With its glittering lakes, rolling hills and acres of woodlands, Ontario County is a jeweled outdoor playground. While it’s tempting to hibernate inside and scowl at the cold during winter’s snowy weather, wouldn’t you rather spend the season energized, healthy and happy? Make this the year you get outside and get in on the action.
Melissa Knoblauch, partner and community relations manager with Finger Lakes Visitors Connection, shares some insight on where to go and what to do in Ontario County during the winter.
Skiing & Snowboarding
Bristol Mountain Winter Resort boasts 1200 feet of vertical drop, the highest between the Adirondacks and the Rocky Mountains with 138 acres of skiable terrain. The views of the valleys below are beautiful. If you go, you may get lucky and cross paths with a freestyle skiing world champion — six members of the U.S. ski and snowboard team hail from Bristol Mountain Freestyle, the most from any small mountain in the nation. Several are serious contenders for competing at the 2018 Winter Olympics in freestyle moguls and aerials. All make regular visits to their home mountain, so check the Bristol Mountain website for events.
Nordic Skiing and Snowshoeing
Spacious Ontario County has several places where cross-country skiers can find groomed tracks through quiet woodlands while catching beautiful lake views. Cumming Nature Center has 15 miles of groomed tracks and a 3-mile snowshoe loop. Harriet Hollister Spencer Park also offers miles of groomed ski tracks and snowshoe trails. Bristol Mountain has three kilometers on two groomed, lighted loops. These make for beautiful night skiing.
Are you a fair-weathered runner? Challenge yourself to Harriet Hollister’s annual snowshoe run. Bristol, meanwhile, is known for its full moon Nordic events. Rental equipment is available at Cumming Nature Center (Nordic and snowshoes) and Bristol Mountain Nordic Center (Nordic only). Please note: If you are snowshoeing, trail etiquette asks that you do not walk on groomed ski tracks.
Ontario County Park and Ganondagan State Historic Park are also open for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. These trails are not groomed. When tackling ungroomed ski trails, pay attention to your fitness and skill levels. Roots, rocks and terrain along with deep snow are challenging conditions.
Sledding and Snow Tubing
Journey back to your childhood or create lasting family memories by enjoying one of winter’s most classic activities: sledding. Sled, saucer, toboggan or innertube — all will give you the adrenaline rush that comes with speeding down a hill with very little control. Knowing this, choose your spots wisely. Dryer Road Park, maintained for summertime mountain bikers, provides open spaces that are free from trees, fences and roads. Mertensia Park in Farmington is smaller but also quite popular.
Sledding in Ontario County is foot-powered. There are no rope tows to pull you back up the hill. But that’s what makes sledding great exercise and an excellent way to get a dose of fresh winter air while tiring out your kids — and you.
On the ice
Now you can enjoy a winter sport protected from weather. During the colder months, the Geneva Recreation Complex and the Greater Canandaigua Civic Center serve as indoor ice skating rinks. Schedules accommodate figure skating, public skating and hockey. Equipment rentals are available.
Ice fishing has a loyal fan base. When weather permits, you can ice fish on any of Ontario County’s five lakes — Seneca, Canandaigua, Honeoye, Canadice and Hemlock. Thin ice is something to take very seriously so familiarize yourself with safety and protocols. Proper licensing is also required. The New York Department of Conservation has a detailed resource on safety, how-to and regulations:
Ontario County is part of the statewide snowmobile trail system with over 90 miles of marked snowmobile trails. A NYS snowmobile map and app is available for free at NYS Snowmobile Map and App. It is snowmobilers' responsibility to watch out for pedestrians. And like snowshoeing, trail etiquette asks that you stay off groomed ski trails. For more information on snowmobiling, local clubs in Ontario County and help with planning your ride, visit the NYS Snowmobile Association at Snowmobiler.
For more tips on winter fun, head to VisitFingerLakes.com.