Tourin’ in Turin, New York
I grew up in the Southern Tier of New York and became an avid skier there, but somehow, I never knew about the geographic phenomenon known as the Tug Hill Plateau until I was an adult living in Pennsylvania. Maybe it’s that thing about taking areas close by for granted, or maybe I was just too young to appreciate the finer things.
At any rate, the Tug Hill Plateau is a sprawling tract of land tucked between Lake Ontario and the Adirondack Mountains in northern New York. The beauty of it: lake effect snow, and plenty of it. The area gets more snow than anywhere east of the Mississippi. On the east side of the plateau, a popular way to enjoy it is to work out of one of the small towns along Route 28 such as Turin and drive up the plateau to reach myriad trails. One of the most popular areas is Carpenter Road, a network of trails suitable for skiing, snowshoeing, and skishoeing. Nearby, Snow Ridge Ski Area, a small downhill resort, lies on the face of the plateau, and you can actually ski to it from Carpenter Road and then ski down the downhill slopes.
But the real attraction of the plateau for skishoers is something called gulfs. Streams make there way eastward out of Lake Ontario and eventually cut their way downward through the edge of the plateau. The result is spectacular canyons winding several hundred feet below the rim above. They actually look like small versions of the Grand Canyon. In several places, trails meander along the rim, affording breathtaking views of the gulfs below. Don’t get too close to the edge, though.
The premier gulf location for skishoeing is Whetstone Gulf State Park. One set of trails winds around the base and up the stream in the valley floor. This makes a nice warmup for the good stuff: the North and South Trails. One climbs a few hundred feet up one side of the canyon, then goes along the rim for three miles, and then crosses the stream and comes down the other side of the canyon, for a six-mile roundtrip. You’ll need skis with climbing skins, snowshoes, or skishoes to climb up the canyon at the start, and they’ll help when descending at the end also.