By Alicia Dziak
Snowshoeing is a winter sport anyone can do. Snowshoes fit right over regular boots, and make hiking through the winter woods a breeze.
The region offers an abundance of snowshoeing opportunities. If you want to stay local, both ski resorts are a great place to start.
Holiday Valley boasts trails along the ridgeline, open until 3 p.m. daily, as well as ones by the golf course. To make it easy on yourself, you can buy a two-ride ticket for the Mardi Gras, Cindy’s or Tannenbaum lifts for $12. You can either ride the Mardi Gras or Tannenbaum chair back down, or head down one of the easier trails. The easier trails along the golf course at the base of the mountain are open during daylight hours and there are solar lights for a nighttime ski on the golf course. Snowshoeing is also available on the lower slopes and on the golf course, but be sure to stay to the side of the cross-country tracks. Snowshoes are available to rent from the High Performance Shop for $18 for eight hours. HoliMont also boasts unique opportunities for snowshoeing. Snowshoes can be rented at their Gear Up shop; hours are 9 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.
Want to head off the beaten path, but need the right gear? City Garage, at 5 Monroe Street, offers Atlas Snowshoe rentals for $20 a day. For info, call (716) 699-2054.
Adventure Bound, at 16 Washington Street in Ellicottville, is offering a new snowshoe rental program for $19.99 per day with poles, or $15.99 without poles., with new MSR snowshoes and poles in their rental fleet, and are even able to accommodate the younger set. If you fall in love with the snowshoe experience, you can apply the price of your rental to the purchase of a brand new pair of snowshoes. For info, call (716) 217-4047.
Once you have your snowshoes in hand, you can head out of town and explore even more. Just a short drive south of Ellicottville, you’ll find Allegany State Park, New York’s largest state park sprawling 65,000 acres.
There you will find miles of trails, including Bear Paw, a dedicated snowshoeing trail.
If you’re looking for a great excuse to get there, join in one of their weekly Sunset Treks, eveny Monday at 4:30 p.m. through the end of February. Each week, a park naturalist will lead interpretive snowshoe treks, weather depending, or hikes along the summit ridgeline on Bear Paw Trail. Witness a breath taking winter sunset at Stone Tower, then make your way back to the Summit Warming Hut for an after-trek social. The 2.3 mile trail is easy to moderate with some slight elevation changes. Be sure to dress for the weather, bring a flashlight, snack and sense of adventure! Remaining trek dates include Jan. 23 and 30, and Feb. 6, 13, 20 and 27. For more information, contact the Environmental Education/Recreation Department at (716) 354-9101 ext. 236.
Check out Portville’s Pfeiffer Nature Center, where miles of open-access hiking trails, a historic American Chestnut log cabin, great birding areas, and more await. For info, visit www.pfeiffernaturecenter.org.
Head north up Route 240 from Ellicottville to Sprague Brook Park, which offers snowshoe trekking daily from 7 a.m. to dusk. Miles of trails on varying terrain offer something for all abilities. For info, call (716) 858-8513.
Need to satisfy your competitive side? Snowshoers can take part in several snowshoe races at Kissing Bridge’s North area this season during the Jackrabbit Race Series. Snowshoers take to the course under the lights around the base of Kissing Bridge’s North area (the North area is closed to skiing on Mondays) during this weekly thrashing of heart-pounding snowshoe action. You can run it, walk it or mix it up as long as you’re on snowshoes. Races begin at 6:30 p.m. Registration opens at 5:30 p.m. , and after each event, the bar and restaurant will be open for snacks, beverages and socializing. Snowshoe rentals will be provided by Gear for Adventure of Hamburg on-site at each event for $10. Pre-register at www.heartrateup.com for the series or come down each night to sign-up at the North Lodge. Cost is $15 per event; these events help support HEART Animal Shelters of WNY. Upcoming races will be held on Jan. 30, Feb. 6 and 13. (If rain-dates are necessary, the series will extend by a week.) For more info, visit www.heartrateup.com.
Snowshoeing is a perfect way to embrace winter. It’s great exercise, loads of fun and an easy way to enjoy the great outdoors!