I was home alone with the dog for a weekend and looking to get out in the snow. The Niagara frontier is still recovering from the rain last week and most of the snow was windswept and depleted. A nice late week lake effect event had replenished the snow to my south including Holiday Valley. I felt guilty leaving the pup alone for the day and going to Ellicottiville.
I decided I was overdue for a good workout so I grabbed the XC gear and decided to check out one of the mountain bike areas about 45 minutes to my south, Hunters Creek Park in Wales, NY. I always look at these places on the map and never actually go to them. In no real rush we left the house around 9am. Drove through Buffalo and continued south until it started to look like a place where people might ski.
Made my way through a couple of valley's and was happy to find the parking area at the top of one of them. The lot was deep with snow and there were two other cars when I arrived. It was cold, the snow was light, and there was almost no wind. I geared up and headed into the park on either the pink or purple trail. The trail system at Hunter's Creek is pretty messy. From the parking lot it looked like you could choose from a few trails. One Left, one center, and one right. Being my first time at the park I took the right trail as it was the one with the freshest tracks. I continued down a slowly descending narrow trail, struggling to check my speed while keeping the pup on a leash.
Worked my way down into a valley and things leveled off. I crossed a creek bed or two and the tracks I was following ran out. I didn't want to turn back yet so I surveyed the area. In the near distance there seemed to be an opening at the bottom of a pretty good sized slope that looked like it might be fun to try and make some turns on. Cut a track switch-backing across the slope and soon enough was at the top. Looking down the slope I was not feeling real confident in my Fischer S-Bound 78s & NNN BC boots. Was almost wishing I had AT gear with me. First run down I skied in my tracks. At the bottom I was getting a little warm so I ditched my shell and let the pup run before I started climbing again. By the time I got to the top again I didn't miss the AT gear.
I lapped it a few more times before a snow shoe-er came through and grabbed the pups attention. I packed it out and headed back to the lot. I ran into the snow shoe-er and another older couple who were headed in on the left trail on some edge less XC skis. I didn't do a whole lot of exploring but I was able to get my fix in and tire out the dog at the same time. The park is only about 10-15 minutes from my work so hopefully I can get out there a few more times when the lake effect kicks into gear.
P.S. if you are ever out this way be sure to check out the close by Bar-Bill Tavern in East Aurora for some of the best wings & beef on weck in WNY.
I spend a lot of time at Hunters Creek in the summer riding mountain bikes. Some time there in the winter, also. Check out the mellow glade just up from the lower parking lot and the powerline that goes down to the creek when there is a lot of snow. Hunters is the perfect place for a wider fishscale ski with a fairly beefy boot/binding setup. Good stuff!
I was very pleasantly surprised. I will try and check that out next time i go. I am thinking about getting a beefier setup to try and do more XCD but have not found terrain accessible enough to justify it. Hunter's was a good start. Something like a metal edge 90mm shovel ski and cable bindings sounds pretty fun.
Thank you for the info Harvey. It's nice to get some insight from knowledgeable locals as opposed to wading through the opinions across the web and gambling money on whether or not a setup will work. The skiing in that post looks awesome. I doubt my NNN BC setup would cut it.
I try to time my trips to ADK or VT mid-week during a snowfall to avoid weekend crowds. Luckily I have enough flexibility at work to make that happen, but sometimes mid-week ski partners are tough to come by. With a setup like this I could stay away from the crowds on busy days. Another forum member sent me an email with more info on XCD setup's too. Looks like I need to make room for more gear.