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February 23, 2013

Tubing, skiing, skating and snowshoeing: A Glimmerglass winter wonderland

By Cathy B. Koplen
The Daily Star

---- — When snow blankets the hills surrounding Glimmerglass Lake, the state park becomes a winter playground.

The activities range from ice fishing to snow tubing, and many people in surrounding counties take advantage of free admission to the park.

On a recent Saturday, after a heavy snow fall, dozens of people rented tubes and raced down the hill at the snow tubing park.

Maria Senk of Cooperstown brought her 5-year-old daughter, Ava, to the snow tubing hill.

“She went down for the very first time by herself,” Senk said. “It was very exciting. We are having a lot of fun.”

The tubing area has two sizes of rubber inner tubes – large and small. Adults may double up with smaller children.

The cost for renting a tube for the day is $5. The two snow tubing tracks are open from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays, weather permitting. Sleds and personal tubes are not allowed on the snow tubing hill.

“We weren’t here last year, but the year before we came a lot,” said Russ Kissinger of West Winfield, who brought his family to enjoy a day of snow tubing.

The tubing track is groomed with a snowmobile and then surfaced by state park employees who ride down the two tracks before it is opened to the public. Five state park employees — four on the clock and one seasonal volunteer — manage the snow tubing park.

Two attendants wait at the top of the hill for visitors to make the steep climb. They instruct each rider as to the correct procedure for leaving the track — and then the attendant pushes the rider over the crest of the hill.

Midway down the hill there are orange cones marking a ‘no walking zone.’ An attendant stands between the cones to ensure the safety of all snow tubers.

A fire box radiates heat outside of the warming hut for those who want to quickly warm their hands before climbing the hill for another turn. Inside the warming hut is a woodstove surrounded by a double railing with a clothesline and clips for wet gloves to dry.

Snow encrusted children come into the hut, shedding their outerwear, often ordering hot chocolate or hot dogs from the concession counter. Inside the hut it is hot and steamy, as coats, hats and gloves are hung on every hook and hanger to dry. Wooden benches provide seating around the hut.

“We started doing this in 1980,” said Ryann Young, a state park employee. “We have a tremendous amount of fun out here. It is different from our normal routine at the park. And everyone has fun. Everyone is in a good mood and having a good time. We see the same people week after week, year after year. It is nice to see the families having fun.”

Dean Cole of Cherry Valley has been working at Glimmerglass State park for three years. He often takes the position as one of the attendants at the top of the snow tubing tracks.

“It is a fun job,” Cole said. “It promotes exercise too. It is quite a climb to get to the top carrying your tube.”

In addition to snow tubing, Glimmerglass State Park offers various trails for those interested in snow shoeing and cross country skiing.

“It is a beautiful day to be outside,” said Greg Lollo of New York City on a recent Saturday. “We had a great day of cross country skiing. We followed the ice fishermen’s tracks out onto the lake, and then, when we came back, we made our own little trail.”

His friend, Tracey Ryersee of Cooperstown carried her dog, a Pomeranian cross, in her backpack as they spent the day skiing.

“He loves it,” Ryersee said. “I just toss him in the backpack and he hangs outs.”

Ice fishing is a popular sport on Glimmerglass Lake. Many people push a sled full of equipment out onto the lake and cut holes in the ice hoping to catch fish. There is so much interest in ice fishing that the park offers an ice fishing clinic.

The park has had ice skating as well. There was an artificial pond in the pavilion, however during the recent warm days the liner rose to the surface and ripped.

“Right now we don’t have ice skating,” Young said. “But we hope to offer it again, weather permitting.”

There are many activities to enjoy during the winter months, and Glimmerglass State Park offers a variety of things to do for those looking for an adventure.