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From Summer to Winter ...

Discover Allegany State Park in WHITE

As Western New Yorkers, we’re no strangers to winter. Everyone who has lived here for more than a year knows you’re at least locked in for 5 months of snow and cold, maybe up to 7 on an El Nino year. It is an immutable fact. However, what defines our region is the way we’ve adapted to it. Normal people see winter as an excuse to stay indoors, a sort of carte blanche to fully embrace the lazier half of their nature. To be fair, there’s nothing wrong with sweatpants, hot cocoa, electric blankets and Netflix. I’d be a terrible hypocrite if I didn’t admit that I love all those things. Yet, it strikes me as an awful waste to spend the entire season as some kind of sedentary hermit.

I know this rings true with many of you: winter is our season. That’s why every year you can feel that electric tension run through town when Holiday Valley fires up the snow guns. You can see it in the red-cheeked smiles of the locals. And, as always, you can experience it to the fullest at Allegany State Park.

Most folks generally think of the state park as a summer destination; a place to hike around for a few hours or maybe a good place to haul the kayaks up to. What they fail to realize is that the park offers a ton of great activities all year round. Perhaps the greatest of these opportunities comes in the form of the Art Roscoe cross-country skiing trails. These trails offer 35 miles of well-groomed track for all experience levels. Despite its generally monochromatic tone, some of the winter views from these trails are absolutely breathtaking. You can even allow yourself to feel good while you do it, as Nordic skiing burns off an incredible amount of calories. You’re earning that hot cocoa. And, if the trail really winds you, there are a multitude of lean-tos and cabins (complete with wood stoves) where you can catch your breath and pump life back into your extremities. The Summit Warming Hut even offers a snack bar on the weekends to refuel. If you want to go skiing but find yourself tragically under-equipped, the same warming hut also offers rentals at a reasonable price. Best part is, the skiing you’ll do here is free, minus the negligible cost of park entry. Do you prefer snowshoeing? No problem. These trails work just as well for snowshoers as they do for skiers. To recap: it’s cheap, well-maintained, comfortable, and great exercise. There is no reason for you not to do this.

Snowmobiling here is used as a legitimate mode of transportation just as often as it is used as a form of recreation. Of course, Allegany State Park recognizes its importance and offers a wide range of snowmobile trails. The trails that serve as horseback riding paths in the summer double as phenomenal snowmobiling trails once the snow flies. Like the cross-country skiing, equipment can be rented from the Summit Warming Hut if need be. To ride your sled in the park, you need a valid New York State registration as well as a park permit, so try not to do this one spur of the moment.

The classic winter activity (in my mind at least) is sledding. The state park offers a ton of prime hills to break the sled out for. As a bonus, it’ll leaves your kids absolutely exhausted. Speaking of which, if your children are the adventurous type, you can even camp in the aforementioned cabins. The wood stoves in every cabin negate the worst part of winter camping, while still allowing you to feel outdoorsy and rustic. It’s worth mentioning that both of these are still fun without kids as well - the fact that Holiday Valley Tubing does well is proof that adults like sledding too, and the cabins at Allegany State Park offer simplicity and comfort for people of all ages. It’s the best of both worlds.

Some of the more unique activities the park boasts are ice fishing and dog sled races. Ice fishing is probably the greatest excuse known to man, to down (more than) a few beers on a frozen lake. Seriously, ice fishing is fun even if you catch nothing, as long you bring a friend or two, some food, and some drinks. Both Red House Lake and Quaker Lake will be open for fishing once the park deems them frozen enough to be safe.

If you don’t have the patience for fishing, then definitely check out the dog sled races. Every year, the park hosts the Canadian American Trappers Special Races at Camp Turner in the Quaker Area. Racers from all over the country attend these races and, while it’s no Iditarod, the races are still very impressive.  Seeing some of these gorgeous dogs do what they were born to do will make you rethink your next pet for sure. For information on the dates and times for these races, please visit either the state park website, or canadian-americansledders.com.

Allegany State Park has embraced the winter months. It embodies our own love for what is often the most widely-reviled season. By capitalizing on these opportunities to get outdoors, you can help to undo the perception that winter is good for nothing but long naps. Come to the park and join in on winter’s biggest and longest celebration.