Tag Archives: snow

Do You Want to Build a Snowman?

Every time rumors of a snowstorm circulate, children (and even some adults, if we’re being totally honest here) across the afflicted areas have one collective thought: “Let’s build a snowman!” It’s an activity that crosses oceans, demolishes language barriers, and completely disregards age. We’ve pretty much been seeing an onslaught of snowmen since Thanksgiving in the States, so we’re used to their quirky carrot noses, round button noses, and adorable top hats by now. But where exactly did this fun snowy tradition come from?


Now that’s a well-made snowman! [Image: https://en.wikipedia.org/]

It’s hard to track when the first snowman was first crafted, but author of “The History of the Snowman,” Bob Eckstein, found documentation of snowmen dating back to medieval times. The earliest depiction he found was from 1380 and was a marginal drawing from a piece called, “Book of Hours.”

There’s also plenty of proof showing that people were building snowmen since the Middle Ages where they were searching for an outlet for creative expression. And what better way to show off your artistic skills than crafting a temporary human sculpture! Couples often took a chilly stroll to see what new creations sprouted up overnight, a tour de snowperson, if you will. There were even snowmen created by some famous artists, like the time that Michelangelo commissioned a snowman in Florence’s ruler’s mansion courtyard in 1494.


Watch out for the snowman army—coming to your neighborhood this snow day. [Image: http://thingsaboutportlandthatsuck.com/]

Snowmen have also popped up during plenty of historical events. During the Winter of Death, a period of six weeks of subzero temperatures in Brussels, they saw what came to be known as the Miracle of 1511. Snowmen took over the city, and they even had their own personalities to go along with their presences with some designed in a political way while others were a bit raunchier.

Many years later, history saw another sighting of snow art when a pair of snowmen guards stood watch in Fort Schenectady as the actual guards fled inside to avoid the blizzard. This event became known as the Schenectady Massacre of 1690, as the snowmen did not do too good of a job warding off the French Canadian and Native American forces that had already braved three weeks of traveling through the snow.

Upside down snowman.

Who said there was a formula to snowman building? [Image: http://theverybesttop10.com/]

So whether you’re looking forward to impending snowstorms as a way to get outside and let some of your inner-creativity out, or you’d rather hunker down and preoccupy yourself indoors, our Pocket Ranger® mobile apps are the best aid for whatever adventure you choose. With whichever option you go with, just make sure you have fun doing it!

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!

Winter Biking: Tips for Cycling through the Chilly Months

Winter biking is a whole different world from biking in the warmer months of the year. There’s a lot to take into consideration when jumping on your bike and heading out for the trail or onto the road, but freezing temperatures and slippery surroundings shouldn’t be deterrents. A new challenge is an exciting challenge, and biking during winter isn’t actually as bad as one might assume. Properly preparing the bike, and more importantly its rider, are key to enjoying winter cycling.

Benefits of Winter Cycling

man winter biking in the snow

Mountain biking in snow [Image: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cold-weather_biking]

First things first: Determine the perks of winter biking. Not only will you avoid any car traffic, but it also gets the blood coursing and heart thumping. Not always the easiest task in the winter! If you’re still feeling hesitant, try setting up a schedule to ease yourself into it before making it a part of your routine.


Man showing specific gear for winter biking

Winter bike touring clothing [Image: bicycletouringpro.com/blog/winter-bike-touring-clothes]

Before heading out, you’re going to want to make sure you dress the right way. The key is to layer but not overdo it, similar to when cross-country skiing. Since you’ll be exercising, you’re going to end up sweating—especially depending on the amount of hills you’ll be tackling during the ride. The best way to go about it is to wear an outfit where you feel a bit chilly in at first. As your ride progresses, you’ll notice that you don’t actually miss throwing on that extra winter coat after all.

There are a few items that are particularly important to have. It’s essential to keep your head and ears warm because even though the rest of your body is warming up, your head will have a harder time doing the same. A scarf or balaclava is great for keeping your neck and face comfortable during the ride.

Since the fingertips and toes lose a lot of heat, ensuring that they are warm will make the difference between a positive biking experience and one that you can’t wait to end. Gloves that keep your fingers warm but don’t inhibit you from grabbing your brakes at a moment’s notice will make your ride infinitely more enjoyable. Hand warmers may just become the most valuable investment you make. Depending on how much icy rain/snow you encounter, waterproof shoes will probably become your new best friend during winter cycling outings. For the same reason you don’t want to over-bundle, having wet shoes can lead to problems with hypothermia when you finally slow down and the cold catches up with you. Even if you don’t notice, the sweat and water will turn to ice soon enough and will be quite the unwelcome riding companion.

Winterizing Your Bike

Studded mountain bike tires for use in icy con...

Studded mountain bike tires for use in icy conditions [Image: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tread]

Prepping your bike is as important as prepping your body. Similar to how car tires need to be prepped to handle intense snowfall, bike tires need to be adjusted so that they can get a good grip on the wet surface. Some prefer thicker tires while others add studs to their tires to handle the snow better. It’s best to start off with at least lowering the pressure in the tires.

Monitoring your bike (especially the gears if they’re exposed) and keeping it clean is equally important in the winter. Your bike is flying through tons of snow, sand, salt, and whatever else is buried, and all that stuff is likely to get stuck in your gears and wheels. A well-maintained bike is a happy bike, so clean it as often as possible.

Since winter means that it gets darker earlier, bike lights are more important than ever. Being visible to other vehicles is key to making sure you have a safe winter biking experience. A pair of strong, bright front and rear lights will ensure that others can take proper precautions around you.

Stay Hydrated and Fueled

Man drinking water while biking

Drink water to stay hydrated during a ride. [Image: keyassets.timeincuk.net/inspirewp/live/wp-content/uploads/sites/2/2012/11/Fuel_for_winter_drinking.jpg]

It’s easy to become dehydrated and not take in enough food or water without even realizing it. Your body might not feel thirsty or hungry, but you’re releasing a lot of moisture into the air and sweating more than you may in the summer. Without proper nourishment, your body will have a lot of trouble keeping warm. Make sure to drink enough water and pack some food to keep your body satisfied.

With all these handy tips, you’re ready to have a safe and fun winter cycling session in any environment. Check out our Gear Store for anything you might need to make your rides easier and safer. Be alert and enjoy the cold!

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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!”

Tips for Wheeling in the Snow

Every year during winter, many outdoor enthusiasts head out for wheeling in the snow. Before running out the door, here are some helpful tips to ensure you have a safe adventure!


Tools for a car

Image: www.expeditionportal.com

You should always keep your gear light in order to stay on top of the snow. Pack everything you need, such as a tool kit, Hi-Lift jack, tow hooks, snatch straps and winches. Since you are wheeling in the snow, it is important to carry a snow shovel to dig out tires, axles and frames when your vehicle is pushing the snow and you are not moving.


Four wheel jeep wheeling in the snow going up a hill

Image: www.fourwheeler.com

One major tip is being able to know snow conditions. Soft, wet snow in the sun is very different than cold snow that is found on slopes and in the shade. Wet, heavy snow is the easiest to get on top of, while dry snow can cause your vehicle to stall. Also be aware of slopes. If you drive back the same way you came, check snow consistency. If the snow is slushy and melting, make sure that you are able to get back on the hill the same way you came.


A line of jeeps snow wheeling

Don’t get stuck in the snow! [Image: www.jkowners.com]

When you are going nice and smoothly, you may have the urge to accelerate, but this can cause your vehicle to dig holes in the snow. If your tires spin too much it can melt the first layer of snow. When the water re-freezes, it turns to ice and this can cause damage. If you do get stuck, reverse about a foot, and try going forward onto different lines or tracks, in order to get away from the problem spot.


A tire on a jeep with snow for snow wheeling

Check your tires before heading out! [Image: offroad-review.com]

For wheeling in the snow, you can have narrow tires and high contact pressure to drive through the snow. If you have wide tires, it provides larger footprints and lowers contact pressure. Lowering pressures to single digits allows tires to make an even larger patch. The mild tread pattern allows the tire to propel across the snow without digging. You may want to travel with an air source for your tires, such as an electric pump or a belt-driven compressor and be sure not to lose your lug nuts.

Cooling System

White toyota snow wheeling

Nothing better than a little snow wheeling. [Image: www.pirate4x4.com]

Wheeling in the snow gives off a high amount of resistance that can cause your radiator to overheat. Make sure that your radiator does not get clogged with snow, which limits the airflow through the radiator and the engine. If you are driving an automatic vehicle, run the biggest transmission cooler. Clean fluids are more effective so do regular maintenance schedules, which includes the right mixture of anti-freeze. Running water alone can cause frozen cooling systems and can crack under extreme pressure.


Girl sitting in deep snow

Snow fun! [Image: www.pirate4x4.com]

Keep in mind that even though you will be inside of a vehicle, you want to stay warm as the day ends. Dress in layers to retain heat and to stay dry if you are making stops to play in the snow! Inner layers keep moisture away, and outer layers should repel water and wind. Warm footwear is important as well.


Three jeeps snow wheeling in groups

Always travel in groups! [Image: bb.bc4x4.com]

Wheeling in the snow requires extreme caution, so it is advised that you travel in groups. It’s best to go with others who have been snow wheeling before. Remember to bring first aid kits. In case something goes wrong, you want to plan and pack the right materials should you get stuck overnight in your vehicle.

Suggested Gear  

  • Snow boots
  • First Aid/Medical Kits
  • On the go snacks

You can never be too safe, so go ahead and make these gears a necessity and check out more at our Pocket Ranger® gear store.

Download your state’s Pocket Ranger® app to search for great trails for wheeling in the snow or even off-roading areas, if you are in a state that doesn’t get snow!

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Fun State Park Winter Activities

Image: www./skytop.com

Image: www.skytop.com

Winter is (almost) here, which means one thing: snow! Many state and national parks across the country turn into winter wonderlands, offering fun winter activities during the snowy season. Pull out your coats, throw on your fleece jackets and gloves, and hit the slopes!

Lots of parks offer snow activities such as snowmobiling, skiing, and ice fishing, but what about the lesser known winter activities such as skijorning and ice boating? We’ve highlighted 5 states with exciting snow adventures for everyone.

Washington State Parks

Washington State Parks have a plethora of winter activities. Washington offers cross-country and downhill skiing, skijoring (what’s that?!) snowmobiling, dog sledding, and snowshoeing.

Washington has more than 3,000 miles of trails, which are comprised of snowmobile clubs and some private landowner properties. Some trails are for snowmobile use and others are for non-motorized sports.

Maine State Parks

Over on the east coast, Maine State Parks have similar types of winter activities. Pine Tree State Park has thousands of miles of maintained snowmobile trails. Some trails even lead into Canada and New Hampshire.

Parks including Aroostook State Park, Bradbury Mountain State Park, Camden Hills State Park, Mount Blue State Park, Vaughan Woods State Park, and Wolfes Neck Woods State Park all have cross-country skiing and snowshoeing.

Utah State Parks

When it comes to winter activities, Utah has got you covered. Goblin Valley State Park alone has snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, and skate skiing, as well as camping opportunities of all kinds. Located near Herber City, Jordanelle State Park also has cross-country skiing and snowshoeing.

Pennsylvania State Parks

Pennsylvania has a great winter-friendly state park system. Whether you’re vying to go cross-country skiing or downhill skiing, Pennsylvania is the place for you. The cross-country ski trails are located on either hiking or equestrian trails, service roads, frozen lakes, railroad grades, and shorelines. Snowshoeing is available anywhere in a state park where there is snow.

If you’re in the mood for ice fishing, there are numerous lakes waiting for you to cast your rod in a self-made fishing hole.

Pennsylvania also offers ice boating for the true outdoor enthusiast. A permit is required, but it’ll be well worth it.

Don’t let the cold weather deter you from going out and enjoying nature. Check out our winter wear article and suit up and get out there! You can also find out which parks offer other activities by downloading our free Pocket Ranger mobile app. You won’t be disappointed!