Doctor’s Orders: Cross-Country Skiing

Practice is known for its numerous health benefits. WNY abounds with options for the sport

By Catherine Miller

No doubt about it — winter has finally arrived. Why not embrace the season by doing some cross-country skiing?

Cross-country skiing has long been known for its numerous health benefits, and in Buffalo and the surrounding area we have some of the most ideal places to partake in this outdoor fun.

Differing from its downhill cousin, cross-country skiing, often called Nordic skiing, straps just the frontal portion of your boot to the ski. This allows you to glide and propel yourself across a snowy trail using both leg and arm movements with your skis and poles.

If you haven’t tried it, you don’t know what you are missing.

Don’t own skis? Don’t let that stop you. There are plenty of area parks and shops that will rent cross-country ski packages for the day.

Renting is a great way to try cross-country skiing without making the monetary commitment the first time you trek outdoors. Before you head to any given park, you can stop at Campus Wheel Works on Elmwood Avenue in Buffalo. There you can get a full-day ski rental, complete with boots and poles, for $25. The only decision then is how far you want to travel to access trails.

Reinstein Woods in Depew offers ski rental for $8 per day at its facility. There, you will find over 200 acres to explore. Stay on the trails to avoid the ponds and wetlands and you will find yourself amidst deer, fox and other winter animals enjoying the day alongside your path. You will almost forget you are tucked inside a suburban setting.

Holiday Valley in Ellicottville has long been known for its downhill skiing. It is also home to wonderful cross-country trails, running at the base of its slopes and along its golf course. Cross-country ski rental packages are available for $18 per day and, if you are interested, you can even grab a lesson.

Heading just east of East Aurora you will find that Byrncliff Resort is a great place to take to the wintery trails. With over 12 miles of groomed trails, you will find five miles of ski-accessible pathways lighted in the evening to enjoy nighttime skiing.

Byrncliff offers cross-country ski rentals as well as lessons, but note there is a fee for trail admission. Season passes are available for those wanting to make a habit of their experience here.

While you will need to bring your skis, the Erie County Forest in East Concord is not to be missed if you are trekking your way across the local winter wilderness.

With several miles of marked and unmarked trails, this is a perfect place to go exploring. Once done, warm up in one of their warm-up huts that include a woodstove.

Explore wonders of nature

Wish to stay closer to the city? Tifft Nature Preserve is just a short drive off Route 5 and if you bring your skis, you can discover woodland creatures and fowl right in your own back yard. With over five miles of trails, this urban sanctuary is one of a kind, and convenient for a quick trip. If you forget the skis, snowshoes can be rented on site.

Bring your own skis and check out the great county parks in our area including Akron Falls, Como Lake, Sprague Brook and my favorite, Chestnut Ridge Park. Places for cross-country skiing are virtually limitless in Western New York, ranging as close as your nearest Olmstead Park or out to the Allegany and Letchworth regions. While some of their trails are not groomed and rentals are unavailable on site, you will find varying wildlife and scenic beauty in each park.

If you are lucky, you may come across a few trails that were blazed by skiers that came before you.

Interested in skiing in a group? Buffalo Nordic Ski Club treks out twice a week in our area and welcomes new members.

“Skiing in our area is great,” said James Klein, president of the ski club, noting that each area has its own special traits.

“Allegany is one of the most beautiful areas. Byrncliff Resort has some of the best trails for beginners. At Evangola State Park, you can actually ski on top of the lake if the conditions are right, and view ice volcanoes beneath the surface of the ice.”

Best Cross-Country Destinations

• Tifft Nature Preserve: 1200 Fuhrmann Blvd., Buffalo

• Como Lake: 2220 Como Park Blvd., Lancaster

• Reinstein Woods: 93 Honorine Drive, Depew

• Akron Falls, 44 Parkview Drive, Akron

• Chestnut Ridge Park: 6121 Chestnut Ridge Road, Orchard Park

• Sprague Brook Park: 9674 Foote Road, Glenwood

• Erie County Forest: Genesee Road, East Concord

• Byrncliff Resort: 2357 Humphrey Road, Varysburg

• Holiday Valley: 6557 Holiday Valley Road, Ellicottville