Rochester, New York City Guide
Rochester, NY City Guide

© 1996-2015 Max Lent Communications




New York Regional Cross-country ski areas

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Novice Intermediate Expert Expert Symbol Warming hut warming hut RefreshmentsCup Ski rentals

East of Rochester, NY

Osceola Tug Hill X-Country Ski Center, Inc. Expert Symbol warming hut Cup

Location: 1486 Osceola Road, Camden, NY 13316.   27 miles northwest of Rome, NY, in Osceola, NY. 315-599-7377.  MSN Map.

Description: The Osceola Tug Hill X-Country Ski Center, Inc., provides a wide range of groomed trails from novice through expert. Two warming huts provide space for eating lunches. Basic refreshments are available.

Comment: Nestled in the western foothills of the Adirondack mountain range near Lake Ontario, Tug Hill receives up to 300 inches of snow a year. The Osceola Tug Hill Ski Center, Inc. would receive an excellent rating no matter where it were located for its professionally groomed trails for inline and skating skiers. What makes them supremely desirable is that they have snow when most of the rest of New York does not. When blades of grass are showing through the snow in Rochester, NY, Tug Hill may have several feet of snow, even early and late in the ski season.

Call ahead to see if any competitions are being held, especially biathlons. Hearing gunfire while skiing does not sound aesthetically appealing to us.

Web cams at Tug Hill

Pechler's Expert Symbol warming hut Cup   Out of business

Location: Palmyra, NY

Description: Pechler's has been closed for years.

Comment: Why mention a closed cross-country ski center? Because it was unique to this area. It had miles of groomed trails through varied terrain, a warming hut with hot food and drinks, a large fireplace, ski rentals, ski instruction, and wonderful hospitality.. Rochester needs a new cross/country ski center, created in the spirit of Pechler's.


"Hi! My name is Brenda (Pechler) Wilson. My father and mother owned Pechler's Trails in Palmyra NY. I worked there for many years in public relations.(mainly behind the main desk.) I was absolutely thrilled to see my parent's business listed in your directory! You've made my day! My parents are both deceased, the property has been sold, and I believe it belongs to some type of craft guild. I sometimes wonder what happened to the people who used to stroll past my desk, where they go now, if they enjoyed the trails as much as we did. I wonder if they know why the business closed, or if any one cares! You have answered at least one of those questions, and I am grateful to you for remembering!

My parents also operated a business in Ontario, Canada near Peterborough,(across the lake from Rochester) and when our parents died, this is the business we decided to pursue. My sisters and I have taken over the operation of Peck's Camp, a business that is now in it's 50th year of our family's operation and ownership. Peck's Camp is a family oriented fishing camp, with 4 housekeeping cottages, camping and tenting, boat rentals, etc. I won't bore you with too much detail, but I will give you the URL. I have fond memories of Pechler's Trails, my work there, many of the people I met there. I remember how fortunate we were that the Nordic Ski Patrol helped out and also trained at our area. I was extremely proud of the Special Olympic events held there for challenged children in the area.

It's nice to know that although we're gone, we're not forgotten! Thanks again for honoring my family by mentioning what we thought of as one of upstate New York's finest ski touring areas!

Sincerely, Brenda (Pechler) Wilson."

West of Rochester, NY

Allegany State Park Expert Symbol warming hut Cup 

Location: Southwest of Rochester on the border of PA, near the town of Salamanca, NY. From Rochester, NY, take Interstate 390 south to route 17 west to Salamanca. Take the Allegany State Park exit and drive south into the park.

Description: Allegany State Park's trail system is extensive. Skiers of all skill levels will find trails to ski. A warming hut is located at the top of the mountain.

Comment: Allegany State Park is a long drive from Rochester, but it is worth it. Leaving Rochester at dawn or before ensures a full day of skiing at the park. There is a trail that winds from the top of the mountain to the valley within the park. This trail is best skied when a car shuttle is used. Park one car at the bottom of the mountain and transport the skiing party back to the top of the mountain. This provides a long, several mile, mostly downhill run to the shuttled car. The temperature on top of the mountain can be very cold, much colder than the valley, so layered clothing is recommended. Skiing one or more of the loop trails to the east of the warming hut makes a good outing for first time visitors.

The gas prices in Salamanca have been much lower than in Rochester on past visits. Filling up before returning to Rochester makes the trip less expensive. We often take route 219 to Buffalo, NY, as a way home so that we can stop at a Greek diner for dinner. The open faced souvlaki platter served in Buffalo and Clarence is not available in Rochester and is well worth the detour. Our favorite diner is Spilios in Clarence on route 20 north of the NYS Thruway.

Byrncliff Resort and Conference Center Expert Symbol warming hut Cup

Location: Route 20A, Varysburg, NY 14167. 585-535-7300.

Description: "In winter, novice and advanced skiers can find it all on Byrncliff's trails… At Byrncliff, you can ski on groomed, well marked and lighted trails… Five kilometers of lighted ski trails for evening skiing…"

Because of its geographic location, Byrncliff receives lake effect snow from Lake Erie. Even when conditions are poor in Rochester or Buffalo, Visit the Byrncliff Web site for information about ski conditions.

Byrncliff charges modest fees for use of their trails. Ski rentals, food and lodging are available.

Comment: Reports from our friends, Steve & Susan Kurtz, encouraged us to visit Byrncliff.  We were initially put off visiting an establishment that is also frequented by snowmobile riders.  It took us several years to overcome our apprehension, but one January weekend day, the conditions were right for planning a day trip to see what Susan and Steve were so enthusiastic about. 

We drove West from Rochester to Batavia then South to Attica and Varysburg.  Road conditions steadily worsened as we got closer to Varysburg.  Just east of Byrncliff there was a hill that we, with traction control and snow tires on all four wheels, almost couldn't climb.  We were hampered by Sunday drivers who thought the best way to go up a hill was as slowly as possible.  All of the cars behind them had to slow down and lose momentum.  We made, but just barely.

The amount of snow that we saw on the ground decreased as we left Rochester and approached Batavia.  However, as we head south from Attica the amount of snow piled up along side the highway was increased steadily as we approached Varysburg.  Some drifts were more than five feet high.

Even though we had been warned, seeing fifty or so snowmobiles parked outside the main building at Byrncliff was a shock.  The constant sound herds of buzzy little engines racing all around the area was an immediate turn off.  The noise pollution was almost enough to make us turn around and go to nearby Letchworth Park instead.  We were committed, though, and decided to give Byrncliff a try.

The ski shop is well run by a friendly knowledgeable staff ready to answer any questions we had.  We paid our trail fee, obtained a trail map, and brought our gear into the main building.  We discovered that Byrncliff provides very nice locker rooms with lockers.  Had we known about the lockers beforehand, we would have brought our gym locks and a change of clothes for after skiing.

The skiers who were changing clothes in the locker room looked like professional racers with their slim bodies and tight fitting black and brightly colored stretch outfits.

After donning our gear we headed out on the main trail and followed the East branch and immediately came to a snowmobile crossing where there was a sign warning skiers of the snowmobiles.  Sadly, there was not a sign warning snowmobile drivers of slow moving cross/country skiers.  We gingerly crossed the wide snowmobile road and continued to the North across an open meadow to a hill that climbed up to a side road.  Beyond the side road the trail made a circle through a pretty wooded area.  The trees diminished some of the snowmobile noise.  The temperature was in the low teens, there was a light wind, and snow was falling.  The snowflakes were so cold that the would remain intact when they were sucked into our noses and mouths.  The longer we skied the harder it snowed.  On the way back, we took a poorly groomed trail along the hill East of Byrncliff.  There we saw a frozen waterfall (see photos at right). 

The snowfall increased continually as we skied back toward the main building.  By the time we reached the snowmobile road we had to admit that it was snowing too hard to ski safely.  The ski trails were filling in and combined with the flat light we couldn't see where we were going.  We also wished that we had remembered to treat our glasses with anti-fogging agent. 

We returned to the main building, changed out of our ski boots and headed for the bar and lounge on the second floor where a very cheerful hostess escorted us to a window table in the no smoking area.  An equally good natured server took our order.  During several visits to our table he commented on the severity of the weather.  The photo at right was taken from our our table looking out of the window at the Byrncliff parking lot.

There is a small fake gas fireplace in the lounge with just enough room to seat two people by it.  If it is occupied when you arrive, it is unlikely that the people seated there will leave anytime soon.  The bar and lounge are well heated.  The menu has a wide variety of coffee shop foods including vegetarian options.  We had Buffalo style chicken wings and a hamburger.  Both were very good, but our taste was skewed from just having come in from skiing.

Byrncliff's lodging includes two motel-like units behind the main building.  One unit overlooks the starting cross/country ski trail.  The other faces the snowmobile area and the parking lot.  From what we could see of the units, they looked modern and comfortable.  However, there was a sign posted on the unit that we passed that said that there was a 2 a.m. noise curfew for the porch.  My vision of staying overnight, getting a good night's sleep and skiing the trails the next day were dashed.  What I now imagine is being kept up until 2 a.m. or later by noisy parties and spending the next day catching up on sleep.

Visit the Byrncliff Web site to find out if they are offering any specials on combinations of trail fees and dinners.  Their weekend cross/country ski special which includes trail fees (optional ski rentals), dinner, and an after dinner drink sounds like a bargain.  What the Web site and brochure doesn't tell you is that typical dinner attire is insulated snowmobile outfits and cross/country ski garb.  You don't have to bring a dinner jacket to Byrncliff, at least not in the winter.

As a side trip, visit the town of East Aurora.  In addition to being charming and attractive it has a real 5 & 10 cent store on its main street.  Even more enjoyable to visit is the Roycroft Arts & Crafts Community.  You can shop for unusually attractive Roycroft crafts, tour a Roycroft designed and decorated house, and stay at the Roycroft Inn during your tour of East Aurora.

On the plus side Byrncliff gets lots of snow, has excellent facilities, and has friendly staff.  On the negative side, there are lots of snowmobiles.  If you don't mind the sound of snowmobiles and want a great ski on groomed trails, Byrncliff is an excellent choice.


Genesee County Park

Location: Genesee County Park & Forest, 11095 Bethany Center, Rd., East Bethany, NY, 14054. From Rochester, NY, take either I90 or I490 west to the LeRoy, NY exit. Take route 19 south, through LeRoy and on to Pavilion Center, to Route 20. Turn west on Route 20. Go west on route 20 to East Rd. Turn south, left, on East Rd. to Raymond Rd. Turn right, west, on Raymond Rd. The park will be on your left and well marked.


11095 Bethany Center Rd, East Bethany, NY, 14054

Description: The park comprises 444 acres. Most of the park is forested rolling hills. What makes this park important is that it lies in the easternmost end of the lake effect snow plume that blows in from Lake Erie. It will have snow when areas just east of it are nearly barren.

Comments: The park is heavily used by snowmobiles, but there are still areas and trails where skiers can commune with nature. The snowmobiles in the park are unusually well behaved. They don't drive fast and they are polite when passing skiers who ski on the park roads. Snowmobiles are not allowed to access to marked ski trails. However, the ski and snowmobile trails should be better separated. For example there should be separate parking lots for snowmobiles and skiers. Additionally, the park should be divided between snowmobiles and skiers so that they don't come in contact with each other. We did see some snowmobile tracks in the off limits area, but not many. There ski trails are easy with only one or two places with steep downhill runs. The downhill areas are easily skirted by taking alternate trails. We skied all of the trails in the park in about two hours. Other skiers we talked with at the parking lot and on the trails were very friendly and helpful.

Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge

Location: Casey Road, PO Box 517, Alabama, NY 14003. 585-948-5445. Don Tiller, Refuge Manager. From Rochester, take the NYS Thruway to the Pembroke exit. Turn north on Route 77 toward Alabama. Watch for signs to the refuge office. Trail maps are available.

Description: The Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge is a wetland with only the smallest of hills within its boundaries. Nearly all of the cross-country ski trails are level. The trail system includes large open spaces and wooded areas.

Comment: Novice skiers will enjoy absence of hills. Experienced skiers will enjoy the variety of scenery. Open areas my become dangerous when windy and very cold. Beer container litter is common in parking lots. Fortunately, the litter does not often extend into the trail system.

There are no toilet facilities on any of the trails and the refuge office is usually closed when we visit. The nearest dependably open business with public restrooms is the Union 76 truck stop at the Pembroke exit of the Thruway. You may want to pay a visit to the truck stop just to see their collection of trucker accessories and postcards. After a day skiing the refuge trails, stopping in at the truck stop for a hot drink or food on the way home is comforting.

South of Rochester, NY

Cumming Nature Center Expert Symbol warming hut 

Location: South of Rochester. 7 miles north of Naples. 7 miles south of Honeoye. 6472 Gulick Rd., Naples, NY, 14512. (585) 374-6160. 13 Km of trails.

Description: The Cumming Nature Center has 15 miles of groomed novice through expert trails including a long wilderness trail that requires a full day to ski. The Center is associated with the Rochester Museum and Science Center and members of the museum ski for free. Non-members pay $4 and $1.50 for children kindergarten through grade 12. Ski rental packages are available for $8. There is heated indoor area. They are open from Wednesday through Sunday from 9 a.m. through 4:30 p.m.

Comment: The Cumming Nature Center trails are beautiful, but can be crowded on the weekends and near the Center complex. A reader commented that skating is not allowed on trails.

Genesee Country Museum, The Nature Center warming hut Cup

Location: 1410 Flint Hill Road, Mumford, NY 14511. 585-538-6822 ext 39 or 41. Adjacent to the Genesee Country Museum. Kevin Moss, Nature Center Director.

Description: Five miles of groomed trails for novice and intermediate skiers. Admission $2.50 for adults, $2 for seniors, and $1.50 for children ages 6-17. Members of the Genesee Country Museum and children under 6 can enter for free. 585-538-6822, ext. 39 or 41. The warming hut is actually the interpretive center and refreshments are available.

Comment: On our last visit the trails were not groomed. In fact, one of the trails marked as ski only had been used earlier in the day for a walking tour. Needless to say, the trail was chewed up. Sections of the trails near the warming hut and the perimeter trail were also chewed up by walkers. The trail map said nothing about trail etiquette except that there was an area where skiers were not allowed. The perimeter trail parallels a road on side of the center's grounds. Seeing houses and hearing snow mobiles and barking dogs was not what we expected from a nature center.

On the plus side, the nature center building was warm and the bathrooms were clean. There was instant hot chocolate for sale at a reasonable cost. The fee for using the trails was modest. The staff was courteous and helpful. We skied all of the trails in less than two hours. More experienced skiers may prefer to ski some of the larger parks.

The Genesee Country Nature Center provides numerous nature oriented hikes and other programs for both adults and children. Call them for details.

Harriet Hollister Spencer State Recreation Area Expert Symbol

Location:  10820 Route 36 South, Dansville, NY 14437. 
  (585) 335-8111.
  Household pets only; caged or on a leash not more than 6 feet. Proof of rabies inoculation.  We met a couple with a large well behaved leashed dog on the trail.  The dog was doing little if any damage to the groomed trail. 


Description:  There's a little bit of Tug Hill tucked away in the hills southeast of Rochester and it is called Harriet Hollister Spencer State Recreation area.  The snow is often deep, the trails are groomed, the landscape is beautiful, and the terrain varied.

The trails at the park are beautiful.  There is a lookout that overlooks Honeoye Lake that must be one of the most spectacular views in the Finger Lakes, especially in winter.  Frequent visitors to the park report that there is nearly always more snow here than anywhere else in the region except for Tug Hill.

Large conifers with snow laden branches border trails that wander up and down rolling and sometimes steep hills.  Numerous wide well planned trails crisscross the park.

The trails range from easiest to most difficult.  These descriptions are accurate. I went down some of the moderately difficult trails sitting down.

Comment:  I put off visiting Harriet Hollister State Park for more than a decade because I had heard horror stories about conflicts between cross/country skiers and snowmobilers.  Dr. Michael Myers revived my interest in the park when he said that the park has a ranger who keeps the skiers and snowmobilers inline.  He was right.  When we visited the park on a Saturday around noon, a park ranger was parked at the trail entrance.  There were a few snowmobilers in the park during our visit, but they were well behaved and stayed on their own trails.

The Rochester Nordic Ski Club uses the park for races, so it is a good idea to check their Web site for race announcements to avoid crowds.  On the Saturday we visited a race had just ended and the park parking lot will nearly filled with vehicles.

Even with the parking lot nearly filled, we encountered few skiers on the trails except near the park entrance.  The further we went into the park, the fewer skiers we encountered.  However, because this is a popular park, it is a good idea to keep a lookout for skiers coming down hills.  Steeper and more difficult trails are one way.  It is the easy trails where it is important to pay attention to the traffic.

On the day we visited the park, the restrooms near the lean to in the center of the park were open. They are not heated and are pit type toilets. There is no water for washing hands so bring along some foil wrapped moistened cleaning tissues.

Taking lunch, water, a hot drink, and trail candies is highly recommended. Ascending the hills will burn calories and create perspiration. If you want to stay out on the trails for a while you will want to replenish your fluids and provide your body with some quick burning calories.

Beginner skiers should be aware that it is possible to get far away from their cars and become tired from the hill work. Estimating when half of your energy has been depleted is more difficult here than on a golf course. Pace yourself carefully.

How you feel the morning after several hours of skiing at the park will demonstrate to you how many hills you climbed and how much you used your ski polls.  Your upper body muscles may be more tired than you expect.  I was still able to lift a fork the next day, but I had to think about it.

So, what's not to like about Harriet Hollister State Recreation Area?  While we were skiing on one of the higher hills enjoying the pristine beauty and quiet of the surroundings there came the boom of gunfire.  Some Neanderthal who had not figured out they they live in the 21st century was out firing their gun.  We couldn't tell how close the shooter was or whether they were inside the park, but the shots were loud.  By aggressively asserting their lack of consideration for others, the shooter filled the air for miles with the obnoxious sounds of instruments of death.  Pathetic.  Fortunately, the gunfire only lasted for about ten minutes.  They must of run out of ammunition or hopefully shot themselves.  The sound of gunfire in the rural New York countryside is so common that I now consider it almost normal--sad state of affairs.  The angry buzzing sound of snowmobiles revving their engines invades the forest from time to time, but that sound is not as offensive in small doses as the sound of gunfire.  With these two exceptions, our visit to the park was enjoyable.  We hope to meet you there.

Letchworth State Park Expert Symbol warming hut Cup

Location: 1 Letchworth State Park, Castile, NY 14427-1124. 585-493-3603. South of Rochester between Mt. Morris and Portageville, NY. From Rochester, take Interstate 390 south to the Mt. Morris exit. Turn left, west, at the exit and drive to the center of Mt. Morris. Turn right, north, on state route 36. Watch for the park entrance on the left, west. The road through the park is not open all the way through to Portageville during the winter. From the north, the road is closed about 5 miles into the park at the Perry exit road. Additional access to the park is from Castile on the park's west side. The Castile entrance is open to near Upper Falls.


Letchworth State Park, Castile, New York

Description: Letchworth State Park provides many miles of cross-country skiing and snow mobiling. A map of Letchworth State Park ski trails is available from the park office.   The Trail Side Lodge at the south end of the park, near the Castile entrance, has a fireplace, indoor picnic tables, and sells refreshments.

Comment: Fortunately, the rangers of Letchworth State Park manage to keep snow mobilers and the cross-country skiers well separated. There are ski trails in many areas of the park where the noise pollution of snow mobiles is barely audible. On Christmas Eve day of 1995, we parked our car at the end of the open road near Upper Falls and hiked, carrying our skis, to the Glen Iris Inn and down to the falls viewing area without seeing another person. The canyon walls near the falls were covered with spectacular blue-green ice. The vantage point above the falls is beautiful in the summer. In the winter, after days of sub-freezing temperature, they are awesome.



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