Five locations for cross-country skiing on Shelter Island

Holly Cronin cross country skis on Shelter Island. (Credit: Shelter Island Reporter file photo)

Holly Cronin cross country skis on Shelter Island. (Credit: Shelter Island Reporter file photo)

Although I am a grown woman, snow in the forecast makes me very happy. That’s because I have cross-country skis. 

It takes only two or three inches of the white stuff to ski on Shelter Island. Last winter, that was no problem from Christmas right through March. And the 2014/2015 Old Farmer’s Almanac predicts another winter of above-average snowfall for our area.

“Out here, people often hunker down in a snowstorm,” said Holly Cronin, a Shelter Island resident who has skied all over the Northeast. “When you ski, you get the joy of being outdoors in the snow — and even on a cold day, you will sweat.”

The only officially designated cross-country trails on Shelter Island are at Mashomack Preserve. Bring your own skis or snowshoes and don’t expect groomed trails, snowmaking or much company.

“It’s whatever nature provides,” said Cindy Belt, education coordinator at Mashomack. “On the weekends, there might be half a dozen people in a day.”

Shelter Island resident Kim Reilly agreed.

“The difference skiing at Mashomack, that I haven’t experienced elsewhere, is the sense of being completely alone and surrounded
by nature,” she said.

In the summer, dense foliage hides Miss Annie’s Creek, one of the most charming bodies of water on the Island. But in winter, glimpses of the creek show through the bare trees.

“You really appreciate the ups and downs, the hills and valleys,” Belt said.

A six-mile cross-country loop consists of parts of the Mashomack trail system connected by a section that’s only open during the winter. For a 10-mile loop, add the longer (and bumpier) “Blue” trail. Mashomack is open 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. October through February and is closed Tuesdays. In January, the Visitor Center is open only on weekends.

When the first flakes fly and school is out, nearly the entire able-bodied population of Shelter Island heads for Goat Hill, also known as the Shelter Island Country Club. A nine-hole public golf course, it boasts the highest point of land on the Island with spectacular views.

The last time I “Skied the Goat” it was crawling with sledders, including my sons. I kept to the middle of the fairways, making a long loop around the course. Swooshing past the bottom of the hill, I avoided human missiles on unsteerable contraptions like giant salad bowls. I loved every minute.

Sylvester Manor Educational Farm is a 243-acre property laced with footpaths and trails that wind through farmland and woods with views of Gardiners Creek. Executive director Cara Loriz said that although they have not yet established cross-country ski trails there, they welcome wintertime visitors, provided they call first.

A fireplace is an important amenity after a day
of skiing. Two Shelter Island inns with fireplaces are open in the winter: The Ram’s Head Inn has
fireplaces in the lobby, bar area and restaurant
and the House on Chase Creek has a fireplace-equipped suite.

Mashomack Preserve,
47 South Ferry Road, 631-749-1001

Shelter Island Country Club,
26 Sunnyside Ave., 631-749-0416

Sylvester Manor
Educational Farm,
80 North Ferry Road, 631-749-0626

The Ram’s Head Inn,
108 Ram Island Drive, 631-749-0811

House on Chase Creek,
3 Locust Ave., 631-559-2296

This story originally appeared in the 2014 edition of northforker’s holiday magazine.