You’re Not a Hedgehog

So don’t try to sleep your way through cold weather. Play outside instead.

If a traditional Finger Lakes winter makes you want to hibernate, just remember: unlike the adorable round creatures whose brown fat cells generate heat when they sleep, adult humans must be active to stay warm in the cold.

Shivering, shoveling and scraping snow are not the only forms of heat-generating exercise, and they’re not nearly as fun as skating, skiing and showshoeing. Evidently, a lot of people have already figured that out. SnowSports Industries America, the trade group of the $3.3 billion-dollar snow sports retail market, reports that sales were up 5 percent in units sold, and 7 percent in dollars sold for all equipment, apparel and accessories last year compared to the year before.

So, obviously, if you stay in and sleep this winter, you’ll miss all the fun outside. We have just a few cold and snowy months a year, people, so take advantage of the heat- and fun-generating activities available in the Finger Lakes.

Big Foot
“Snowshoeing is the best bang-for-your buck, fat-burning workout in winter,” according to Ray Browning, Ph.D, associate professor at the University of Colorado’s Heath Science Center. “It’s an exceptional way to achieve cardiovascular fitness, expend energy and reduce your chance of heart disease. Plus, it’s low-cost, easily mastered and fun.”

If you’d like to try it, L.L. Bean is offering snowshoeing discovery classes in three Finger Lakes locations this winter. Classes are available every week through March 15 in Cazenovia, Victor and Fayetteville. Bean’s experienced instructors demonstrate and teach you the basics, then lead you on a trek through a local park. The fee for the course is $20, and covers all gear, equipment and instruction. For more information and to reserve your spot, visit llbean.com and search “snowshoeing.”

Skating and Hooping
Low-impact ice skating is easy on the joints and helps to improve balance and coordination. It also develops the small stabilizing muscles around your hips, knees and ankles; muscles that don’t normally get a workout day to day. Strengthening them can help you improve in other activities like running, skiing and yoga.

Last year’s record cold caused some of the Finger Lakes to freeze solid for the first time in decades. The unusually thick ice on Keuka Lake attracted skaters, hikers, fishermen and a fire hooper (as in hula hoop – flaming). “When the Farmer’s Almanac predicted that the winter would be absolutely frigid, I solidified plans to fire hoop on the ice,” said Jackie Nixon, a hooper from Hammondsport. “Sliding around added a real challenge.”

Skating and performing other activities on lake ice is not normally recommended – it’s just not safe. Instead, take advantage of the area’s 40-plus skating facilities that range from indoor arenas like the Canandaigua Civic Center, to outdoor ponds like Hoopes Park (get it?) in Auburn.

When it’s All Downhill
ISKINY.com, the website of the New York Alpine Ski Association, is a great resource for people who ski our region’s slopes. The consumer-friendly, mobile-ready site presents up-to-date mountain conditions, events information and ski deals. On it you can also read about all the improvements made to Finger Lakes-area ski resorts for the 2014-2015 season. Here are just a few.

• Only three years after adding a ropes course, zip lines, a mountain biking park, alpine coaster and tubing center, Greek Peak Resort in Cortland (greekpeak.net) spent more than a half-million dollars to improve its snowmaking. What’s more, enhancements made recently to its Vision Express lift portends speedier trips to the top of the mountain this year

Bristol Mountain Ski Resort in Canandaigua (bristolmountain.com) offers new rail gardens on the Galaxy trail and at the midpoint between the Rocket and Meteor runs. “Orion’s Belt will have a boarder/skier cross setup that is low-key,” says its Facebook wall. For snow making, six new fan guns were added.

Syracuse-area Labrador (labradormtn.com) and Song Mountain (songmountain.com) have merged. A 2014-2015 season’s pass purchased for either mountain can be used at both.

Brantling (brantling.com) in Sodus, has entirely renovated its restroom facilities for the new season. The novice terrain of this family ski park is a good place to learn to ski and snowboard.

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No Sweat
Cross-country skiing is highly aerobic so it generates a lot of body heat. That’s why you should dress in layers (I know you know this, but still.) The goal is to protect your body from the cold and wet while allowing your sweat to quickly ventilate away. Here, REI offers some tips for layering.

Outer
Wear a soft shell jacket with exceptional breathability. Soft shells are tightly woven with a durable water repellent finish. Carry a hard shell jacket in your pack in case of a heavy snowfall or downpour to prevent heavy moisture from penetrating to your skin.

Base
Avoid bulk and keep layers snug-fitting. A lightweight and mid-weight base layer is better than a single heavyweight layer. Not only will it create more “dead air” space to retain warmth, but it will also make shedding layer by layer easier.

Hands
Use the same base layer/insulating layer/shell layer combination as you would for your body. As it gets warmer or colder, simply remove or add layers.

Feet
Wear liner socks (your base) under wool or synthetic socks (your insulating layer), instead of one layer of heavy socks. Your ski boots are the shell layer. Wear gaiters to prevent snow from sneaking down the tops of your boots.

Cross-country skiing is popular in the Finger Lakes because there are so many state parks and forests, wildlife management areas, nature centers and more in which you can ski for free. The free trails are often more quiet and have fewer visitors than dedicated ski areas, but they also don’t come with amenities like trail grooming and rentals. Local ski organizations like the Rochester Nordic Ski Club (rochesternordic.org) may be able to point you in the right direction.


by Tina Manzer
photos by Kristian S. Reynolds