by Ed Healy

xcountryskiingIn the popular imagination Buffalo is synonymous with snow. And while this may or may not be justified (we usually lose the annual New York State Golden Snowball Award  to Syracuse) the fact remains that Western New York offers visitors a wealth of winter fun. Pond hockey, tubing, sledding, downhill skiing, snowshoeing, cross country skiing, and ice fishing are among the many outdoor activities to be found in our corner of the Great White North.

Although I occasionally hit the slopes at Kissing Bridge and Holiday Valley, I spend many winter weekends either cross-country skiing or snowshoeing. Cross-country skiing is possibly the most fun you’ll ever have doing a really strenuous cardio workout and snowshoeing is a fantastic way to take an invigorating winter walk in the woods. If you’re tired of the treadmill, bored with the elliptical or so over the stationary bike, try one of these great winter workouts.

The Buffalo Niagara region has a wealth of great places to both cross country ski and snowshoe. Some of my favorites include the Knox Farm State Park in East Aurora, Chestnut Ridge Park in Orchard Park, Tifft Nature Preserve  on the Buffalo waterfront, and Sprague Brook Park in Colden, but my personal favorite is Beaver Meadow Audubon Center in North Java (a relatively easy 45-minute drive from Buffalo). The Buffalo Audubon Society has operated this 324-acre nature preserve for more than 50 years. It offers public access to an 8-mile network of trails that feature a variety of beautiful landscapes and scenic views. A visit to Beaver Meadow is always an uplifting experience. I have never left this gorgeous piece of property not feeling better than when I arrived.

Snowshoe rentals are available at the Visitors Center, Tuesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sundays from 1-5 p.m. The Visitors Center is closed on Mondays.