When Felix Bernard wrote the ever popular holiday song “Winter Wonderland” in 1934, he very well could have been thinking about the Adirondacks. Beautiful sites? Check. Dreaming by the fire? Check. Snow glistening? Double check. The Adirondacks are a true Winter Wonderland just waiting for you to come explore. What can you experience in the Adirondacks during the winter months? Here are 14 facts about winter in the Adirondacks to give you an idea of where to start:
14 Facts About Winter in the Adirondacks
See the Stars Like Never Before
Take in the night sky like never before at the Adirondack Public Observatory. Its location in Tupper Lake offers viewers a combination of low-light pollution, low humidity, and high altitude, creating nearly ideal conditions for stargazing. The Observatory hosts a variety of public events during the year for those interested in learning about our galaxy. Who knows, maybe you’ll spot a shooting star or catch a glimpse of the northern lights.
Skiing with the Moon
Grab your cross-country skis or your snowshoes and head out to the Tupper Lake Golf Course during the full moon. Throughout the season, the center hosts full moon parties in which enthusiasts can use the moon’s light to find their way as they glide across the trails. Not a skier or snowshoer? Come try it out or take part in the Brew-Ski event, where you can hit the trails and sample local brews at various spots along the way!
The Largest Snowmobile System in the State
Winter in the Adirondacks typically brings to mind sports like downhill skiing, snowboarding, ice skating, and hockey. But let’s not forget the exhilarating motorsport of snowmobiling, or sledding as many call it. The Heart of the Adirondacks boasts the largest snowmobiling trail system in all of NY. Over 750 miles of trails are just waiting to be ripped around on. Hit the trails for the day or the weekend and experience the beauty of winter sledding.
Not Everyone Migrates South for the Winter
Before winter arrives, many of the birds native to the Adirondacks fly south to escape the frigid temperatures and look for consistent food sources. Many, but not all. There are a few brave warriors that prefer nesting in the winter months. It’s not uncommon to spot Crossbills, White-winged Crossbills, Gray Jays, and Great Horned Owl in the area. So, don’t put away those binoculars just yet.
Fishing Is a Year-Round Activity
Leave the boat at home, grab some extra layers, and slap some crampons on your boots. When Schroon Lake freezes over, it doesn’t just become a beautiful site to see or a place to lace up your skates – it becomes one of the best places in the Adirondacks to ice fish. Anglers flock to the lake in winter months to drop their lines in, usually while surrounded by a comfortable warming hut. With the lake stocked annually, you have a pretty good chance of pulling out Lake Trout and Landlocked Salmon.
Hit the Slopes under the Stars
Sometimes skiing from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. just isn’t enough. So, rather than head back to the lodge, stay out and experience night skiing at Titus Mountain. Take advantage of an additional six hours on Friday and Saturday nights by staying on the slopes until 10 p.m.! Carve your way down 11 runs, hit up their two terrain parks, and stop into one of the two on-mountain restaurants for dinner. Just don’t forget to look up into the star-filled sky on your lift ride back to the top.
Grab Your Spikes and Explore the Grand Canyon of the East
A popular summer attraction for rafting, tubing, and guided tours, Ausable Chasm becomes a spectacle of ice structures in the winter. The waterfalls freeze and the tall sandstone walls form icicles that glisten when the sun hits them. Schedule your winter tour and don’t forget your camera!
Sail Across the Ice
When Lake Champlain freezes over it becomes a multi-sport heaven. Sure there is ice fishing, skating, and hockey but it’s the unique winter sports that draw individuals to this lake. Enthusiast uncover their ice yachts and take to Lake Champlain for some high speed sailing. Ice yachts take on the traditional sailboat shape, but are much smaller. They are fitted with three runners (skate blades) designed to run over ice instead of through water. Hold on tight – speeds up to 68 mph have been recorded! How about combining two winter sports into one? Nordic skating is another popular activity that can be done on the lake. Think of it as a cross between Nordic skiing and speed skating — long skate blades and poles help propel you along the ice.
Home to the Greatest Vertical Drop East of the Rockies
Skiers and snowboarders, listen up. Whiteface Mountain is home to the greatest vertical drop east of the Rocky Mountains – 3,166 feet to be exact. That said, beginners and intermediates shouldn’t be afraid. There is a large variety of terrain that spans across the complex’s three peaks and 86 trails, giving you plenty of runs to pick from. Hit the slopes and ski the face!
“Coldest Town in the Continental US”
You’ll want to pack a few extra layers when visiting Saranac Lake in the winter. Year after year, it’s commonly referred to as the coldest town in the continental US. Don’t let the cold temperatures deter you though, the brisk, clear air will rejuvenate your lungs. It’s no wonder that in the late 1800s the town was one of the leading places to go for tuberculosis treatment. Breathe deep.
Go for Gold
Strap on your skis, lace up your skates, or grab a helmet – the Adirondacks allows visitors to try their hand at a variety of Olympic sports. Located within Lake Placid are the venues that hosted the 1932 and 1980 Winter Olympic Games. Preserved and still being used as a training mecca for aspiring athletes, you can visit these venues and try out sports such a biathlon, bobsled, and speed skating! Who knows, maybe you have what it takes to join Team USA.
The Oldest of its Kind
There is a lot of joy that comes with winter in the Adirondacks. In addition to the snow-covered forests and frozen lakes, Saranac Lake hosts the oldest winter carnival on the East Coast. Beginning back in the 1800s, the carnival broke up the day-to-day monotony for Tuberculosis patients and helped them enjoy the long winter. Today, it is a celebration of winter! Offering everything from outdoor sports and recreation to an ice castle and fireworks, the Saranac Lake Winter Carnival should be on everyone’s calendars.
Winter 46er Challenge
For those not familiar with the 46er challenge, it’s simple; located within the Adirondack Park are 46 of the tallest peaks in NY, all originally surveyed at 4,000 feet or more. Hike all 46 and you’re considered a 46er! To take that challenge to the next level, you can become a Winter 46er by hiking all 46 High Peaks in the winter months of December, January, February, or March. Insiders tip: make sure you’ve got snowshoes, microspikes/crampons, and extra layers in your pack before heading out. Not ready to tackle 46 peaks? Start by becoming a Saranac 6er!
Closer Than You Think!
The Adirondacks are centrally located within a few hours to many major hubs — yet after visiting you'll feel like you experienced a whole different world! It's time to experience our awesome outdoor adventures, relaxing spa experiences, and memorable events. Ready to hit the road?