As the temperature gets lower, many people opt to remain indoors to stay warm and cozy. Others eagerly await the first snowfall so that the entire family can head outside to ski, ice skate, or go sledding. New Jersey has a bounty of places to enjoy these winter activities.
Cross-Country Skiing & Alpine Skiing
The Scandinavians were the first to use “skinny” skis as the most efficient way to travel over the snow. Today, these skis are inexpensive to purchase or rent and even the youngest child can learn this skill quickly. Many local parks have groomed trails for gliding silently over the terrain while admiring the snowy landscape.
If you’re brave and longing to try Alpine skiing, visit family-oriented places that have various levels of difficulty. In New Jersey, these include Campgaw Mountain, Mahwah, NJ, 201-327-7800; Hidden Valley Club, Vernon, NJ, 973-764-4200; and Mountain Creek, Vernon, NJ, 973-827-2000. (Other mountains in nearby Pennsylvania also have good downhill skiing options.) Ski season runs from December through March, or longer depending on weather conditions, with lessons and special events scheduled at each New Jersey location. Call or check the websites before going for dates, hours, and snow reports.
Small children may want to try ice skating or sledding before getting on skis. —>
About 1,000 years ago, people laced animal bones to their shoes to cross frozen rivers and lakes. We’re more fortunate, since today’s ice skating boots have blades attached and are made for all ages and sizes. While some prefer skating on frozen lakes or ponds, it’s safer to skate in an enclosed rink, and you can take lessons if you’re so inclined. Most rinks are open year-round, including Aspen Ice in Randolph, NJ, 973-927-9122, and in Flemington, NJ, 908-237-1423; Bridgewater Sports & Ice Arena, Bridgewater, NJ, 732-627-0006; Floyd Hall Arena, Little Falls, NJ, 973-746-7744; Ice House, Hackensack, NJ, 201-487-8444; Mennen Sports Arena, Morristown, NJ, 973-326-7651; Codey Arena, West Orange, NJ, 973-731-3828; Union Sports Arena, Union, NJ, 908-687-8610; and The Arenas at Woodbridge, Woodbridge, NJ, 732-596-4100.
Adults can probably recall sledding days on wooden American Flyers or atop a large piece of cardboard. However, the aboriginal tribes of Canada knew about sledding long before we did, for their original snow sleds, known as toboggans, were used for transporting heavy loads across long distances. Today’s sleds are made of wood or plastic, are round or long—but no matter what shape or size, sledding is always fun. Favorite New Jersey locations include the Francis A. Byrne Golf Course, West Orange, 973-736-2306 (has numerous hilly sections); Holmdel Park, Holmdel, 732-946-9562 (always supervised); and Cheesequake State Park, Matawan, 732-441-0140 (easy, safe hill opposite the lake).
No matter which winter sport you choose to enjoy with your family, get outside for an awesome and memorable adventure!
Arline Zatz, from Metuchen, NJ, is the award-winning author of numerous New Jersey guidebooks, including Best Hikes With Children in New Jersey (The Mountaineers).