Enough snow for skiing
Some Capital Region residents have expressed disappointment in last week’s snowstorm, but not me. The six inches or so that we got in Albany seemed perfectly adequate, and after clearing off my car, I decided to go cross country skiing.
One of the great things about cross country skiing is that you can just go out and do it for free. But you do need snow and the January thaw, when temperatures climbed into the 50s, pretty much wiped out my local cross country skiing options. I usually ski at the Albany Pine Bush, though I sometimes venture out to Peebles Island State Park in Cohoes, and Omi International Arts Center, the sculpture park in Ghent. But on Saturday I was in a bit of a rush, and decided to try skiing a little closer to home, at the Corning Preserve.
I had never skied at the Corning Preserve before, due to lack of snow — the snow seems to melt more quickly down there. But I knew I was guaranteed to find snow the morning after a storm, even a disappointing storm, and so I made the short drive to the boat launch. Much to my amazement, the city of Albany had already cleared the bicycle path, so I carried my skis across the footbridge and put them on after I got across, in the wide open field on the other side.
The snow was light and powdery, and since there was only about a half foot, it wasn’t too hard to break trail. Breaking trail is good exercise but not exactly my favorite thing to do, and as I skied, I imagined how much better life would be if, instead of clearing the bike path, the city had laid down a cross country ski trail or two.
Frankly, it blew my mind that the bicycle path was clearer than, say, the street that I live on — two days after the storm, my street still isn’t completely clear. In fairness to the city, it’s harder to clean the streets, because people park on them. Even so, I’m not sure why it’s imperative to clean the bicycle path less than 24 hours after a snowfall. The only other people I saw down there were on skis and snowshoes. And a truck from the Department of General Services, driving on the bicycle path.
Despite my irritation over the extremely well plowed bicycle path, I had a lovely time skiing at the Corning Preserve. The preserve is mostly flat, which isn’t too exciting — I tend to like the occasional hill — but the view of the Hudson River more than made up for it. I use the bike path regularly during the spring, summer and fall but had never been down there during the winter, and found myself transfixed by the juxtaposition of windswept sheets of ice with the river’s dark blue currents. It was cold, but I warmed up quickly and I enjoyed the seeing gusts of wind stir up clouds of snow. My return ski was really nice, as I got to make use of the trail I had just created, and glide back to the parking lot. Of course, I kept imagining how much more fun the place would be if it was a widely used by skiers and snowshoers, and there was a vast network of maintained trails through the fields and woods.
I wouldn’t say the Corning Preserve offers the greatest skiing on earth, but if you live in downtown Albany, it’s extremely convenient and quite beautiful. On Sunday I skied at the Saratoga Biathlon Club, up near Great Sacandaga Lake, and after breaking trail across a mostly flat plain the day before, I really appreciated the SBC’s network of freshly groomed trails.
Skiing regularly always puts me in a good mood, and I’m glad I took advantage of the snow when I had the chance, before the ice and rain that fell late Sunday and early Monday. If there’s still snow next weekend, I’m sure I’ll go out again, even if the snow is crusted over with ice and patchy in spots. Because cross country skiing is seldom perfect, and even bad cross country skiing still has its pleasures.
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