Try a Moonlight Ski

by Sue Freeman

Winter can be a season of darkness in Rochester. You drive to work in the dark and you drive home from work in the dark. Unless your office or workplace has windows, you may never even see the daylight. Then, even more so than in other season, you cram your recreation into the weekends. It’s time to embrace the darkness. Let the moonlight be your guiding beacon.

If you haven’t tried cross-country skiing (or snowshoeing) by moonlight, you’ve missed a delightful adventure. Our eyes are used to the bright illumination of lights, but in only a few minutes under moonlight, they adjust to the dim light and you can see quite well, especially with the white snow reflecting the moonlight. You enter a magical world of quiet and shadows, where you’re likely to have the trails to yourselves.

It’s easy to get started. Watch the skies as the moon grows toward a full moon. Then pick an evening at or near the full moon, preferably an evening without cloud cover. Enjoy your dinner, make sure the kids have finished their homework, then bundle them all up, load the skis, and head off.

It’s best to pick an open area for your first moonlight adventure. The trails through the golf course at Durand Eastman Park, the mowed grassland trails west of Quaker Pond in Mendon Ponds Park, or the mowed brush land trails of Northampton Park are ideal. This way you’ll get maximum light and the least interference from nighttime shadows. And you won’t have to watch carefully for trees or deal with narrow trails. You can relax and enjoy the new experience of skiing under moonlight. Once you’re comfortable on these open trails you can graduate to the woodland trials that abound in the Rochester area.

You will notice one difference between moonlight skiing and daylight skiing. At night, the terrain looks flat. You loose depth and distance perception. That becomes part of the game – part of the unique enjoyment of night skiing. This is another reason why I recommended the three beginner areas. They offer moderate terrain with rolling hills where you can acclimate to the difference in perception with little risk of hitting anything or racing out of control.

One of my fondest winter memories dates back to when my husband and I were dating. We were winding through some woodland hills under a full moon in Durand Eastman Park. The snow hung heavy on the tree boughs. Although in an urban park, peace and quiet enveloped us. We maneuvered through the woods, creating our own trail, ducking under low branches. The moonlight glinted off the trees creating heavy shadows and unseen dips in the trail jostled us, causing us to concentrate on keeping our balance. Rich darted ahead of me and hid behind a tree. He shook a branch as I passed. “Thump” came a wall of snow, drenching me in fluffy white stuff. Maybe I should have taken that as a warning, but I married him anyway?

Isn’t it time to create some moonlight memories of your own? To learn where to go near home, order a copy of the guidebook “Snow Trails – Cross-country Ski and Snowshoe in Central & Western New York,” available at or call 1-800-431-1579.

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