. The sport originated as a game created by an engineer in Michigan, which later transformed into an actual sport. It was originally called “snurfer” (snow + surfer), and since then, it has grown and has been a winter sport in the Olympics since 1998. This activity is popular with everyone from beginners to seasoned pros.

Snowmobiling

snowmobiling

A snowmobile tour group. [Image: www.michigan.org/]

Snowmobiling is a fun activity that you can do solo or with a group. Depending on the vehicle, it can hold up to two people, which is perfect for group adventures across winter’s shining white terrain. And if you find that you’re good enough, you might want to head over to your local park for a snowmobiling competition.

If you’re interested in finding which state parks are the best venues for these winter sports, head on over to our Pocket Ranger® state park apps, but do it quickly because it’s getting warm out there. Using our explore feature, you’ll have this information at your fingertips in no time. Happy winter adventuring!

Tips for Staying Warm and Dry During Winter Adventures

Just because it’s cold outside doesn’t mean you should stop adventuring, but it does mean that you have to prepare more. Staying warm and dry when you’re out on a long winter bike ride, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, or exploring the wintery landscape in another way is essential. You definitely won’t have a good time with numb fingers and toes, and a negative experience will make you less likely to get outside during winter in the future. Plus, hypothermia and frostbite are not laughing matters and should be avoided at all costs.

Woman shivering.

Brr! Bundle up—winter is officially here. [Image: http://www.mirror.co.uk/]

Dress Appropriately

Winter calls for certain gear that you obviously don’t need in other seasons, and while it may seem excessive at times, it’s all necessary. From top to bottom, there are a few essential items to make sure you have in stock.

Couple snowshoeing.

The couple that dresses warm together, probably goes on to do lots of fun outdoor adventuring together. [Image: http://www.active.com/]

  • Socks, socks, and more socks. And not just thin cotton socks, but at least one pair of heavy-duty wool socks to keep your tootsies snug. You’ll also probably want a pair of thinner wool socks to put on underneath the thicker ones. Layers are essential for keeping your extremities toasty warm.
  • Large, breathable, waterproof boots. To account for the thicker socks and extra layers, you’ll need a pair of boots that are larger than your normal shoe size. You’ll also want a pair that can breathe and that are waterproof because wet, sweaty feet lead to wet boots, which will eventually freeze and lead to your feet getting colder quicker.
  • Kneewarmers or tights/long johns underneath snow pants. Your legs will probably be one of the warmest parts of your body as you’ll typically be exerting yourself by using your legs. Tights, long johns, and kneewarmers are all helpful in providing a bit of extra warmth, though. And these, of course, go underneath any heavier snow pants or thicker pants you may be wearing—unless you’re trying to create a new fashion trend, that is.
  • Jackets for days. There’s a general “rule of three” when it comes to layering. An insulated jacket is essential, and depending on the temperatures and how long you’ll be outside for, an extra jacket as well as a breathable, non-cotton shirt might also be necessary.
  • Fingers are like toes and should be treated similarly. What we mean by this is that fingers, like toes, are extremities and often get cold first as your body concentrates heat on your torso for your vital organs. Therefore it’s appropriate to layer and invest in some extra linings. There is also a lot of talk that mittens are more effective than gloves, but that’s usually up to your personal preference—if you absolutely hate mittens for some reason, then it’s probably not worth the investment. Hand (and foot!) warmers are also helpful and are available in bulk on many sites.
  • Protect that beautiful head of yours. A hat and scarf combo are great for winter exploring and help to keep your ears, neck, and face comfortable. There are other items—like a buff, balaclava, or earmuffs—that you might also want to look into, but as long as you’re covered then you’re good to go. It’s also important to remember that if you start becoming warm, the scarf and hat should be the first items to be removed.

Know the Signs of Hypothermia and Frostbite

Cold Spongebob.

Trust me, this is not the life you want. [Image: http://media.tumblr.com/]

There are more than a few ways to know if you’re suffering from hypothermia or frostbite as well as plenty of ways to treat both. With frostbiteyou’ll start out feeling a cold, prickly feeling in your body parts and they’ll turn red (as mentioned before, extremities are the first areas that typically become afflicted with frostbite). From there, the body part will grow increasingly numb and will turn white, and may even turn blue or purple. You’ll know you’re in trouble if your body starts feeling warm and you experience stinging or burning. At this point you may also experience blisters a day or so after warming back up. If your frostbite advances even further, all layers of your skin will be affected by the freezing temperatures. You might lose functionality in your joints and will become completely numb in the frostbitten areas, which will eventually turn black in the days following the exposure.

On the other hand, hypothermia is a whole other monster to deal with. A few signs of hypothermia are shivering, dizziness, confusion, trouble speaking, lack of coordination, weak pulse, and shallow breathing. Although it’s usually difficult to notice hypothermia as the symptoms are gradual, the more it sets in, the more apparent the symptoms become. However, the shivering will cease in extreme cases. Wearing breathable, non-cotton clothes during your winter adventures is very important as cotton absorbs sweat and can freeze, making you more vulnerable to hypothermia.

Stay Hydrated

Woman drinking water.

Drink up! The water’s great! [Image: http://thoughtfulwomen.org/]

It’s easy to overlook drinking water when your teeth are chattering and your muscles twitching with the cold, but it’s incredibly important to stay hydrated during wintertime exercise. When your body is cold, your mind ends up preoccupied, and you simply don’t feel thirsty as often, even when you’re on the brink of dehydration. Water also helps you generate heat easier and quicker, which is especially important when you’re covered in tons of layers. It’s important to drink water often (and not a swig of whiskey, as some movies may have you believe).

Hopefully with these tips you’re feeling a bit more inspired to head outside and explore, despite winter’s chill. And nothing can make that easier than our handy Pocket Ranger® mobile apps, which are available for download in the iTunes and Google Play Stores!

Winter Never Gets Old in the Enchanted Mountains of Western NY!

Contributed by Cattaraugus County Tourism

People walking on snow at Cattaraugus County

Image: Cattaraugus County Tourism

Do you tire of winter before it even begins? Or how about just after the holidays? Think that there is nothing to do when it’s cold outside besides sit under a blanket and try to keep warm? That’s not what we think here in Cattaraugus County, the Enchanted Mountains of Western NY. We have many reasons to love winter and all four seasons of the year. We are in the top of the list for counties who receive the maximum snowfall in NY state. It’s no wonder we know how to have fun in the snow! How does cascading over the snow on a trail-dominating snowmobile sound? Or exploring the back woods? Or breaking your own trails on snowshoes? You can do all that right here and will soon be warming up to winter as well!

December is here, and that means snow can happen at any time! The trails open up right after hunting season ends (December 22), the week before Christmas vacation. Plan ahead to enjoy the upcoming season of fun by calling for a FREE snowmobile map. Our trails will take you through deep woods freshly covered with snow, around small towns with businesses that welcome snowmobilers, and sometimes even over a frozen lake! The map will guide you throughout our miles and miles of trails (almost 400!) in our county and into the neighboring counties as well. You won’t have to worry about getting lost! And if you don’t feel like traveling far, our trails offer more than enough dashing through the snow. The number to call for the map is 1-800-331-0543.

Trail of people on snow mobiles at Cattaraugus County

Image: Cattaraugus County Tourism

If you don’t have a snowmobile, we can recommend where you can rent one—even ones that will be delivered right to where you are staying. We can also recommend places for you to stay right off the snowmobile trails. Allegany State Park has winterized cabins that range from rustic to high-end cottages that include all the amenities of home besides food. You can spend the day out riding in the snow and then come back to a comfy cabin warmed just to the temperature you like. If you have a large family or your snowmobiling club wants to vacation together, try one of the newly restored group camps at Allegany State Park. The cabins are all located together with plenty of bathroom space (handicap accessible also) and a large kitchen/dining area so you can all have meals together.

Prefer the slower paced enjoyment of the wintry outdoors instead of riding snowmobiles? You can take up snowshoeing or cross-country skiing. We have plenty of places for that as well! Allegany State Park has a large trail system for cross-country skiing: the Art Roscoe Trail System. It’s almost 25-miles worth of loops, giving you opportunities ranging from a casual walk to an all-out workout. You can rent skis right across from the system at the Summit Warming Hut. Snowshoes are not permitted on this trail system, but are allowed anywhere else in the park. Find your favorite summer hiking trail and attempt it in the winter. Compare the differences of the seasons and add even more memories to your favorite hikes. You can also cross-country ski at Holiday Valley, known for its downhill skiing. Cruise the ridgelines at the top of the mountain or circle around the golf course down below—both offer spectacular views. They also rent out cross-country skis if you are in need.

Pfeiffer Nature Center has miles of trails just waiting to be explored. The trails are well-groomed and kept clean all winter long. They have rentals, but the number is limited so call ahead. There are two properties of Pfeiffer Nature Center: the Lillibridge Property and the Eshelman Property. The Lillibridge Property will take you through an old growth forest with red and white oaks estimated to be around 150 years old. Thorton Thruway leads you to the southern border of the property where you can see one of the oldest Black Gum trees in the East, which is more than 500 years old! The Eshelman Property offers hikes of shorter distances, going along a creek then up a hill for a great view of the valley, before meandering by the meadow. It’s a great place to see animals!

Of course we also have ice skating, ice fishing, and plenty of indoor options for you as well, which can be discovered on EnchantedMountains.com, including upcoming events! No matter what you decide to do in the Enchanted Mountains during winter, you will find yourself shouting, “Let it snow!”

People riding snow mobiles banner from Pocket Ranger app

How to Avoid an Avalanche

Whether you’re hiking, snowshoeing, or cross-country skiing through the mountains, avalanches are not to be regarded lightly. We’ve all seen enough video clips and movies to know that they are a force to be reckoned with and one to be avoided at all costs. Even in situations where you played by all the rules and did everything you were supposed to, Mother Nature still sometimes throws a curveball and you might find yourself on a remote snow-covered mountain that’s showing the signs of an avalanche. Here is some information on what exactly you’re up against as well as how to properly prepare yourself.

What Triggers an Avalanche?

Snow crashing over a snowy cliff

An avalanche at Mt. Rainier [Image: environment.nationalgeographic.com/environment/natural-disasters/avalanche-profile/]

An avalanche occurs once the weight of the snow is too much and the snowpack fails and collapses under the pressure. It’s hard to determine what the strength of a snowpack will be since the snow grains vary depending on size, density, temperature, airflow, received sunlight, difference in terrain, and more. A lot of avalanches occur naturally either during a storm or when the snowpack changes, such as by partially melting, but can also be triggered by exploring visitors. There are three different types of avalanches to look out for: slab, powder snow, and wet snow.

Slab Avalanche

A hiker trapped in a series of snow chunks breaking away from the snowpack.

A slab avalanche [Image: www.wayneflannavalancheblog.com/2012/01/i-have-this-picture-on-my-wall-in.html]

A slab avalanche occurs when covered layers of weakened snow fracture and collapse. They mostly happen during and up to 24 hours after a storm that leaves 12 inches or more of fresh powder. This new snow overloads the existing layers and creates a break. These avalanches can be huge chunks of snowpack, sometimes spanning an entire mountainside, and typically carry downslope for a long time with the possibility of reaching up to 80 mph. Approximately 90% of avalanche-related deaths are due to slab avalanches—many who find themselves involved in a slab avalanche will rarely escape alive.

Powder Snow Avalanches

An avalanche coming down a mountainside appearing like a cloud.

A powder snow avalanche [Image: www.planat.ch/en/images-details/datum/2011/06/21/schattenbachlawine-walenstadt]

Powder snow avalanches occur with fresh, dry powder and essentially become a snow cloud. These are the largest avalanches to form out of turbulent suspension currents. Typically these avalanches are able to move along flat surfaces for long distances and only make up a small amount of injuries or deaths comparatively.

Wet Snow Avalanches

A smaller avalanche coming down a mountainside made up of clumps of wet snow.

A wet snow avalanche [Image: www.mtavalanche.com/images/10/loose-wet-snow-avalanche?size=_original]

Although wet snow avalanches move slowly, they can take up a large amount of space, can result in serious injury, and end up being pretty destructive leaving trees, boulders, and most of what they come into contact with in their wake. They occur from a loose snow release in snow packs that have a lot of water saturation and are close to melting point. A lot of times these avalanches occur toward the end of winter as the snow is warmed by the longer daytime hours.

How to Prepare for Avalanches

A diagram of a man trapped underneath snow putting an arm above his head and another across his face to create an air pocket.

What to do if trapped in an avalanche [Image: www.artofmanliness.com/2011/12/14/how-to-survive-an-avalanche]

When going on a wintertime adventure on a snowy mountaintop, it’s best to be prepared for even the most extreme situations. Always check avalanche forecasts with park headquarters before heading out for a trip. At the bare minimum, you should bring a shovel, beacon, and probe with you. Beacons (or avalanche transceivers) are important because they can receive signals from other devices to help locate buried victims. A probe is used to dive into the snow and find a buried victim and works especially well when coupled with a beacon. Avalanche airbags and Avalungs are fantastic items that make it so a buried person has a higher chance of surviving and being rescued.

Sometimes even the most diligent and prepared hiker, skier, or snowboarder will hear the terrifying creaks that signify an avalanche. The first thing you’ll want to do is get off the breaking slab as quickly as possible by moving to the side. Snowmobilers are sometimes able to crank the speed and outrace a broken slab. If unable to escape the mass of traveling snow, try to grab onto a sturdy object such as a tree or rock instead. Humans are denser than other debris and will sink faster in the snowpack. Once the snow settles, it refreezes and makes it nearly impossible to move. Throwing a hand above the snowpack and making room in front of your face are the most important things to do if you find yourself trapped. Some claim that spitting will help you determine which way is up or that swimming will get you away from a traveling snowpack quicker, but there is no proof that either actually works. The longer a victim is submerged under the snow, the less chance they have of surviving the incident (usually being buried for more than 15 minutes leads to hypothermia and a lower chance of survival).

Hopefully, this article gave you some new information and makes you feel a bit more prepared for any winter journeys you may be planning. Download our Pocket Ranger® mobile apps to find a park to explore near you!

Tips for Cross-Country Skiing

Planning on going cross-country skiing this winter? If so, check out these few tips before heading out the door!

Dress in Layers

Family dressed warmly cross-country skiing on a mountain

Image: www.llbean.com

Since cross-country skiing is an aerobic exercise, you can get over heated if you are dressed too warmly. A lightweight fleece top, tights, and weatherproof outdoor wear is best. You should also bring extra clothing and gear to stay comfortable.

Rules

Group of people cross country skiing with instructor

Image: www.onthesnow.com

While at the ski center, it is important to inform staff if it’s your first time skiing. You should ask about rules and trail etiquette. Before you go skiing, it is recommended that you take a class on avalanche awareness. Even if you are skiing on a flat terrain, it can still be dangerous.

Stretching

Woman stretching in snow before skiing

Image: www.mnn.com

Stretching before and after helps you stay flexible and decreases muscle soreness. You will want to stretch your quadriceps, hamstrings, gluteus muscles, and calves as well your biceps and triceps.

Sun Protection

Sun reflecting on the snow trails

Image: www.flickr.com

Sunlight reflected off the snow and exposure over a few hours can cause sunburns. Wear sunscreen and sunglasses with good UV protection.

Water

Staying hydrated while on the trails helps you stay warm. It is recommended to take a few sips of water even if you are not thirsty.

Practice

People cross country skiing on a gentle slope

Image: www.skigebiete-test.de

If it’s your first time cross-country skiing, find a gentle slope in a safe area where you can practice climbing and descending then move on to snowplow turns. As you get faster on your descents, you will want to learn to do step turns.

Control

Cross country skiing in the woods

Image: www.fhwa.dot.gov

It’s always important to ski in control. To slow down your descent when skiing in groomed tracks, lift one ski out and set it at an angle to the track. Put pressure on the inside edge of that ski. Be sure not to press too hard or you may catch your ski and stop suddenly.

Suggested Gear:

  • Swix Tour Ski Pole
  • Salomon Carbon Energyzer
  • Ski Boots

Check out some gear that you may need to go cross-country skiing at our Gear Store.

Remember to have fun. It’s always about learning and trying new things! Also, download your state’s Pocket Ranger® app to find great cross-country skiing locations nearest you!

Winter Fun at the State Parks

There’s no reason to say indoors this January! We’ve found some great winter fun at the state parks that is sure to keep you warm and active outdoors.

Kentucky

Elks stand in the snow at a Kentucky state park

A herd of elk at Buckhorn Lake State Resort Park [Image: parks.ky.gov]

Winter is a great time to see wildlife at the Kentucky state parks. Bundle up and bring the binoculars for a Winter Elk Watch at Buckhorn Lake State Resort Park. Elk were reintroduced to Kentucky in 1997, after being extinct from the region for 150 years. There are now around 10,000 elk within the state, and many opportunities for sightings. Or visit Kentucky Dam Village State Resort Park to partake in The Gathering of the Eagles. For one weekend every year, the park offers visitors the opportunity to see migrating Bald eagles. There are interpretive programs, as well as guided tours by bus and luxury cruise ship.

Nebraska

Learn about winter survival at the Cold Day, Warm Hearts, & Family Fun Day at Eugene T. Mahoney State Park. Enjoy fishing and birding activities, and create winter crafts. Make some great family memories while roasting hotdogs and s’mores over an open fire.

Maine

People cross-country ski through the snow in Maine woods

Image: www.forestsformainesfuture.org

With tons of powder, get up to Cobscook Bay State Park for their Winter Family Fun Day! Family-friendly activities will be happening all day long, including sleigh rides, nature walks, skating, and sledding, plus free equipment rentals for those wanting to cross-country ski or snowshoe. Get cozy at the warming station and let the park staff serve you a delicious hot lunch.

Florida

For a night of rousing music under a full moon, come to Myakka River State Park to hear the popular Americana band, Have Gun Will Travel. This band was featured on NPR, and also has their own award-winning craft beer, High Road Ale. Grab your favorite beverage and head to the South Pavilion to see one of the best Americana bands around!

If you’re looking to partake in something a bit quirkier, Koreshan State Historic Site will be hosting the fascinating interpretive program, Archeology of Poop: The Truth Comes Out in the End. Limited to just 90 participants, this program will focus on the archeological study of paleofeces and privy deposits. Participants will also get to try their hand at archeology with a hand-on activity consisting of “replicate” materials found in a historic privy. Make sure to reserve your spot!

New Jersey

A boy learns how to ice fish

Learn how to ice fish! [Image: www.greatfallstribune.com]

The Annual Winter Festival at High Point Park State Park is a celebration of all things snow and ice. Bring the whole family for a day full of winter activities, such as guided hikes, sing-alongs, and winter-themed crafts. There will also be snowshoeing and ice-fishing demonstrations. Take along your Pocket Ranger® app and mark waypoints of places that you’d like to revisit in the spring. Later, help yourself to some complimentary hot cocoa and cookies and warm up by the fire.

Georgia

Hit the trail on horseback to celebrate MLK Day in the winter woodlands. On this guided trail ride at F.D. Roosevelt State Park, a naturalist and wrangler will share tidbits about the natural history of the Pine Mountain Ridge area. President Franklin D. Roosevelt liked to picnic at this park because of its gorgeous hardwoods and pines, creeks, and small waterfalls. Horse rentals are possible through Roosevelt Riding Stables.

Ohio


Want to learn more about dog-sledding? The Siberian Husky Club of Greater Cleveland will be holding an informational afternoon about this thrilling winter activity at Punderson State Park. Visitors can meet working sled dogs and learn more about the Husky breed. See these Huskies in action during the sledding demonstrations.

Pennsylvania

There are so many ways to get outside in Pennsylvania’s state parks this January! The Winterfest at Hills Creek State Park will have sledding, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, sledding and skating. There will also be kids crafts, guided hikes, and hot drinks and snacks. Best of all, ski and skate rentals are available and free of charge! The highlight of the Ice-O-Rama event at Lyman Run State Park will be the unveiling of the thought-to-be extinct Giant Ice Shark of Lyman Run. Activities will include sledding, skating, cross-country skiing, and snowshoe and ice fishing clinics.  Soup and hot beverages will be available at the event. The Snow Festival at Bendigo State Park includes a snow box derby, winter survival demonstration, and guided tree identification walks. Hot food will be provided by the local scout troops.

Visit Cattaraugus County

Contributed by Cattaraugus County Tourism

Here at Cattaraugus County, we have, what some people may call, harsh winters, but we sure know how to enjoy them!  Feel the crisp excitement of winter while dashing through the snow on your snowmobile. With quaint towns, open spaces, and close to 400 miles of trails, Cattaraugus County is perfect for winter wonderland fun. Find a different experience each time on our primary and secondary trails that will leave you thrilled to see the snow falling.

snowmobiling at Cattaraugus County

Dash through the snow in your snowmobile! [Image Credit: Cattaraugus County Tourism]

Feel invigorated while navigating our unspoiled forested areas on your cross-country skis.  Whether you’re a novice and need to stay on the beaten, groomed path or seeking to brave unknown territory, you will discover what you’re looking for. Spend a couple hours as a group or a whole day, trekking through snow-covered pines, past semi-frozen waterfalls or through vast fields of white.  Allegany State Park is home to the Art Roscoe Trail System, 24 miles of XC fun and the largest in Western New York.

Challenge yourself to learn the winter sport of downhill skiing or snowboarding at one of our two Resorts. Holiday Valley, in Ellicottville, was ranked #5 Best Resort in the East by Ski Magazine and boasts some of the best night skiing around!  Holimont is New York’s largest private ski area, but opens its doors to the public weekdays. Both consistently make upgrades, so there is always something different to discover each season!

Snowmobiling at Cattaraugus County

Having some winter fun at Cattaraugus County! [Image Credit: Cattaraugus County]

So, no matter what you choose for winter fun, come find it at the Enchanted Mountains of Western New York. We’re sure this area will will leave you shouting “Let it Snow!”