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Cross-country skiing a great source of exercise

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BARNES CORNERS — The snow falls at a steady rate, glistening the vast array of fir trees within Tug Hill State Forest and providing a firm layer for cross-country skiers to trek on in another outdoor season of healthy exercise.

This is Barnes Corners, located in the Tug Hill Plateau, where the white stuff can come down between Halloween and early May. The region receives the heaviest snowfall east of the Rockies, and reliablesnow cover can befound in winter’s harshest months.

“It’s a great activity, and it’s great for your heart,” cross-country skier Fred Abram said after finishing the novice, 1.9-mile Whiteway Loop at Rodman-Barnes Corners Ski Trails, located off Route 177.

With 11 trails, the Rodman-Barnes trails, in the towns of Rodman and Pinckney, are a popular destination for skiers along with Winona State Forest Park, located in the towns of Lorraine and Lacona in Oswego County, and Robert G. Wehle State Park in the town of Henderson.

Abram, a 52-year-old beer salesman from Black River, said he became interested in cross-country skiing while attending the SUNY Institute of Technology in Utica.

“I started out at Steamboat Springs in Colorado with my roommates, and I’ve kept it going ever since,” he said.

“I couldn’t believe I was able to stay upright,” Abram added, laughing. “I thought I would be down on my (rear end) for most of the time.”

He previously skied in Boonville, but now he’s in his third season at the Rodman-Barnes Corners trails.

The terrain features level to slightly uphill and downhill courses for novice skiers, and more challenging hills for intermediate skiers.

“Most of the trails are nice, and the terrain isn’t as rugged as in the Adirondacks,” Abram said, adding that conditions are best when temperatures are in the 20s. “The trails here are mostly for beginnersand intermediate skiers.

The 11,721-acre Tug Hill State Forest’s most breath-taking view is Inman Gulf, a 300-foot-deep canyon.

Rodman-Barnes Corners trails are about a half-hour drive from downtown Watertown, as are the trails at Winona and Wehle parks.

Winona features 29 ski trails, covering 21.8 miles, for different levels of skiers. Meanwhile, Wehle, which has 15 trails, offers a wide range of terrain, including scenic views of the Lake Ontario shoreline.

Winona’s two longest ski trails are the five-mile Winona Way and the 3.1-mile Bargy, considered the park’s main course.

“It’s like going to the gym,” said Scott Saunders, 50, of Rochester, an occasional cross-country skier the past 20 years who was visiting relatives in Adams over Thanksgiving. “It’s a healthy exercise.”

Said Abram: “You go for a couple of hours, like a walk in the woods, you enjoy it and you lose track of time ... and you feel satisfied after finishing.”

CROSS-COUNTRY SKI AREAS
(In Jefferson, Lewis and St. Lawrence counties)
• RODMAN-BARNES CORNERS TRAILS
Location: Towns of Rodman and Pinckney
Distance from downtown Watertown: 19 miles (26 minutes)
Phone: (315) 376-3521 or (315) 785-2263
Website: www.dec.ny.gov/outdoor/7879.html
Course length: 11 trails
Notable: Trails are located within the 11,721-acre Tug Hill State Forest and feature Inman Gulf, a 300-foot-deep canyon.
nWINONA STATE FOREST PARK
Location: Towns of Lorraine and Lacona (Oswego County)
Distance from downtown Watertown: 28 miles (36 minutes)
Phone: Not in service
Website: www.winonaforest.com
Course length: 29 trails
Notable: The trails, used by various skill-level skiers, wind through the 10,000-acre park with almost daily winter snowfall and pass by 80-foot-high pine trees.
nROBERT G. WEHLE STATE PARK
Location: Town of Henderson
Distance from downtown Watertown: 24 miles ( 31 minutes)
Phone: (315) 938-5302
Website: www.nysparks.com, then click on “state parks.”
Course length: 15 trails
Notable: Located on Mr. Wehle’s former estate, the 1,043-acre park features a wide variety of terrain and more than 17,000 feet of scenic Lake Ontario shoreline.
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