Winter in Summit County
Visit three great spots where you can make the most of the snowy season.
The Cuyahoga Valley National Park’s Winter Sports Center at Kendall Lake Shelter embraces the winter season. It offers visitors the option of renting snowshoes or cross-country skis as a way to explore the 33,000-acre park located between Cleveland and Akron.
Weather is an important consideration before making the trip, because national park guidelines require at least 4 inches of snowfall for snowshoeing and at least 6 inches for cross-country skiing. Once those requirements are met, Cuyahoga Valley National Park ranger Josh Angelini says there are trails for visitors of all skill levels.
“If it’s their first time we send them to some pretty flat areas,’’ he explains, referring to two fields located less than a mile from the Winter Sports Center that serve as a good training ground for beginners.
“If they have more experience,” Angelini says, “we send them to the Tree Farm Trail.”
This 2.75-mile Tree Farm Trail loop provides a scenic route, taking visitors past Horseshoe Pond and through groves of pines and other trees, but it does require a short drive from the Winter Sports Center. Another popular trail for experienced skiers is the Cross Country Trail that’s located next to the Winter Sports Center. This 2.3-mile loop features an elevation change of 160 feet, making for a fairly challenging course for skiers.
Lessons are available for those new to cross-country skiing, and the park offers guided snowshoe hikes. If you’re wondering which is right for you, Angelini says the biggest difference between the two winter pastimes is the amount of energy required.
“I’ve heard people say that if you can walk you can snowshoe,” he explains. “It’s about having more of your weight spread out over deep snow.”
Cross-country skiing, on the other hand, is more of an endurance sport.
“A lot of people like to go backcountry cross-country skiing on a cold winter day,” Angelini says. “It’s a nice way to see the forest.” The Winter Sports Center at Kendall Lake Shelter is located on Truxell/Kendall Park Road, 2 miles west of Akron Cleveland Road in Peninsula 44264. Visit website for hours, pricing and trail information; 330/657-2752, nps.gov/cuva
Skiing & Tubing
Offering two separate skiing spots just over 3 miles away from one another, Boston Mills/Brandywine Ski Resort has been drawing visitors to the Cuyahoga Valley since the 1960s. Now owned by Peak Resorts, both spots cater to skiers of all ages and skill levels.
“It is a lifelong sport,” says Ricky McMullen, product manager for Boston Mills/Brandywine. “There are people who start when they are 3, and there are people still out here in their 80s and 90s.”
Boston Mills has seven trails spread across 40 skiable acres. Brandywine is slightly larger with 11 trails on 48 skiable acres. Snowboarders are welcome at both locations. There is also a base lodge — complete with all the supplies for a fun day on the powder — at both spots.
Lessons are available for beginners who simply want to learn the basics or seasoned veterans looking to refine their skills. The SnowSports School at Boston Mills/Brandywine is open seven days a week during the winter season. Both group and private lessons are available.
Those who aren’t up for skiing or snowboarding can get a rush of adrenaline at Brandywine’s Polar Blast tubing lanes. An all-day pass costs $59 per person, while a three-hour pass costs $25. Late-night tubing is available from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m. on Saturdays beginning Dec. 26 and on Fridays starting New Year’s Day.
“It is a facility that is separate from the ski hill,” McMullen explains. “You don’t have people tubing at the same slopes as the skiing.” Boston Mills Ski Resort, 7100 Riverview Rd., Peninsula 44264; Brandywine Ski Resort, 1146 W. Highland Rd., Sagamore Hills 44067; For reservations or more information, visit bmbw.com or call 800/875-4241.
Lock 3’s 10,000-square-foot ice rink serves as the winter focal point of Akron’s downtown, welcoming visitors to take a spin through Feb. 15. It’s a great spot for family fun or a romantic evening out, and the free admission and $3 skate rental can’t be beat.
Lock 3 operations manager Tish Jernigan says the ice rink attracts more than 75,000 skaters each season, but it is just one of the events taking place at the downtown gathering spot. Polar Putt-Putt lets visitors take a swing at a 9-hole mini golf course for just $3.
“We also have what we call Reindeer Run,” Jernigan says, “which is basically a 150-foot, all-weather slide.”
For $3, guests can ride the slide as many times as they’d like for 30 minutes, and Lock 3 provides the sled. New for this year is a separate polymer skating rink geared for kids 12 and under as well as a pop-up museum.
“It is inexpensive family fun with lots to do in one location,” Jernigan says. Lock 3 is located at 200 S. Main St., Akron 44308. Visit website for hours and more information about the available winter activities; 330/375-2877, lock3live.com
Celebrate the season with these two Akron-area favorites:
Stan Hywet Hall & Gardens: Deck the Halls, throughout December
These evening tours allow guests to explore Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. co-founder F.A. Seiberling’s historic estate at a leisurely pace. New this year is an animated holiday window depicting life in Akron during the 1920s. Open select evenings; visit website for schedule. Adults $18, children ages 6–17 $12, 5 and under free; 714 N. Portage Path, Akron 44303, 330/315-3287, stanhywet.org
Hale Farm & Village: Holiday Lantern Tour, throughout December
A living history museum located on the grounds of the 200-year-old Jonathan Hale farm, Hale Farm & Village tells the story of life in Ohio during the 1860s. Guided lantern tours show the historic houses decorated in their holiday best. Reservations required. Adults $20, children ages 3–12 $12; 2686 Oak Hill Rd., Bath 44210, 330/666-3711, halefarm.org