Embracing WNY Winters

Winter in Western New York? Bring it ON!

By Nancy Cardillo

Yodeler Lodge at Holiday Valley. Photo provided
Yodeler Lodge at Holiday Valley. Photo provided

Ya know what? Winters in Buffalo can be long, dark, cold and depressing. Let’s face facts: we get a lot of snow around here in our winter months. In fact, according to the National Weather Service, Western New York averages about 85 inches of the white stuff each season, with the highest amounts typically falling in January and February.

That’s good enough reason to hunker down on the couch under Grandma’s afghan, binge watch all those TV shows you’ve been meaning to get to and…gain weight, get depressed and pretty much lose contact with the outside world, right? Wrong!

While there certainly are those who prefer to take down the Christmas tree, undeck the halls and then hibernate like a bear for three or four months, most Western New Yorkers embrace the cold and the snow, finding ways to enjoy themselves as Old Man Winter sets up residence. After all, we are a hardy bunch. And, as proof, there are just as many fun outdoor activities happening in our backyard during the winter as there are during the good, er…warm seasons.

Love the idea of strapping on some thin boards, grabbing a couple skinny poles and racing down a mountain at, like, 65 miles an hour? There are plenty of places nearby to enjoy downhill skiing, such as Kissing Bridge; Holiday Valley; Holimont or Peek’n Peak, all of which fire up the snow machines as soon as the temperatures drop. A full day on the slopes can be exhilarating, especially when you’re with good friends. Ever skied in the evening when there’s a full moon? It’s like skiing on the moon! And if you’re really feeling adventurous, these places also offer great snowboarding trails.

If the idea of zooming down a mountain doesn’t appeal to you, there’s always cross-country skiing. Here, you rely on your own power to move through snow-covered trails. It’s great exercise and also gives you a much better opportunity to enjoy the beauty that is nature in the winter. Most ski resorts also offer cross-country skiing, but you can also just grab your skis (or rent some) and head to any of Erie County’s parks, such as Chestnut Ridge; Delaware Park; Sprague Brook or Como Lake. Never tried cross-country skiing? Buffalo Nordic Ski Club offers clinics, lessons and workshops.

‘Winter: time to hunker down on the couch under grandma’s afghan, binge-watch all those TV shows you’ve been meaning to get to and…gain weight, get depressed and pretty much lose contact with the outside world, right? Wrong!’

They say if you can walk, you can snowshoe. After all, snowshoeing has been around for thousands of years, and is a great way to move quickly through deep snow. Snowshoeing has become very popular in our area — it’s a great form of exercise (you’ll be surprised at how quickly you warm up!) and it’s the perfect way to relax and enjoy your surroundings as you work those muscles. There are plenty of designated trails to explore, including Tifft Nature Preserve; the Erie County Forest; Beaver Meadow and Bond Lake Park. Most will rent you snowshoes, too.

Who doesn’t remember those great snow days of youth, when schools shut down and sledding (or tubing) was at its best! And while any decent snow-covered hill will do, you can also relive your childhood at Akron Falls Park; Beaver Island State Park; Holiday Valley or the infamous sledding hill at Chestnut Ridge Park.

Here’s another great (and less costly) way to celebrate winter: ice skating. Again, no shortage of options here, both indoors and outdoors! Buy or rent some skates and head to Rotary Rink, Riverworks or the Ice at Canalside in downtown Buffalo, the Healthy Zone Rink in East Aurora or the Erie County Parks. If you’d rather skate in indoor comfort, check out the Northtown Center in Amherst, HarborCenter in downtown Buffalo or the North Buffalo Ice Rinks.

 Downtown Buffalo. Photo courtesy of Buffalo Place, Inc.
Downtown Buffalo. Photo courtesy of Buffalo Place, Inc.

One of the hottest winter activities these days is ice biking. Yep, that’s right. Biking. In the winter. On ice. It’s a great way to still enjoy the ice if you’re not so steady on ice skates. You can rent ice bikes exclusively at Canalside, and pedal and steer your way around the ice to your heart’s delight, with the city skyline and waterfront as your backdrops.

And, speaking of pedaling…how about taking a pedal tour of Buffalo this winter? Buffalo Pedal Tours offers special winter discounts through March. The pedaling will keep you and your friends warm (as will the stops at some of the city’s favorite taverns) as you see Buffalo from a unique vantage point.

How about an icy alternative to shuffleboard? Curling has also seen a bump in popularity here in Western New York. So much so that Buffalo Curling Club has moved into the former Buffalo China Factory to offer the area’s only indoor curling facility. They’ll teach you how to play (hint: are you good with a broom?), rent you whatever equipment you need and ensure a few hours of friendly competition on the ice.

But you don’t necessarily need expensive equipment or advance planning and you don’t need to travel far to embrace our winters. Simply taking a walk around your neighborhood during a soft snowfall or heading down to the marina to look for snowy owls can be very enjoyable. The bottom line is: Buffalo enjoys four seasons and each one  including winter!  Has something special to offer. Don’t miss it!