Temperatures are falling in the Finger Lakes, but the opportunities for family fun are rising! When we think of lakes we usually conjure images of summer fun, but thanks to the hills that cradle those lakes, the winter season offers another playground of a different kind full of options to get the family outdoors and active.
This is the “5-S” time of year, and every “S” is related to the big “S” word, SNOW. I bet you’re wondering what “5-S” means. Plain and simple, it’s this, thanks to the SNOW your family can enjoy Snowshoeing, Skiing (both downhill and cross country), Sledding, Skating and Snowmobiling. Every one of these winter activities will get you out in the fresh air. With the exception of snowmobiling, they’ll also get your heart pumping, and here in the Finger Lakes we like it if your heart is pumping with excitement and pleasure.
Probably my winter experiences with family are similar to the kinds of memories many people are craving in this crazy fast-paced, technology-driven world. I hope by me sharing my memories you’ll see the opportunities just waiting for your family.
The first “S” is for skating. I was one of the lucky ones who grew up on a farm, and our family had a pond just down the road from the barn. We couldn’t wait for the cold weather to freeze the pond so we could lace up the skates and hit the ice. There were five of us kids, and if we had friends, relatives or neighbors there, too, that ice was busy with races, hockey games, fancy figure skating (well, as fancy as farm kids without lessons can get – I did learn to skate backwards pretty fast and could kind of spin, although I’m sure it wasn’t quite as graceful in reality as it was in my mind), and we’d set up obstacles to jump over and skate around just for an extra challenge. (My Insider’s tip for those who don’t have access to a pond: The Canandaigua Civic Center and Geneva Recreation Complex have open skating and equipment rental.)
The next “S” is for sledding. When we were kids, we took to the hills as soon as a few inches of snow covered the ground. I can remember careening down the hills on the old wooden sleds with metal runners, sometimes sitting up and steering with our feet, and other times lying on our stomachs and steering with our hands. We had cousins with a toboggan, and it was always a challenge to see how many of us could fit on it at one time. The air was filled with laughs and giggles when we’d tumble off into big snowy heaps at the bottom of the hill. When my husband and I had kids, we enjoyed great family fun every year by going to nearby hills at schools and sledding as a family. (My Insider sledding tip: Mertensia Park in Farmington and Dryer Road Park in Victor are popular family-friendly sledding venues.)
“S” to many people stands for skiing. The idea of skiing always fascinated me, but I never had the opportunity to try it until I was an adult. I discovered cross country skiing and realized it was much more fun to exercise that way than in a gym! My son snowboards, so he was thrilled when we moved to this area and he realized how close we lived to Bristol Mountain which boasts the highest vertical drop this side of the Rockies. It’s every daredevil’s dream!
Any place you can cross country ski would also be the perfect place for snow-shoeing. My husband and I are hoping to get snowshoes in the future because we own 33 acres of land that invites snowshoeing. (My insider tip: Bristol Mountain offers downhill skiing and snowboarding as well as plenty of trails for cross country skiing. You can also get lessons and rent equipment there. If you want to stay away from the steep terrain, Ontario County Pathways, Victor Parks and Rec, Cumming Nature Center and Harriet Hollister Park are great options.)
The final “S” is a nod to snowmobiling. Our family of seven owned one snowmobile when we were kids, but we had hours and hours of fun riding through the snow-covered fields. It was fun to bundle up and get out there in the brisk air. There are opportunities for snowmobiling in Ontario County thanks to a couple of local clubs. The Hill and Valley Riders are a snowmobile club based in Honeoye. This group maintains over one hundred miles of snowmobile trails. These trails run through the Honeoye, Canadice and Naples area. One other group, based in the Canandaigua area is the Finger Lakes Snowmobile Club. This group’s website has a map of trails available for snowmobiling. Unlike the other family-friendly winter sports, in this area it’s unlikely you can rent snowmobiling equipment. For those who already own a snowmobile and are looking for a place to ride, it’s good to know you do have places to take your families to enjoy this activity. (My Insiders tip: Check out their websites. fingerlakessnowmobileclub.org and legacy.hillandvalleyriders.com,