The sun is shining, a fresh blanket of snow is glittering, and the temperature is just right for a day spent bundled up outside. Upstate New York is truly a winter paradise, with countless miles of cross-country skiing and snowshoeing trails, fat-tire bike routes, alpine ski and snowboarding runs, and ice-skating rinks.
To get the most out of your getaway up north, here’s a guide to all the snow-filled fun these two upstate hamlets have to offer.
In Lake Placid, venues from the 1980 Olympic Winter Games — best known as the site of the epic “Miracle on Ice” game — now double as public facilities for cross-country and downhill skiing, snowboarding, and bobsledding. Visitors can also enjoy 360-degree views of the region from the brand new Skyride, a glass-encased gondola that takes riders to the top of the 120-meter Olympic ski-jumping tower.
At Whiteface Mountain, easily reached from Lake Placid via the Mountain Valley Shuttle (which runs daily December through March), 90 downhill and snowboarding trails stretch over 25 miles and encompass three peaks. The former Olympic site is home to the steepest vertical drop east of the Rocky Mountains. Its summit rising 4,867 feet above sea level. Purchasing advance online lift tickets, lessons, and rentals is currently required, and face masks must be worn (except while actively skiing or dining at one of Whiteface’s many eateries).
Cross-country skiers will be in heaven at Mount Van Hoevenberg, home of the sport’s 1980 Olympic events. More than 50 kilometers of groomed trails — including four kilometers of world championship-rate trails — offer opportunities and challenges for skiers of all skill levels, and a full-service rental shop provides all the equipment needed for a memorable day on the trails.
If you’re more inclined to snowshoe, Mount Van Hoevenberg has that, too (including rentals). The Adriondack terrain, on site, makes constant trail upgrades. All you have to think about is which path you want to experience the picturesque woods at your own pace.
Recommended airport: Lake Placid, New York (LKP)
A couple hours south of Lake Placid is Glens Falls — small in population, but full of arts venues, museums, shopping, and, come winter, an abundance of snow sports. It is charming in every sense of the word and checks all the boxes for a cozy winter retreat.
Explore the snowy landscape in a new way on a fat-tire bike (or simply ‘fat bike’). Named as such because of their wide tires, which provide float and traction on snow, fat bikes offer far more stability than their skinny-tired cousins and are a fun way to cruise through winter without strapping into skis or snowshoes. Rent a bike for a half or full day from Grey Ghost Bicycles, then head down to Saratoga Spa State Park.
There, you’ll find miles of groomed trails perfect for new riders. Also 12 miles of cross-country trails for those who prefer adventuring by foot rather than on wheels.
More ski and snowboarding trails can be found at Cole’s Woods. The trails here are legendary for being the first lighted cross-country ski trails in North America. First opening in December 1971, Cole’s Woods has been a favorite among locals.
For those looking to zig-zag their way downhill via ski, tube, or snowboard, head to West Mountain. At night, all 31 trails will be lit up. The mountain has snowmakers ready to go because Mother Nature doesn’t always provide quite enough fluff. In addition to 126 skiable acres, West Mountain also has a tubing park for a relaxing ride down the mountain. Four- and eight-hour lift tickets are available online in limited quantities. 24-hour advance reservations for tickets, rentals, programs, and lessons are required.
Just 40 miles northwest of Glens Falls is the largest winter playground in New York State: Gore Mountain. Over 42 miles of trails sprawled across 439 acres treats Gore skiers and snowboarders to seven mountain areas. The area includes four peaks, the largest of which boasts a 2,537-foot vertical drop, and 110 trails. In addition to the downhill runs and terrain parks, Gore Mountain’s cross-country trail network includes 11 lighted, groomed loops. Rentals are on offer, and while group lessons are currently on hold, private lessons are available.
Recommended airport: Glens Falls, New York (GFL)
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Featured photo: Regional Office of Sustainable Tourism