Submitted by Guest Blogger: Jeremy Evans
Day at Dewey
One of my favorite things about Saranac Lake is that it feels authentic, comfortable, and home-like to both residents and visitors alike. I can sense this at many of its community gathering places like Mt. Pisgah, Downtown, the Civic Center, and at Dewey Mountain Recreation Center.
Located on Route 3 on the western edge of the Village of Saranac Lake, Dewey Mountain Recreation Center is owned by the Town of Harrietstown and managed under contract by Adirondack Lakes & Trails Outfitters (locally known as ALTO). Dewey has recently been gaining a lot of attention as a mountain biking destination with over 5 miles of trails built and maintained by the Barkeater Trail Alliance, but during the winter it is all about skiing and snowshoeing. Dewey boasts 13km of ski trails (most of which are lighted for night skiing) and 4km of dedicated snowshoe trails.
Our family headed there on a relatively balmy afternoon when the temperature “soared” into the low teens. Dewey is such a perfect place for our young family of five to go skiing (our children are 10, 7, and 4) for many reasons. First of all, it is close by so we don’t have to invest a lot of time getting there. Second, most of the trails are groomed which means that the skiing is good in many different weather conditions. Dewey also offers trails and terrain that are interesting and challenging for all skill levels. For example, our kids love the Cookie Monster trail (I wonder if it has anything to do with the name) while my favorite is the ungroomed Top of the Mountain trail. And finally, there is a warm lodge with restrooms.
Before we got started we dropped our bags off in the lodge and laced up our boots. Built largely by volunteers in 2015, and paid for by donations from over 400 individuals and organizations, the lodge has a small kitchen with self-serve coffee and hot cocoa, couches, tables and chairs, bathrooms, and a ski-waxing room. On any given weekday afternoon during the height of the season the lodge turns into a full-blown community center with kids, parents and skiers of all ages sharing the warm and inviting space.
Always time to stop and play
Not surprisingly all five of us have different abilities and endurance but fortunately Dewey has all of us covered. Our 10-year-old set off on his own so he could go at his own pace, my wife and 7-year-old daughter set off for a trail, and I chose our 4-year-old as my partner.
Section of new trail
This was our first ski of the year at Dewey and as we made our way up the trail we passed through a new unmarked intersection. I realized the left turn led to the new 2 kilometers of trail built last fall after the Town of Harrietstown purchased and added approximately 30 acres of adjacent property to the center. With my four-year-old intent on completing the Cookie Monster trail I knew I would have to save exploration of the new trail for another time (which came a few days later).
Can’t beat hot chocolate
We finished the trail and joined the rest of the crew at the lodge and shared hot chocolate (we brought our own but you can pay a buck for a cup of cocoa or coffee from the Keurig in the kitchen). Then we went out again and this time I went with my daughter. While out on the trail we saw folks we knew, some we only recognized, and others we didn’t. We crossed paths a couple of times with another young family visiting the area and trying out cross-country skiing for the first time.
Magical night skiing
We had to end our day before dark but don’t forget Dewey has kilometers of lighted trails. It's hard to describe why, but night skiing is an amazing experience that you have to try. The same trail feels completely different at night.
Dewey is open Tuesday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sunday and Monday from 10 a.m. to 4p.m. Of course these hours can vary due to weather conditions so it is always best to check the website or the Dewey Facebook page for up-to-date conditions and hours. A day pass is just $5 for anyone over 5 years old. Don’t have your own skis or snowshoes but still want to get out on the trail? No problem, ski and snowshoes are available to rent.
World Snowshoe Championships
And if skiing isn’t your thing come to Dewey for the snowshoeing. Snowshoers can trek on the side of any ski trail and also along dedicated snowshoe trails. The terrain is varied and routes can be found that match any desired level of difficulty and length. Long known for skiing, Dewey made a name for itself in snowshoe lore in 2017 when it hosted the World Snowshoe Championships. For several days in late February leading up to race weekend there was a huge warm up and the beautiful winter conditions literally turned to slush! On race day the temperature reached a record high of 61 degrees. Only a good base remaining from daily trail grooming and a herculean community effort to bring in snow to the starting line - as well as shoveling snow from the woods onto the trails, allowed the race to go on without any new snow at all. Not to be deterred, this year Dewey will host the inaugural Adirondack Snowshoe Fest!
Dewey Mountain Recreation Center fits so many categories for winter family fun. It's affordable. It has a relaxed atmosphere. It has a variety of terrain and trail difficulties and the groomed trails are kept in excellent condition. And it has hot cocoa!