Along the shores of Lake Erie, Evangola State Park becomes a winter sports mecca as the lake’s famous lake-effect snowstorms blanket the park! Lake-effect snow occurs when cold, Canadian air moves across Lake Erie evaporating its open waters and causing intense, local snow bands which can drop one to two inches of snow per hour.
Burning calories while relieving stress, cross-country skiing is a popular activity on the parks peaceful and tranquil trails.
Cross-country skiing is a wonderful way to connect to nature!
Three major trail systems are avaliable at Evangola State Park. The Evangola Snowmobile Trail is located on the east side of the park and snowshoeing and cross-country ski trails are on the west side.
Many snowshoers and skiers utilize the 3.5 mile snowmobile trail since it is lightly used by snowmobilers. The trail is fairly flat and easy for beginners.
The Evangola Cross-Country Ski and Snowshoe trail is an easy two mile loop trail through forest and shrubby wetlands.The trail starts at the baseball field located on the west side of the park and goes right into the woods.
With a variety of tracks along the way…….
A fun activity while skiing or snowshoeing is to investigate fresh animal tracks. The tracks left behind are a magical record of a nocturnal creature’s travel, allowing a glimpse into their secret lives.
One of the advantages of snowshoes is the ability to go off trail and through deep snow with ease.
Snowshoeing is fun for all ages.
The Niagara Region Interpretive Programs Office has free snowshoes to loan to adults and children and many people bring their own snowshoes. It is easy to learn snowshoeing and participants become proficient on their first winter snowshoe hike.
Stunning Ice Formations
A spectacular winter trail at Evangola is the “Rim Trail” along towering cliffs over Lake Erie, where you can see all the way to Canada on a clear day! But clear skies or cloudy, check out some of nature’s ice sculptures all along the shore.
It’s cold outside, it takes forever to get the kids bundled up and out the door. Is it worth all the trouble? You bet! You don’t need a lot of planning, just a few tips and tricks to encourage kids – and you – to enjoy the outdoors in winter.
Look for hats and hoods that are not just fun or cute, but that are also warm and comfy (and don’t keep falling over their eyes). Warm and waterproof boots, mittens – not gloves – to keep those fingers warm, and a scarf if it is really nippy or windy out. For the little ones, mitten clips or strings keeps them from getting lost. If it is sunny, don’t forget to apply some sunscreen on the face and ears, and fair eyed kids and adults may want sunglasses.
Photo by Magnus Manske, accessed from WikiCommons
Build a Snow Sculpture
We all hope for snow! Building snow people or forts or animals, small or large is always fun. My father once built us a snow duck we could sit on. Look for leaves, sticks, and berries on the ground to decorate your snow sculpture with.
Let’s Go Sledding! Snowshoeing! Hiking!
Many parks have places for sledding. Pick the size of slope that is right for the kids and a location without trees or other hazards. Likewise, choose the right size route for cross-country skiing, snowshoeing or hiking and make it fun. If there is no snow, there are still lots of places to hike. Avoid icy trails. You can find flat trails around a lake or campground or on bike paths that are good for beginner snowshoeing and hiking with or without snow. Some of the nature centers even have snowshoes to borrow. Start small and work up to a longer outing. Older kids may enjoy the challenge of a longer day out; just remember to bring lunch and water and plan for some stops.
Look for Animals Kids are good at spotting animals and animal tracks. Stop and look and listen for squirrels and birds in the bushes and trees. You don’t need to be able to identify what animal it is, just take the time to look. Where do the tracks go? Are they big or small? What kind of animal do you think it might be? Common animal tracks to see in the winter at the park are squirrels, dogs, birds, snowshoe hare, and deer.
Northern cardinals are a common winter bird, photo by Julie Lundgren
If you are on the beach, you can look for tracks in the sand or snow, photo by Julie Lundgren
Need a little help? Take part in a park-led activity like a snowshoe hike or ice fishing day.
Be an Explorer
There are all kinds of cool things to see in winter. Take the time to look around, it’s amazing what you can find. Some kids are naturally curious, others may need a little encouragement or direction to get started. If so, make a game out of it like a scavenger hunt for shapes, colors and/or things. Try this: find a sign of 1 animal; a place where an animal might hide; the shape of the letters U,V,X,Y; something green, something blue.
Take a Break – Bring a Treat
Bring a little treat and stop outside on a log or a bench to have a snack and water. Tangerines, raisins, apple slices, pretzels, nuts are some healthy choices but a little chocolate or a cookie doesn’t hurt. Bringing a thermos and having hot chocolate or tea to have outside seems really special after sledding or midway through a hike or ski.
Know when to come indoors
If it is really cold or windy, pay attention to signs of getting too cold. Noses, ears, and fingers can easily get cold and frostbite may happen when the temperatures drop. Get out of the cold if any of you can’t feel your fingers or toes or start shivering. And plan your outing so you are done well before the daylight dims, as temperatures drop when the sun goes down.Post by Julie Lundgren, NY Natural Heritage Program.
Winter is a wonderful time of the year, there’s snow and ice everywhere in our State Parks. Within that snow and ice, you can see traces of what animals have been there – maybe even just moments before you arrive! One of the traces that can help you identify which animal it came from is their tracks.
To determine what animal the track came from, you should look at several different factors. First, the condition of the snow the track is in makes a big difference in how a track looks (wet snow leads to more clear tracks and drier, powdery snow has less clearly defined tracks). Second, you should think about the gait of the animal (how it moves). There’s four different types of gaits that most animals use in their daily activities: the walk, the trot, the gallop and the jump. And lastly, you must look at the shape of the track including the number of toes present, which can vary in size depending on the animal that made it. For more information on identification of winter tracks, please see this blog.
Let’s look at some tracks that have been seen throughout our State Parks:
As you can see, there is still a great diversity of animals to be found within our State Parks – even in the cold of winter! So, the next time you’re hiking the trails at a State Park, look around you and see what tracks you can see!
Scat is another trace that animals leave behind. If you are interested in learning more about winter scat ID, check out this blog.
Post by April Brun, State Parks
Disclaimer: All identifications are just suspected, none are confirmed by a wildlife biologist.
If there is six inches or more of snow on the ground, get those skis ready to hit the trail in a State Park. Across New York, there are 105 state parks and state historic sites that have cross-country ski trails. If you are looking to try a new cross-county ski trail, try one of State Parks staff member’s favorite trails.
Nicandri Nature Center staff member Tracy mentions that there are over five miles of trails wind through the woods and along the St. Lawrence River in Robert Moses State Park, Massena, NY. The center offers free ski and snowshoe loans for all ages as well as ski instruction. Post ski, skiers can head into the nature center to enjoy a hot beverage, check out interactive exhibits, and warm up in front of the fire.
Snowshoers by the outdoor fire pit, photo by Nicandria Nature Center
Cross-country skiing is a great family activity, Nicandri Nature Center
State Parks volunteer Judy notes that all of the trails at the Higley Flow State Park just west of the Adirondacks, have their own unique scenic character and are popular with different ability levels for different reasons. The Overlook Trail is the most heavily used trail at the Park because it is a comfortable length (1.3 miles), relatively flat with a few smaller hills, and passes through a pine and spruce forest. Skiers are never further than ¾ miles from the Lodge if they want to cut their ski short. It links with the Woods’ backcountry trail (1.9 miles) and the Warm Brook trail (1.6 miles) for those wishing to challenge themselves further.
With over 20 miles of groomed ski trails located in the Art Roscoe Trail system at Allegany State Park in western New York, State Parks staffer Adele finds it hard to pick a favorite, but for a fun fast ski, recommends Christian Hollow. This 1.5-mile loop starts .7 miles from the trail head. After a mild uphill to get the heart pumping, the trail mellows into a long level area where a skier can find that sweet smooth rhythm – ride and glide, ride and glide- click on this link to learn the ride and glide technique.
Although it is marked as an intermediate trail, there is something for everyone. Easy descents lead to short steep uphills where the herringbone or duck-walking technique is key! This video can help you master going uphill on skis.
The reward for the hill climb is a gorgeous view of the Allegany plateau from highest picnic table in the park (2,242 feet). Back in the tracks, the loop continues with a long fast downhill and more rolling terrain with views along the ridge before winding back to Ridge Run. It’s an easy one mile ski back to the trail head. Taking only an hour which includes time for photos and a snack, this trail is exhilarating for both body and soul. Find out more about the trails www.alleganynordic.org.
Art Roscoe Trail entry at Allegany State Park
Late afternoon along the ski trail at Allegany State Park.
Minnewaska State Park Preserve, located in the bucolic Hudson Valley, offers over 16 miles/26 kilometers of cross-country ski trails, groomed for both classic and skate skiing. Skiers of all levels of ability will find a route they can enjoy, with breathtaking clifftop views and scenic carriage roads that meander through pristine forests featuring two sky lakes. You won’t find more picturesque and exciting skiing this close to New York City and Albany anywhere else. State Parks staff member Laura notes that the prices make skiing here affordable for the family, at $10 per adult, $9 per senior and $7 per child.
We have the perfect cure for the winter blues at Fahnestock Winter Park – 20 km of ski trails for beginner to expert extend out in every direction from our lodge. Fahnestock is the perfect location for your first skiing experience. You can rent you all the gear you need and right out the door of the lodge is our most popular trail the Lake Trail.
Ice conditions permitting, we groom two kilometers of trails on our lake, a perfect place to learn to ski as it is flat and safe. Advanced skiers also love it because they can go fast on the groomed trail.
The trail will take you by a beaver lodge, over the dam built by the Civil Conservation Corps during the Great Depression, and past many small islands. Ice fishermen, skaters and snowshoers can also be found on the lake.
State Parks staff member Declan finds that gliding west towards the sun on a January day is spectacular way to experience the park in winter in a safe environment.
Skiing on the beach in the winter, and then returning to swim at the beach in the summer, is one of the best ways to experience all the seasons in Fahnestock!
As the 2018 Winter Olympics kick off in PyeongChang, South Korea, figure skating, speed skating and hockey will be among the marquee events. Generations of young skaters will be inspired by the aerial feats, athletic prowess and teamwork showcased on the ice, while dreaming of standing on the medal podium proudly representing their country.
For amateur and recreational skaters who want to enjoy some quality ice time with family and friends a little closer to home, select New York State Parks offer a variety of locations and experiences throughout the winter months, including rinks and many frozen ponds. From Riverbank’s roof-top skyline in Manhattan to the oval at historic Bear Mountain to the quiet beauty among the pines in Saratoga, these scenic settings are the perfect backdrop to embrace the weather in the northeast and stay active in the outdoors.
Whether your specialty is a triple lutz, or you skew closer to a full-time klutz (or somewhere in between), ice skating is a fun way to exercise for people of all ages. The New England Baptist Hospital and M. Kathryn Steiner, M.D., the physician for the Skating Academy of Boston, recently noted the many fitness benefits of skating including strength, flexibility and balance.
For ice enthusiasts who prefer a net and some action, pond hockey is more popular than ever before. Both Chenango Valley and Saratoga Spa State Parks host annual multi-day tournaments that draw visitors from across the U.S. These, together with parks such as Schodack Island, Grafton Lake, and Glimmerglass, hold winter festivals and regular programs throughout January and February with some offering instruction to help grow new legions of skaters.
Along with inspiration for general winter recreation, the State Parks’ website (parks.ny.gov) offers a full list of State Parks with ice skating. Many sites offer skate rentals, lessons, special events, warming huts and refreshments. Call ahead for conditions and hours, and be sure to carve out some ice time for yourself this season!