Consider the following a lake effect snowshoe advisory and an opportunity for a seasonal affective re-order.
When the winter winds start to blow from the west across the still unfrozen waters of Lake Erie the result can be prodigious snowfalls south of the city of Buffalo. Snow can pile up in jaw dropping amounts in a matter of hours, making for perfect conditions for winter sports enthusiasts.
For me, a lake effect snowstorm means a chance to throw on my cross-country skis or lace up my boots and head out of the city on a snowshoe-assisted hike to some of the most scenic spots Western New York has to offer.
The ride to Sprague Brook Park along the Southtowns Scenic Byway takes you through the lovely hamlets of West Falls, Colden and Glenwood and is reason enough to get outside. But Sprague Brook Park is the all the motivation I need to head out into the winter weather. This Erie County run park is a beautiful piece of property featuring professionally groomed cross country skiing trails and hiking trails perfect for snowshoeing. A short 45-minute-ride from downtown Buffalo, Sprague Brook has a warming hut that brings a couple hours in the cold to a toasty conclusion.
Another favorite spot of mine is the Beaver Meadow Audubon Center in North Java. This 300-acre nature preserve has an extensive network of well-marked trails (look for the rusty stove on Rusty Stove Trail) that can make for several hours of invigorating winter fun. Snowshoe rentals are available in the Nature Center for $5.
A more recent addition to Buffalo’s winter repertoire is Knox Farm State Park in the lovely village of East Aurora. This 600-acre tract was once the country home of businessman and philanthropist Seymour Knox and his descendants before it was sold to New York State and opened to the public for a variety of outdoor activities, including both snowshoeing and cross country skiing in winter. Insider tip: spend a couple of hours hiking and then head to the Roycroft Inn for lunch in front of a roaring fire.
Closer to downtown Buffalo you’ll find the Tifft Farm Nature Preserve and 300 acres of good hiking trails on Buffalo’s Outer Harbor. Open from dawn to dusk daily, Tifft is a five-minute ride from the city center and offers snowshoe rentals throughout the winter months.