When Winter Comes A-Callin'

Horseback Riding, Horse-Drawn Sleigh Rides, Ice Climbing, & Cross-Country Skiing
By Stefani Jackenthal
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Couple cross-country skiing
#1: Cross-Country Skiing in Tugg Hill (Erik Isakson/Tetra/Getty)

3. Horseback Riding and Horse-Drawn Sleigh Rides in Keesville (The Adirondacks)
Whether snuggling on a romantic horse-drawn sleigh ride under a starlit winter sky or trotting a mare along snow-dusted trails in the fragrant woodland forest, Ausable Chasm's Adirondack Equine Center is the place to be. Old hands in the horse-biz, they staff skilled guides and raise gentle, well-cared-for horses. Offering group and private tours for novice to expert equestrians year-round, rides gallop through lush evergreen forests with red bark cedars, glistening lakes, and gurgling rivers near Ausable Chasm, the oldest and largest natural attraction in the region (often called "the Grand Canyon of the East"). All outings begin with a 15-minute orientation, reviewing safety, steering, and, most importantly, stopping. There are miniature horses for little ones and plus-size horses for bigger riders. The ranch, open year-round, is located in woodland forest near Saranac Lake, about 12 miles south of Plattsburgh. Horse-drawn sleigh rides in winter months and wagon rides in spring and summer. Reservations are requested.
Honorable Mention: Rocking Horse Ranch Resort in Highland (The Hudson Valley)

2. Ice Climbing in Keene (The Adirondacks)
When ice covers the open faces of the Adirondacks' Anorthosite (granitic rock that formed over one billion years ago), the six-million-acre park transforms into an ice climber's paradise. Demanding Grade 5 ice climbs like Positive Thinking, known for its sheer steepness and scary thin ice, attracts some of the best international climbers, but regardless of your skill level, hook up with Alpine Adventures , and you're set. This small, family-owned climbing company is run by career mountain guides Karen and R.L. Stolz, offering a full range of guiding services and instructional courses.

Their shop is situated in the High Peaks region, close to some of the most rugged terrain in the park. Their outings typically target nearly 40 major roadside cliffs and over 80 minor and remote cliffs, most within a short hike from the car. Participants can sign up for private instruction or choose from one-, two-, or five-day ice-climbing courses for novice, intermediate, and advanced abilities from December through March
Honorable Mention: The Shawangunks in New Paltz (The Hudson Valley) with Eastern Mountain Sports Climbing School

1. Cross-Country Skiing and Snowshoeing in Tugg Hill (The Adirondacks)
Wax up and glide through the Adirondacks' remote wilderness, where the bone-white trails are lined with pine trees and the stillness is sporadically disturbed by a bunny or white-tailed deer. The trails at Tugg Hill Plateau—the snowiest place east of the Rockies, with an average of over 250 inches annually—carve through 2,100 miles of densely packed forestland. There are nearly 25 groomed and ungroomed trails, while snowshoers can hop off-trail and stomp through fields and slopes covered in powder, exploring clusters of balsam fir, black spruce, crusty bark sugar maples, and hidden gorges.

For gear rental and instruction, visit Salmon Hills Adventure Center in Redfield. The center also has webs of marked beginner-to-expert cross-country ski trails, and a café that serves intoxicating sustenance like chocolate chip pancakes, meatball sandwiches, and hot chocolate. A trail day pass at the center runs $5 to 10 for juniors and $7 to 15 for adults.
Honorable Mention: Minnewaska State Park Preserve in New Paltz (The Hudson Valley)

Published: 9 Feb 2009 | Last Updated: 31 Aug 2011
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication
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