If a game of King of the Hill that ends in tears and a handful of snow down your collar is your typical day of winter family fun — let me help you out!
Saranac Lake is bursting with cool things to do that will leave the whole family smiling from ear to ear. Here are five things for your clan to try on your next Adirondack winter vacation in Saranac Lake:
1. XC skiing at Dewey Mountain
Dewey is a 2,050-foot mountain, just one mile southwest of downtown Saranac Lake. It is one of three small mountains surrounding Saranac Lake — the others are Baker and Pisgah.
Whether you are a newbie or experienced cross-country skier, Dewey Mountain will welcome you with open arms. There are green-circle groomed trails perfect for both kids and adults who are looking to master their balance. For those with solid ski legs, there are ungroomed, backcountry-esque trails near the top that require zigging and zagging. Whichever you choose, a nice feature is that all of the trails are one way so you'll never have to worry about oncoming traffic. To make things even easier for you, Dewey has ski rentals, so there's no need to pack or purchase gear.
Cool fact: Three Dewey-skiing youth have gone on to compete in the Olympics! Tim Burke is a three-time Olympian in biathlon; Annelies Cook competed in biathlon in the Sochi games; and Bill Demong is a five-time Olympian who has won gold and silver medals in Nordic combined events.
2. Tubing at Mt. Pisgah
Saranac Lake's Mt. Pisgah is another 2,050-foot mountain — this one located three miles north of downtown. Unlike Dewey, Mt. Pisgah focuses on the vertical descent of 329 feet, whether it be on skis, snowboards, or even tubes.
Pisgah is a small-town ski hill at its best — affordable, friendly, and exciting. Nothing screams winter fun more than racing down a snowy hill on a tube! Adults and kids alike can be seen racing to the bottom with huge grins on their faces. Tubing has to be the easiest winter fun; all you have to do is sit back and pick your feet up. Don't worry about the hard part — Pisgah has a tow rope for the tubes so you don't have to lug it back up the hill.
Cool fact: During Winter Carnival, Pisgah hosts popular Innertube Races. The "tubers" are released in groups of four, with others of their age group. Times are recorded, and the fastest tubers in each age group receive awards. Serious fun for the whole family!
3. Snowshoeing at Paul Smith’s College Visitor Interpretive Center
The Visitor Interpretive Center (VIC) is 13 miles north of downtown Saranac Lake. Designed to introduce visitors to the special features of the Adirondacks, the VIC is located on approximately 2,700 acres with over 20 miles of trails. In the winter the trails are perfect for snowshoeing.
Being outside in the fresh mountain air does wonders for the whole family. So breathe, relax, and strap on those snowshoes! Snowshoeing is a chance to climb around on frozen mounds and jump into deep powder. Snowshoeing is pretty sweet with kids — it's exercise, sure to tire them out, yet easy enough that there is little (ok, less) chance of a meltdown. Unwind and don't be afraid to drop down and make a snow angel. The VIC has snowshoes and cross-country skis for rent right on the property, as well.
Cool fact: After playing host to the 2017 World Snowshoe Championships, Saranac Lake decided to host an annual Adirondack Snowshoe Fest; the next fest takes place February 22 - 23, 2020, with events happening at both Dewey and the VIC!
4. Exploring an ice palace
The annual Saranac Lake Winter Carnival is a 10-day festival that celebrates winter! Carnival boasts a bunch of unique events and long-standing traditions, including parades, sporting competitions, fireworks, and an ice palace.
Saranac Lake is a town that loves winter, and it shows! Construction of the ice palace is truly a community effort; the structure is built by locals — led by a group known as the Palace Workers 101 (a dedicated group of volunteers). Located adjacent to Lake Flower, ice is carved right out of the lake and used to create a palace that reflects the carnival theme. The question, "how did they build this?" is part of the allure for the adults, while kids will simply have a blast exploring all the nooks and crannies of the palace. And then there are the ice carvings. Depending on the theme you can find ice thrones, ice animals, or ice rockets. Sometimes even an ice tunnel or maze. A definite must-see!
Cool fact: The ice palace is built with over 1,000 blocks of ice, each weighing around 400 pounds.
5. Experiencing an authentic Adirondack Carousel
The Adirondack Carousel is located in downtown Saranac Lake. Twenty-four handcrafted Adirondack animals (18 of which are displayed at one time), and a wheelchair-accessible chariot — a classic wooden Chris Craft boat — make up the carousel. Each piece was created by an Adirondack artist.
The key to staying warm while in the frosty north is staying busy. When the kids have seen enough snow, head inside. Chances are you have done the 'carousel thing' before, but this one is 100% Adirondack, from the hand-painted scenic panels along the top to the slew of native wildlife to ride on. And really, carousels never get old. If you choose the pesky black fly you will be handed a fly swatter for some added laughs.
Cool fact: Each animal found on the carousel is carved with a strategically engraved ladybug. Try to find them all!
So, there you have it — five fun ways to play in Saranac Lake this winter. Of course, this is just the beginning, from delicious dining to local shopping to eclectic events and art exhibits, the Adirondacks are a cool place for your next getaway — why not plan to stay awhile?