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Let it Snow

While the fainter-of-heart are working on their tans in warmer climes, warm-blooded Saratogians relish the chance to work off holiday excesses by playing in the snow—and we get worked up
when there isn’t enough of it.

Everybody wants snow for Winterfest (February 2–4 this year) in the Saratoga Spa State Park.
The schedule includes one of the largest 5K snowshoe races in the Northeast, as well as ice
skating and games and tie-in events like the popular Chowderfest competition. Ask for details
at 518-587-3241.

Snowshoers and cross-country skiers use the state park all winter long. It offers twelve miles of machine-packed trails over varied terrain, from the relatively benign golf course to a couple of cheap-thrill slopes down into the lower picnic area. The natural scenery is gorgeous—woods, streams, mostly gentle hills, mineral springs—and the social scene is lively, especially near the warming hut off the Avenue of the Pines.

To enjoy a quieter hour or two with Mother Nature, head to the Wilton Wildlife Preserve and Park, on Scout Road near exit 16 of the Northway (I-87). The park has 850 protected acres that are
home to seventy species of mammals, reptiles, and amphibians. Four miles of groomed trails are open for classic cross-country, skate-skiing, and snowshoeing, and a separate section across the road also allows hiking and leashed dog walking. Trails range from level to moderately hilly. Check for trail conditions. On February 16 the park is hosting an
evening “owl prowl,” followed the next day by a championship-qualifier snowshoe race.

A bit farther up the Northway, off exit 17, is Moreau Lake State Park, with more challenging cross-country skiing on upland rocky ridges as well as flatter areas around the lake and on unplowed campground roads. Trails are skier-tracked only, so back-country skis are recommended after a significant new snow. A couple of down-trails here are exhilarating, and wildlife sightings might include deer, turkeys, raccoons, owls, and pileated woodpeckers. There is also snowshoe rental, ice-skating, and ice-fishing for pickerel and trout.

The Ndakinna Education Center just west of Saratoga offers programs on wilderness skills, nature study, and Adirondack and native culture year-round. Coming up for adults is a winter shelter and firemaking workshop on February 10, and for kids a wilderness and storytelling day camp, February 20–23, or a “winter survival challenge” day camp, February 22 –23. Information is at 518-583-9958 or

With or without snow, Saratoga’s popular Dance Flurry is always a great way to get some winter exercise. Imagine 4,000 people enjoying contra, swing, Latin, zydeco, waltz, Texas two-step, Irish step, salsa, and folk dances from around the world, with live music by 600 performers—it’s a flurry of activity indeed. This year’s twentieth annual event is February 16–18 at the Saratoga Hotel and the adjacent City Center; see

Of course, some folks don’t care much for snow flurries or dance flurries. That’s OK. You can always just relax in front of a fire and listen to music—say, for example, jazz pianist Cole Broderick’s Winter in Saratoga. —KG