You may not see any snow when you look out the window right now, but winter is here and now is the time to think about all of the outdoor activities it brings. One of the best ways to experience the natural beauty of New York in the winter is on a snowmobile, exploring The New York State snowmobile trail system which crisscrosses 45 counties through woods, fields, towns and our State Parks. Snowmobiling is a fun, family-friendly way to enjoy winter scenery and wildlife, especially for those people with disabilities who are unable to do strenuous activities like cross-country skiing and snowshoeing.
With over 10,000 miles of public trails, there’s something for everyone to enjoy from local loops to weekend getaways. A Google Earth map of the trail system is available on the snowmobile page of the State Parks website. Many of our parks have trails connecting to the statewide trail system. And some parks, like Allegany State Park, not only have over 60 miles of groomed trails, they also have winterized cabins which are open year-round for a warm winter weekend retreat.
If you’re new to the sport, or have never been on a snowmobile before, the New York State Snowmobile Association is teaming up with State Parks to offer Take a Friend Snowmobiling events where you can learn more and take a free snowmobile ride, conditions permitting. An event is scheduled at Selkirk Shores State Park on January 31, 2015. Necessary equipment will be provided; participants are urged to dress appropriately for outdoor weather conditions.
State Parks recommends all snowmobilers attend a certified New York State snowmobiling safety course, and never drink & ride!
The dog days of summer are a very distant memory, but many intrepid New Yorkers thrive in winter and are eager for falling temperatures and continued snowfalls. To these hardy adventurers, a few extra layers of gear combined with the snowy terrain offer a winter wonderland of nature, fitness and fun.
In fact, a few of New York’s State Parks remain open and offer accommodations this time of year. From cold-weather sports to the quiet beauty of snow-covered landscapes… snowshoe treks to winter carnivals, skating rinks to seal walks, New York State Parks are popular destinations for winter recreation and the perfect remedy for cabin fever.
Allegany State Park is not only the largest state park in New York at 65,000 acres, but this flagship property offers four seasons of adventure and is considered to be a premier winter-time destination for cold-weather fun in the northeast. Allegany features 18 trails with 80 miles of hiking and snowshoeing, more than 25 miles of cross-country skiing and 90 miles of groomed snowmobile trails. While the mercury may be dropping, the park heats up as families and outdoor enthusiasts enjoy winter activities and snow-based recreation in this vast wilderness setting. Convenient and affordable winter lodging options at the park include year-round cabins and cottages available for rent.
With winterized cabins and the incredibly scenic Genesee Valley gorge as a backdrop, Letchworth State Park is another ideal destination for winter sports. Winter activities include snow tubing, cross-country skiing, and snowmobiling. Families can also rent the Maplewood Lodge, located in the middle of the park near the entrance to the Highbanks Camping Area. A popular choice for snowmobilers, it connects to the New York State snowmobile trail system. The three-bedroom lodge sleeps up to eight people and consists of a furnished kitchen, living room with cozy fireplace, dining room and a full size bath and powder room.
Wellesley Island State Park along the St. Lawrence Seaway in the Thousand Islands is another prime location with winterized accommodations to host weekend getaways or an impromptu overnight when available. The park’s Minna Anthony Common Nature Center is open year-round and includes nine miles of hiking trails, and five miles of cross country ski and snow shoe trails. During the winter months visitors can warm up by the fireplace and meet other explorers. The trails have a diversity of habitat including field, forest, wetlands and views of the St. Lawrence River.
In Cooperstown, Glimmerglass State Park offers a variety of child-friendly activities such as tubing, ice skating and winter trail sports. Reserve one of the cottages that sleep eight at nearby Betty and Wilbur Davis State Park and bring the whole family to enjoy a day of snowmobiling too.
For patrons enjoying New York’s state parks year-round, there is no ‘off-season” and every reason to get outside and embrace all types of cold- weather recreation among the wintry landscapes.
Post by Wendy Gibson and MaryAnn Corbisiero, OPRHP.
Get outside to a State Park this New Year’s Day! New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation (State Parks) is putting RECREATION at the top of this year’s New Year’s resolution list with First Day Hikes. Now in its 5th year, First Day Hikes are a great way to help you get your New Year’s resolutions started on the right foot.
On January 1st State Parks is hosting 41 First Day Hikes in parks and historic sites across the state from eastern Long Island and Staten Island, to the Hudson River, Lake Champlain, Lake Erie, and much more. Hikes range from accessible, level walks; a leisurely stroll across the world’s longest elevated pedestrian bridge, explorations of historic landscapes or quiet forest; dog-friendly rambles, mountain hikes, family-orientated activities and more. If there is snow, bring your skis or some parks have snowshoes you can borrow.
During your hike you’ll be able to meet new people, see new places, spend time with family and friends, get a bit of exercise, and enjoy time outdoors. Could there be a better way to spend the first day of 2016?
Remember to dress in warm layers, wear appropriate footwear, and bring water and a snack for your group. Most hikes range from one to three miles in length.
Remember your camera and please share your photos on State Parks’s Facebook Page!
Click here for a complete listing of “First Day Hike” events and registration guidelines.
Ah, the winter solstice is here, that longest night and shortest day. The solstice (sols=sun; tice=stand still) occurred at 11:48 EST on Monday, December 21, 2015. This was the moment when the sun was directly over the Tropic of Capricorn in the southern hemisphere (see Figure 1). Once it reached this point, the earth started to slowly tilt northward and the days began to get longer. Because the tilting of the earth’s axis is so slow, the day length is the same (stands still) for a day or two after the winter solstice.
Then we slowly gain a minute or two of daylight each day until summer solstice (longest day) in June (Figure 2).
Winter is a great time to explore New York’s State Parks and Historic Sites. Some Parks offer opportunities to try snowshoeing, cross-country skiing and, ice fishing. Bring your own skis, ice fishing gear, snowshoes, snowmobiles, or skates to create your own winter fun in a Park or Historic Site. Or take a hike go wildlife watching or attend a program. Just remember to dress for the weather and you’ll have a grand time!
Ice fishing at Grafton Lakes State Park. Photo by OPRHP.
Snowmobiling at Lake Taghkanic State Park. Photo by OPRHP.
Ice skating at Saratoga Spa State Park. Photo by OPRHP.
Here delicate snow-stars, out of the cloud, Come floating down in airy play, Like spangles dropped from the glistening crowd That whiten by night the Milky Way.
Snow is that magical precipitation that turns our stark winter landscape into a winter wonderland; gives school children joy at the possibility of a day off – SNOW DAY; and gives commuters white knuckles as they navigate home on slippery roads. Snow is what we expect to see each winter here in New York State. But what is snow? How is it formed? Is it true that no two flakes are the same?
Snow will form in clouds between the temperatures of -39˚F and 32˚F. Clouds are mostly filled with tiny water droplets, tiny meaning that thousands can fit in a period. Microscopic dust and salt particles from the land and sea are also found in clouds.
As the dust and salt cool in a cloud, they attract the tiny water droplets which stick and freeze to the particles – beginingthe formation of a snow flake (or the scientific term snow crystal). These tiny snowflakes grow by collecting more water molecules. When they get too heavy to be in the cloud they start to fall to the ground. As they fall, they bump into other snowflakes causing pieces (tiny crystals) of the snowflake to break off which become new snow flakes. The humidity and temperature inside the clouds will determine which type of snowflake is formed. If the air is moist and warm (25o-32o F) large flakes will form. If it is cold and the cloud has little moisture, the snow that forms resembles tiny columns. Figure 1 illustrates how different types of snowflakes form in different cloud conditions.
Why do snowflakes have a six-sided symmetry? Snowflakes are six-sided because of the way that the individual water molecules connect together – they form hexagonal lattices which give the snowflakes six-sided symmetry.
Eight common types of snowflakes are:
Hexagonal Plate Crystal:
Six-sided flat crystals with various amounts of surface patterns. Largest of these can be just under ¼” across. Hexagonal plate crystals are found in most snow falls.
Stellar Crystal or Dendrite:
Stellar crystals are six-pointed star shaped snowflakes. These flakes can be up to 1/2″ across. They can be found in low numbers in most snow falls. Formed in the low atmosphere when the temperatures are not too cold and the humidity is high, sometimes the stellar crystal flakes join together to form large flakes that are 2” across. The gentle drifting of the stellar crystal flakes gives a tranquil feeling to snowfalls.
Forming in cold clouds and low moisture, column crystal flakes are six sided and can be hollow inside. During the winter, column crystals are commonly found in the high, wispy cirrus clouds. They help to create a halo around the moon on winter nights. The halo is created by moonlight streaming through these ¼” crystals. Rarely do these crystals fall to the ground.
Asymmetrical Crystals are another common snowflake. They appear to be many hexagonal plates stuck together and have been mistaken for stellar crystals. They are about 3/8” across.
Bullet crystals are column crystals that look like one end was sharpened with a pencil sharpener to form a hexagonal pyramid. They can be seen either singly or in groups of three, attached by the points of the pyramid.
Named for the Japanese drum of the same design, Tsuzumi crystals are column crystals with hexagonal plate crystals at each end. They form when the column crystals bump into the hexagonal plate crystals as the snow falls.
Needles are fine, six-sided columns with a point at each end; they range in length from ¼” to ¾” long. This is one of the most common types of snow flake in a snow storm. Sometimes the needle flakes freeze together during the descent forming conglomerate flakes. These conglomerate flakes quickly break apart as soon as the flakes hit the ground.
Stellar Hexagonal Plate Crystals:
Stellar Hexagonal Plate Crystals are some of the most stunning snowflakes. They form when either a stellar crystal goes through a hexagonal plate crystal cloud condition or a hexagonal plate crystal goes through a stellar crystal condition. These are some of the most common snowflakes in a storm.