How to Enjoy Winter in Central New York
When the snow starts falling, Oneida County comes to life. Residents come out in droves, excited to break out their skis and rev up their snowmobiles. It’s what they’ve been waiting for all year long. Here are some suggestions to help you get the most out of a Central New York winter.
SKIING, SNOWTUBING & SNOWSHOEING
Downhill skiers and snowboarders at all skill levels, from beginner to expert, will find groomed trails that are right for them. A Tubing Park with six lanes is also on-site—a tube is provided with admission. Ski and snowboard lessons are available, as are equipment rentals. Stay updated on the trails with the online Daily Conditions Report. If you’re more of an indoor snow-bunny, the lodge at Woods Valley hosts a great live music line-up on weekends. Non-skiers are welcome (no cover charge) to enjoy the show and order from their full menu and bar.
9100 State Route 46, Westernville, NY
Val Bialas Ski Area
Named after the Olympic speed-skater from Utica, this recreation center offers an array of winter activities within Utica’s public park system. Several downhill trails are open for skiing and snowboarding. Groomed cross-country trails, tubing lanes, and ice skating are also available. Afterwards, warm yourself up by the roaring fire in the ski chalet.
210 Memorial Parkway, Utica, NY
For cross-country aficionados, you can’t beat this 31-mile trail system offering a variety of ski experiences. Glide along the Erie Canal, or pass through a hemlock forest, dipping down into a valley, and then winding your way along a brook. Whichever route you choose, you’ll get stunning views and pristinely maintained trails (keep an eye on trail conditions here). Equipment rentals are not available at BREIA. They’ll point you to ski and snowshoe rentals at the Boonville Search and Rescue Hut. Trails are open during daylight hours and admission is free.
Additional winter activities in the region include: Tubing at Taberg Tower, cross-country skiing on the 2.5-mile Trenton Greenbelt Trails, and snowshoeing your way across the Utica Zoo. Rentals are available at the zoo for a fee in addition to admission, or you can bring your own. Winter weather can be unpredictable, so be sure to always call ahead for up-to-date conditions.
Ice skating is a long-standing winter tradition in Central New York and we have no shortage of venues. People have been gracing the rink at Kennedy Arena since 1964. Other local ice rinks that have public skating hours include Clinton Arena, New Hartford Rec Center Ice Rink, and Whitestown Community Center and Ice Rink. Call ahead or check the schedule for each facility. Hours for public skating vary, as the venues are also home to youth hockey leagues and figure skating clubs. Note that Oneida County’s professional ice hockey team, the Utica Comets, plays their home games at the Adirondack Bank Center at the Utica Memorial Auditorium.
Oneida County has the largest number of snowmobile club members in New York. Twelve clubs are dedicated to maintaining the hundreds of miles of trails—add to that the abundant natural snowfall in the region and you have a top snowmobiling destination. Scenic trails at Verona Beach and Delta Lake State Parks, or along the Old Erie Canal Trail are just some of the paths that make up the trail system. The Oneida County Area Snowmobile Association encourages membership in one of the 12 clubs in the county to help keep the trails maintained. Check here for a list of local clubs, trail locations, and trail conditions.
Come and watch a strategizing game where players slide stones on a sheet of ice. Then, stay to learn more about the fascinating history of the Utica Curling Club. Curling was brought to Central New York by Scotch and English immigrants---the earliest recorded game was played in Clark Mills in 1832. The Utica Curling Club then formed in 1868, with games originally played on a frozen creek near Rutger Street in Utica. Today, the club is 300 members strong and growing. If you want to know more about the sport, Curling School teaches the basic skills of the game. There is also a youth program and several other opportunities for the public to get involved.