It only takes a few minutes in the car to get you into the wilderness: or seeming wilderness. Two nearby nature centers give you everything you need --- equipment and miles and miles of calm, groomed trails --- to enjoy a winter workout on foot, cross-country skis, or snowshoes.
RMSC's Cumming Nature Center (6472 Gulick Road, Naples, 374-6160, www.rmsc.org) has 15 miles of trails open on weekends for cross-country skiing plus a two-mile snowshoeing loop. Hours are 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., weather permitting. Call ahead for trail conditions, leave pets at home, and if you're not an RMSC member, there is a suggested donation of $3. The Visitors Center (with bathrooms and vending machines) is open the same time as the trails, for warm-ups or cool-downs. You can rent skis, poles, and shoes for $12 a day and snowshoes for $5 a day. The trails are themed: The Beaver Trail overlooks a 35-acre beaver pond; The Pioneer Trail winds past an 18th-century homestead; The Conservation Trail has markers identifying trees as you go.
The 175-acre Genesee Country Nature Center is part of the Genesee Country Village & Museum (1410 Flint Hill Road, Mumford, 538-6822, www.gcv.org) and has five miles of trails for skiing and snowshoeing in the winter. The Nature Center is open Tuesdays through Fridays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and Saturdays and Sundays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is $3.50 for adults, $2.50 for kids. Equipment rental is $8 for skis and $3 for snowshoes. Call ahead for trail conditions. Special programs are scheduled throughout the winter as well, like night nature walks and sugaring and syrup-making demonstrations. In addition to the Nature Center, the 19th-century replica village is also open for cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, or walks selected weekend afternoons in January and February.
The laws of nature give us all the tools we need for some of the best winter fun. To sled, for example, all you need is snow and gravity. You don't even necessarily need a sled --- try a shovel, a trash bag, or slippery pants. Monroe County has designated certain sledding hills in the parks and marked them with signs. These are the safest places to throw yourself down an incline. Enjoy.
Black Creek Park: one hill, behind Woodside Lodge. The park is on Union Street, in Chili and Riga.
Ellison Park: two hills. The park is at the corner of Blossom and Landing Roads in Brighton and Penfield.
Mendon Ponds Park: one hill behind East Lodge, one across the street from Calvary Lodge. The park is on Clover Street in Pittsford and Mendon.
Northampton Park: one hill, across the street from the Ski Lodge. The park is off of Route 31, in Sweden and Ogden.
Powder Mills Park: one hill, near North Lodge. The park is off Route 96 in Perinton.
Webster Park: one hill, behind Parkview Lodge. The park is at the corner of Holt and East Lake Roads in Webster.
For more information call 256-4956. To see maps, visit www.monroecounty.gov.
If you want to try going downhill with a little more equipment, there is beginner-friendly, low-cost skiing at both Powder Mills and Northampton Parks. Rope tow, equipment rental, and lessons are provided by Swain. There are four-week classes available, or you can just ski on your own or in a casual group lesson. A season pass is $35, one-time lift tickets are $6, ski rental is $9, and a group lesson is $5. Call 234-SNOW for operation times (which are, of course, weather-dependent), or visit www.monroecounty.gov for the tentative schedule and more information about ski lessons. It's called the Swain Ski Program.
We can't let you forget the treasure of the Eastman School --- they have concerts almost every day school is in session. And what better time to enjoy them than in winter? You can get out of the house, warm up inside the theater, and listen to some of the best classical to be found. Even better: No ticket costs more than $15, and many of the concerts are free. Here's a selective list; find complete info at 274-1100, www.rochester.edu/Eastman/concerts.
Tues, Jan 18, Peter Kurau, horn, $5 | Fri, Jan 21, The True Story of Cinderella, opera students, $10 | Sun, Jan 23, Zvi Zeitlin, violin, 3 p.m., $5 | Tues, Jan 25, John Graham, viola, $5 | Wed, Jan 26, composers forum | Wed, Jan 26, Eastman Wind Ensemble, Eastman Theatre | Sun, Jan 30, Eastman School Symphony Orchestra, Eastman Theatre, 3 p.m. | Mon, Jan 31, Eastman Wind Orchestra | Tues, Feb 1, Mikhail Kopelman, violin, $5 | Wed, Feb 2, Musica Nova (pictured) | Thurs, Feb 3, Eastman Chamber Music Society, 7 p.m. | Sun, Feb 6, Arkady Shilkloper, jazz horn, 7:30 p.m. | Mon, Feb 7, Ryudo Mizutani, koto, Pia Liptak, violin, $4-$12 | Tues, Feb 8, Eastman Jazz Quartet, $5 | Thurs-Sun, Feb 10-13, The Coronation of Poppea, Eastman Opera Theatre, Annex 804, $15 | Sun, Feb 13, Ying Quartet, 3 p.m., $5-$15 | Mon, Feb 14, Eastman Repertory Singers and Women's Chorus | Tues, Feb 15, Tony Caramia, piano, $5 | Wed, Feb 16, Eastman Philharmonia, Eastman Theatre | Thurs, Feb 17, Eastman Chamber Percussion | Fri, Feb 18, Eastman Wind Ensemble, Eastman Theatre | Mon, Feb 21, Eastman School Symphony Orchestra, Eastman Theatre | Tues, Feb 22, Ethel, $5-$15 | Thurs, Feb 24, OSSIA | Fri, Feb 25, Eastman Jazz Ensemble, $7.50 | Sun, Feb 27, Musicians from Marlboro, 3 p.m., $5-$15 | Mon, Feb 28, Musica Nova | Tues, Mar 1, Collegium Musicum | Wed, Mar 2, Dirk Powell Band, $4-$12 | Mon, Mar 14, Moritz Eggert, piano | Tues, Mar 15, Aulos Ensemble, $5-$15 | Wed, Mar 16, Eastman Horn Choir | Fri, Mar 18, Eastman Wind Orchestra and Wind Ensemble | Sun, Mar 20, trombone choirs, 3 p.m. || Concerts are free, in Kilbourn Hall, 26 Gibbs Street, at 8 p.m., unless otherwise noted.