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January Means Outdoor Fun!

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By Alicia Dziak

Don’t hide indoors this January. With numerous winter adventures calling, take your pick of fun to be had!

Why not start on Jan. 1 with a New Year’s Day hike? Head to Allegany State Park for their First Day Hike, running from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. This self-guided hike will take place in the Summit Area of the Red House side of the park. The off-trail hike, approximately two miles in length and easy to moderate in intensity, begins at the Summit Warming Hut, follows scenic ridgeline to Stone Tower, then loops back to the Warming Hut. Interpretive points of interest can be found along the way. Come listen to birds, feel the warmth of the sun or the coldness of the snow. After the hike, swing back in the warming hut for a New Year’s Social with chili and warm beverages provided by the Friends of Allegany State Park. For more information, contact the Environmental Education/Recreation Department at (716) 354-9101 ext. 232.

If you can’t make it that day, any day in January is a great time to visit ASP. With miles of trails for cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and snowmobiling, as well as two lakes for ice fishing, dozens of heated cabins, a full service restaurant and plenty of other winter fun opps, ASP is a great wintertime destination.

Skiers and snowboarders—now’s the time to get out on those slopes! Kissing Bridge is open for the season. Under new management and boasting new features like a magic carpet on the beginner hill, more snowmaking and a new dropoff area, KB is waiting to be rediscovered this season. Visit www.kbski for info.

Ellicottville’s two resorts are also open for the season. Holiday Valley offers dozens of trails, three lodges and fun for all. Visit www.holidayvalley.com for more info,

HoliMont is open to its members on weekends, and open to the public Monday through Friday. For more info, visit www.holimont.com.

Emery Park in South Wales offers a T-bar for downhill fun, operating from 11 a.m.- 7 p.m. on weekends and holidays, and from 4 to 8 p.m. on Mondays, Thursdays and Fridays (weather permitting).

If you’ve never learned a snowsport, but have always wanted to, now’s the time. January is National Learn a Snowsport month, and area resorts are offering special packages all month long.

On Jan. 6, be a part of breaking a Guinness world record by taking a free Learn to Ski or Learn to Snowboard Lesson at Holiday Valley at 1 p.m. Holiday Valley is joining with resorts across the country to introduce the great sports of skiing and riding to as many people as possible. Reservations required by calling (716) 699-3505. Your lesson includes rental equipment, a first timer lesson and a beginner’s area lift ticket. Available to anyone age 6 or older.

Take part in the “Your Turn” Women’s Ski Clinic at Holiday Valley Jan. 26 and 27. Led by widely-acclaimed coach, instructor and ski racer, Lisa Densmore Ballard, and assisted by several of Holiday Valley’s finest women instructors, this clinic will include talks about ski equipment and proper boot fitting, meals, skiing, video analysis, demo equipment and door prizes. It’s designed for intermediate to advanced-level skiers. Tor register and for more info, visit www.holidayvalley.com.

Jan. 19 is the I SKI NY Discover NY Ski Day, offering skiers and riders the chance to enjoy ski areas across New York State for as little as $12 per lift ticket. Learn to ski or ride packages are available as part of the event, starting at $25 at participating ski areas. This day celebrates all things New York skiing and snowboarding and lets you enjoy deals that  you can’t miss. If you or someone you know is new to skiing or snowboarding – never fear. This day also includes learn to ski and snowboard offers that will make learning this fun new sport a no-brainer.  Put this day on your calendar!

For more information, participating resorts and to get your Discover NY Ski Day Ticket or Learn To Ski or Ride package, visit the Discover NY Ski Day Page at www.iskiny.com.

With more than 50 downhill ski centers, New York has more ski areas than any other state in the nation. Plus, continual improvements in snowmaking, teaching and terrains help maintain the Empire State’s ranking among the nation’s most popular downhill destinations.

If you prefer a different kind of downhill, head to Holiday Valley Tubing Company on Route 242, where you can soar down different hi-speed lanes (there are even a couple for groups) and hitch a ride back up. Open Thursdays through Sundays and on holidays, the tubing park also features a concession stand, outdoor fire pit, and ‘Lil Tubers area, and is an absolute blast! For info, visit www.holidayvalley.com.

Don’t underestimate the winter fun you can have at nearby Erie County parks.

If you have your own tube or sled, check out the sledding hill at Sprague Brook, open daily, weather-permitting, from 10 a.m. until dusk. You can explore the park on cross-country skis or snowshoes from 7 a.m. to dusk. There are also designated snowmobile trails.

At Chestnut Ridge Park, winter sports enthusiasts and families can spice up the cold winter months with a variety of snow activities including tobogganing, sledding, snowboarding, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing (ungroomed), hiking, and snowmobiling on designated trails. Toboggan chutes are operated from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on weekends and holidays, and on Fridays from 4 to 8 p.m., weather permitting. The sled hill is open daily from 10 a.m.- 8 p.m. when conditions allow.

In addition to downhill skiing at Emery Park, there are also marked snowmobile trails and a cozy lodge with a fireplace.

Call (716) 858-8513 for winter sports/ activities updates at all county parks.

January is also the perfect time to enjoy outdoor ice skating.

East Aurora’s Healthy Zone outdoor rink offers open skating throughout the winter months. For info, visit www.thinkrink.org/skate.

Head to Buffalo’s Canalside for a winter wonderland of fun on the ice. Go ice skating, try out the Olympic sport of curling or ride the ice bikes. Visit www.canalsidebuffalo.com for info.

Rotary Rink at Fountain Plaza in Buffalo is a free and open-to-the-public outside ice rink in Downtown Buffalo. The rink allows all members of the community to enjoy free ice skating throughout the winter season. Regular hours are as follows: Tuesday – Friday, 11  a.m. to 2 p.m. and 5 to 9 p.m., Saturday 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., Sunday 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. For info, visit www.buffaloplace.com/rotaryrink.

It’s time to embrace winter! January is full of ways to enjoy the great outdoors, WNY-style. Get on your winter gear, get out and get in on the fun!

Photo by Paul Crawford

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