ADVERTISEMENT

Since last year, we planned on trying snowshoeing at Byrncliff Resort and Conference Center in Varysburg. Lacking snow, we never went.

While this winter has also been sketchy, we were able to visit after the recent storms – and hopefully will again before the season ends.

A popular golf course during the summer, Byrncliff in winter has 12 miles of excellent, groomed cross-country skiing trails.

We, however, were interested in something less slippery to banish the winter blues. A vigorous workout was an added bonus, as Wyoming County’s hills provided plenty of challenges.

Meeting up with friend Joe in East Aurora, we carpooled to Byrncliff, a straight shot out 20A. After crossing Route 77, Byrncliff is almost immediately on the right.

We arrived late afternoon to take advantage of one of Byrncliff’s special packages (more on this later). In our case, it was the Weekend Ski (or Snowshoe) Package that included equipment rental, unlimited skiing or snowshoeing and dinner– all for $38. With your own equipment, it’s $26.

After filling out a little paperwork, we got our equipment. For snowshoeing, guests can wear their own boots or use Byrncliff’s ski boots and poles (which aren’t required for snowshoeing).

Five miles of Byrncliff’s trails are lighted for night activity. However, a worker recommended we go to the unlit hillside, as it was still light out, plus it was the location of the main snowshoe trail. We grabbed a map, strapped on our shoes and headed out to find the trail.

But where was it?

The map and trail markers were a little confusing, and the white signs with black lettering were difficult to see.

We looked for a big “Enter Here” sign to Irish Mist (the snowshoe trail), but never discovered its starting point. Instead we followed footprints. That worked.

Ski trails appeared to be marked with colored sticks, but, as novices, we never figured out the system. Snowshoeing is permitted along these trails, or off the trails completely (we were warned to watch for the ponds).

Wyoming County’s snowmobile trail also goes through Byrncliff. Despite the nearness of the paths and many riders we saw, we never felt in danger.

Our trek began enthusiastically, especially since it was frigid and moving kept us warm.

Heading into the woods, we found ourselves surrounded by spectacular scenery – trees coated with fluffy white snow, critter tracks here and there, and the quiet solitude of being outdoors in winter. We crunched over a bridge and noted a stream of water frozen midpour out of a pipe.

Our challenge came soon, as the trail took a steep turn upward. Halfway up we saw two skiers heading along a cross trail. In a flash the guy was above, then below us. His partner wasn’t so lucky; she wiped out on the way down.

As we stopped to get our bearings, four more skiers approached. They, too, were having trouble following the trail signs, but like us they kept trekking along.

Bidding our goodbyes, we wound our way around just as the sun disappeared, with the only light coming from the snow’s reflection. We loved snowshoeing in the darkened woods. It was an entirely different feel.

At the top of the trail, we stopped to take in the view. In the distance we could see windmills on the opposite hill, and below them, the lighted lodge. The best sight was behind us – the magnificent full moon coming up over the hill. Spectacular!

Working our way back down, we decided it was time for dinner. Leaving our gear back at the rental office area, we headed upstairs to eat.

While waiting for the hostess, I noticed an aerial photo of a farmhouse and barn. My grandparents had a similar picture of their farm in North Java. Turns out the farm pictured once occupied the land that Byrncliff now resides on.

Dinner selections with our package were limited, yet really nice. Dinners come with a salad, rolls, coffee/tea and after-dinner cordial. Our waitress was excellent. We devoured two broiled fish and a prime rib dinner (Saturdays only). Drinks are extra and of course, gratuity is not included. Nonetheless, we thought the package of rentals, unlimited snowshoeing and dinner a bargain at $38 per person!

Fortified, we headed back out to the lighted side of the hill. We found the going a little easier, and had to laugh at the trail names. A bartender must been consulted – Gin Fizz, Rusty Nail, Rum Runner, Old Fashioned – you get the idea. The map shows the degree of difficulty, with Shaker Run and Grasshopper being the easiest.

As the temperature plummeted, so did our enthusiasm, yet the shorter post-meal trek was a nice way to end the day. If we weren’t so wiped out, we would have stayed for the live band that was playing in the busy bar (Saturdays through February).

If the snow will only last a little longer this year, we’d like to make it out there again soon.

If you go

Byrncliff Resort & Conference Center, 2357 Humphrey Road, Varysburg (585-535-7300; www.byrncliff.com). Trail hours are Monday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.; Tuesday-Thursday, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 9 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Sunday, 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Hours are subject to change depending on the conditions. Call ahead or check online to view the snow report.

Rates for all activities also can be found online. There are individual fees for trail (with your own equipment) and trail/rental fees for just skiing or snowshoeing. In addition to our special weekend ski/dinner package, there is a Two-for-One Ski (or Snowshoe) Package that runs Tuesday-Thursday, with rental and dinner, $50 per couple. Tuesday night is Ladies Night, with half-price ski trail fees and rentals, two dinners for $25 and $3 well drinks.

Overnight packages are also available. A Weekend Overnighter package includes two nights lodging, three days of unlimited skiing or snowshoeing, rentals, two dinners, one breakfast and a Sunday brunch for $250 per person. There is different pricing for children.

More to do

• East Aurora is a great meet-up location. We grabbed coffee and hot chocolate at Taste (634 Main St.) on the way home. We thought about having the S’mores for Two, but ended up going to Swirls Cupcakery instead.

• Make a day of it in Wyoming County. Weather permitting, sleigh rides are available at nearby Hidden Valley Animal Adventure (next dates are next Sunday and March 3) and at Wolcott Farms (www.wolcottfarms.com).

• Maple Weekends (March 16-17; 23-24) are around the corner. A morning of maple sugaring followed by snowshoeing and dinner would be fantastic. Locations in Wyoming County can be found at www.mapleweekend.com.