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No skis required for a great day in Ellicottville

ELLICOTTVILLE -- When winter winds whip and your snow-loving friends are hitting the slopes of Holiday Valley, you (a member of the "never in a million years will I get on a snowboard club") have two choices -- sit home and pout or take the ride and explore the really hip town of Ellicottville.

Wear good, warm walking boots because once you park, your feet are the only mode of transportation you'll need, as Washington Street is where you'll find most of the shops, along with Monroe, a cross-street.

No doubt your ski friends will want to head out early. While they lug their gear to the hills, you can keep warm in Dina's restaurant, which serves up a great breakfast and a chic atmosphere. As you sip rich coffee and peruse the menu, pretend you are in a ski haven, like Beaver Creek, Colo.

Decisions, decisions -- Dina's Favorite Omelet (sun-dried tomato, basil pesto, pine nuts and cheddar-jack) or Cranberry Pecan French Toast with a side of apple-smoked bacon? Fill up for the long day ahead. Prices from a $4.95 breakfast sandwich to around $8/$9 area.

While shopping is the town's main attraction, there are a couple of other options to consider, including a walk to admire some nice homes and historic buildings. Or if the weather isn't too cold, take a hike to the nearby Nannen Arboretum (www.nannenarboretum.org, open 365 days a year, from dawn until dusk). We all know trees are can be just as beautiful in the winter months. Admittance is free.

Another plan is a spa treatment at one of the two spas in town. If you are into heavy-duty massage therapy, the cozy Earth Worn Body provides a full menu of treatments, including the "Remote Village," a traditional Swedish massage that's a bargain at $80 for 90 minutes. Or how about an Organic Brown Sugar Pumpkin Scrub to slough off winter's dry-heat skin damage? You can think fondly of your pals freezing on the lifts while you indulge at $55, plus tip.

For the holidays, a Pomegranate & Fig scrub is planned. On Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday evenings, Earth Worn will host Intuitive Card Readings by Catherine. If visiting on the weekend you could call Catherine (716-244-1742) about arranging a private party.

For more aesthetic services (manicures and pedicures), head to the Ellicottville Oasis Day Spa. For $315, you could spend six hours indulging in a one-hour aromatherapy massage, a facial, a body wrap, manicure and pedicure, and lunch. Reservations are recommended at both spas.

>Time to shop

There appears to be two types of shoppers in Ellicottville: women and the men they drag along.

Fortunately on a recent Saturday, a couple of fellas making a quick exit from their significant others found the Gin Mill was cranking by noon, as was the Ellicottville Brewing Company, where happy guys emerged with full growlers all day.

Here's a breakdown of the great shops you'll find.

*Ski shops

Yes, you may not ski, but who doesn't love the excellent winter clothing that goes along with it? Fun hats, gloves and funky jackets -- think Snow Bunny! Four spots to check out are The City Garage on Monroe Street (www.citygarageskishop.com); on Washington Street you'll find Dekdebrun's Ski & Snowboard; Mud, Sweat & Gears and the Red Door Ski Shop, which also had great sweaters and dressy jackets.

*Clothing and jewelry

Gado Gado (corner of Monroe and Washington) is the place to hit for trendy, sophisticated clothing. Lots of "in" metallic colors -- silver, bronze and gold with black and solid browns pieces to mix and match. Beaded sweaters and stylish scarves turn cold weather-wear into a hot commodity here.

Daff on Washington Street appeared to have a wide selection for men, too. For the gals, the predominant style is "Uptown Cowgirl" (very polished with a Western flair). Accessories are big here, as in bags, including the Brighton brand name. Get in on Daff's "On The Hook" promotion, which runs through Thursday. Why sling your expensive, hand-crafted Brighton Bag on the door handle when you can get a nifty handbag display holder with any purchase?

Another hot item at Daff is a beaded leather cell phone holder in such hot colors as pink and bright blue. And while outdoor shoes are functional, they can also be fun, like the great looking El Natura Lista brand, fleece-line Crocs and Uggs boots, all available here.

Apres on Washington is trendy ski apparel -- more like after skiing, in the lodge, having drinks with a hunk who just came off the slopes. For the self-conscious crowd, Apres carries a brand of jeans called Tummy Tuck. Expensive, but worth it -- maybe.

Bargain hunters suffering from sticker-shock will find comfort at Betsy's Consignments, which is a very short drive out of town on Washington (Route 242). The only problem with consignments? One size only. But find that pair of olive cowboy boots in your size and in mint condition for only $12, why not? Spotted at Betsy's: A bright yellow Dolce & Gabbana bag, for $60 with the tags still on it!

A Few of a Kind Fine Italian Jewelry has a good mix of expensive and inexpensive items, like three bright, beaded bracelets tied together for around $14. There are also nice handbags and Paris Hilton-esque big, pink sunglasses here!

*Gift shops and home accessories

There is no shortage of stores to find unique gifts for the holidays, starting with Alexandra on Washington Street (a sister store is on Main in Williamsville). The underlying theme of the store is perfectly summed up on one of the mugs: "Behind every successful woman is herself." There's a huge selection of soaps and lotions, including the Dirty Girl line. Unique purses -- whimsical wool and even one made from a rolled license plate -- would look smart with jeans. Loved the wonderful martini glass selection!

Kazoo II is filled with everything from handmade jewelry in amber, copper and turquoise to wall hangings, toys and holiday decorations. For the serious chef, unique pewter measuring cups shaped more like scoops would make a wonderful gift. Really intriguing were the "milagros" (miracles), symbolic Latin American religious charms said to provide healing and strength.

If you are looking for a holiday centerpiece, the darling Tangled Twigs has wonderful arrangements, as well as seasonal wreaths and some nice candleholders, a set of big pinecones and classic glass pillars.

Earth Arts is a premier pottery and gift gallery. From delicate (vases) to functional (olive oil and vinegar vessels), there's a wide selection, including the blue and green popular Polish pottery. Check out the brightly colored ceramic fish on the wall.

Gone Wild Creations is where to find rustic furniture in case you inherit a ski lodge. It's Adirondack-rustic meets the Wild West, with many designs incorporating antlers, like the mammoth chandelier you'll see above. A wonderful leather chair with the cow design will really have you thinking!

Aardvark Eclectic Home Decor opened a new shop in town, in addition to the one on the Route 21 9/2 42 corner. It, too, trends on the western/rustic style.

Other notable shopping stops: A Touch of Ellicottville, where you can pick up your "EVL" T-shirt. Keep walking through and you'll also hit a toy store filled with puppets of all things, and Nature's Remedy Natural Health Center.

Pathway Books, a used-books store, is a nice change of pace from the crowded places, as is Watson's Chocolates. For a quick bite or cup of coffee, Coolings Cafe offers soups, sandwiches, ice cream, coffee drinks and teas, as well as wireless Internet access.

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For information

For more information about the shops, events and times, visit www.ellicottvilleny.com or call the Ellicottville Chamber of Commerce, (800) 349-9099.

To book spa appointments or for information: Earth Worn Body Shop (www.earthwornbodyco.com, or 716-699-2508) and Ellicottville Oasis Day Spa (www.ellicottvilleoasis.com, or 716-699-8996.

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If you go

Follow Route 219 to Ellicottville. Drive is approximately 60 miles.

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