Shorter days and cold weather offer the perfect setting for outdoor activities like skiing, snowshoeing, ice skating and exploring. The best part is they’re all available within driving distance.
Winter pursuits such as cross country skiing and snowshoeing can be done right on Long Island, and John Bennett, president of Long Island Cross Country Ski Club, knows some of the best places to explore.
“The island offers an array of beautiful spots to enjoy winter activities,” said Bennett. “I would have to say Bethpage State Park, Caumsett State Historic Park and Quogue Wildlife Refuge are my favorite places to go.”
When snow blankets the area, Bethpage State Park at 99 Quaker Meeting House Rd. in Farmingdale closes the golf course for cross country skiing and designates a hill for sledding.
“It’s a nice area to explore with skis, snowshoes or a sleigh,” said Bennett. “It isn’t too hilly and it’s in a wide, open field.”
Caumsett State Historic Park at 25 Lloyd Harbor Rd. in Huntington offers a great view and trail for snowshoeing and cross country skiing.
“Caumsett has some nice slopes and hills…,” said Bennett. “It has a two-mile trail, and it’s right on the Long Island Sound, providing a picturesque view. It’s great for cross country skiing and snowshoeing.”
The Quogue Wildlife Refuge at 3 Old Country Rd. in Quogue offers ski and snowshoe rentals on Tuesdays, Thursdays and weekends from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. The area includes over seven miles of trails where visitors can explore a variety of habitats, including pine barrens, bogs and wetlands.
“If you want to be out in the woods with a beautiful scenery the Quogue Wildlife Refuge is the perfect place to go. It’s always nice to have the opportunity to gaze out into the water and be surrounded by wildlife,” said Bennett.
For details about rentals, call 631-653-4771 or visit www.quoguewildliferefuge.org/the-refuge.
If you want to escape Long Island to enjoy winter activities in an area where snow is often plentiful, Lapland Lake Nordic Vacation Center at 39 Lapland Lake Rd. in Northville, offers just that. Owned by retired cross country Olympian, Olavi Hirvonen, 84, and his wife Ann, the area contains hilly and flat trails, ice skating and a scenic area for nature lovers.
“I named the area Lapland Lake because it reminded me of northern Finland where I grew up,” explained Olavi. “I purchased the area 36 years ago, and I paved trails and made the terrain pristine ever since. I still cross country ski on the land at my age, and I enjoy it thoroughly.”
Olavi explained that the center is for families and offers lodging in cottages and a restaurant on the property for visitors who want to stay a while. Cross country skiing and ice skating lessons are available.
The center offers an escape from loud cars and a glimpse into nature and that is Ann’s favorite aspect of the area. “I’ve lived here over three decades, and I never get tired of the forest, streams and lake especially during the winter. I like the fact that there are no motors to disturb the sounds of nature while you’re skiing or ice skating.”
If you plan to stay overnight, the cottages don’t offer Wi-Fi, but Ann explained that cell phones and computers would take away from what the area is meant to do.
“It’s a refuge from technology. When visitors go to their cottage, they find themselves talking about their adventures and forgetting about the Internet,” said Ann.
For details, call 518-863-4974. The website is www.laplandlake.com.
For those who want to visit a castle-like resort, Mohonk Mountain House at 1000 Mountain Rest Rd. in New Paltz offers ice skating, snowshoeing, snow tubing, cross country skiing and ice climbing, as well as a spa and heated pool for visitors.
The area includes 30 miles of groomed trails surrounded by cliffs and a lake. Outdoor activities are weather-permitting, and ice skating and skiing lessons are available.
Nina Smiley, director of marketing, loves the timeless beauty of the area. “The outdoor area is a winter wonderland, and we have ice skating in a glass pavilion with a 39-foot tall fireplace, which I continuously find stunning,” she said.
The resort also offers ice climbing on the cliffs nearby using mountaineering boots, ice tools, a helmet, harness and ropes that can be rented. Climbers will be escorted by an authorized guide from Alpine Endeavors to an ice climbing destination.
For details, call 845-765-3286. The website is www.mohonk.com.
Belleayre Mountain Ski Center at 81 Galli Curci Rd. in Highmount, offers alpine skiing (downhill), snowboarding, snowshoeing and cross country skiing within the Catskill Mountains.
With a complete staff that can provide private lessons and group lessons for alpine skiing and snowboarding, Belleayre Mountain Ski Center has 55 trails, parks and eight lifts for families, professional skiers and beginners.
Joe McCracken, director of marketing, believes that Belleayre is the perfect winter destination for first-timers and those with winter recreation experience.
“It’s beautiful, has many different options for winter sports for everyone and the whole area is an adventure,” said McCracken. “It’s also in the local community and there are a variety of shops, small businesses and lodging.”
For details, call 845-254-5600 or visit www.belleayre.com.