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Get out and enjoy all that winter offers in WNY

More than 100 University at Buffalo alumni tried their hands at curling last weekend on one of two sheets of ice by the Buffalo River. Jason Osinski and Heather Mills were among those who chose to spend a Friday night at RiverWorks, shielded by a wind screen, under a two-story pavilion, but still very much exposed to the outdoors.

“We wanted to try some new winter activities this year,” Mills said. “They have curling at Canalside and curling here, so we thought, ‘Why not give it a shot?’ ”

The Town of Tonawanda couple also plan to fill part of their free time in the coming weeks ice skating and skiing. They will have choices across the region, though, as in other seasons, the new Buffalo waterfront has evolved into an epicenter of outdoor activity this time of year – even touting outdoor yoga and Zumba classes.

It’s been a long time coming, but after the week we just had, traditional winter weather is here.

“Who would have thought it would have been 70 degrees in December? We had to bring the furniture back out onto the patio,” said William Casale, RiverWorks general manager.

RiverWorks joined forces with several other downtown waterfront venues for the first time to provide a variety of activities during the next six weeks that will warm the determined-to-be-more-fit among us. See a complete listing at buffalowinterweekends.com.

“Winter, especially in the Western New York area, is when people hibernate. They’re not burning as many calories,” said Chadd Soto, manager of wellness services at Independent Health. “It’s very important to stay active. It’s also cold, dark, and that can lead to depression. When you’re exercising and moving, you’re more energetic, you’re participating, you’re socializing. Exercising will enhance the endorphins and make it a brighter day.”

Here are some healthy outdoor options to consider in coming weeks – beginning today.

“Winter is a good time to start,” Soto said, “because the humidity is very low and you can breathe a little bit easier as opposed to 85, 90 degrees and humid.”

1. RIVERWORKS

359 Ganson St., buffaloriverworks.com

Open skating varies and is available mostly on weekends. Visit the website or call 342-2292 for times and days. It will run 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. this Sunday and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday. Cost is $5 for those 6 and older and free for those 5 and under; Independent Health members receive $1 off by presenting their membership card. Skate rental runs $5. Skate-and-shoot sessions also run at various times and cost $10 for those age 11 and older, $5 for those 10 and under. The Buffalo Curling Club offers lessons and events several times a week.

Casale calls the $20 million-plus complex a “mini-convention center, a four-season concept that started with ice.” RiverWorks will host an international youth hockey tournament this weekend, the Labatt Blue Pond Hockey Tournament Feb. 19-21, and an ice-fishing derby in the coming weeks. Construction had just started on the 13-acre former warehouse and silo space when the site – on Kelly Island between the Michigan and Ohio Street bridges – hosted its first pond hockey tournament three years ago. Twin rinks largely protected from the snow and wind, but not the temperature, have taken shape since.

Those looking for a break from the elements this time of year can head into the dining area – called the Ward – for food, Buffalo and international craft beers and big-name brands including Labatt, whose logo is painted out the silos outside. The site also just became the new home for the Queen City Roller Girls, which started its 30-game roller derby season last weekend.

We’re doing more and more every year,” Casale said, “and the concepts keep evolving.”

2. THE ICE AT CANALSIDE

44 Prime St., canalsidebuffalo.com

Public skating and curling runs from 3 to 7 p.m. Monday to Wednesday; 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Thursday; 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday; and 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday through March 19. Skating costs $6 for those ages 13 and older, $4 for those 6 to 12 and free for 5 and under; BlueCross BlueShield members receive $1 off by presenting their membership card. Skate rental costs $4. Season passes also are available for $36 for individuals and $99 for a family of four. Curling costs $15 per person per hour for a minimum of four people. Ice biking is available during most of those hours for $10 per half hour. Alongside the rink is a new indoor winter pavilion.

Much of the downtown winter action will take place at Canalside in coming weeks. Special events include Suit Skates at Canalside, for the working set, from noon to 2 p.m. the next several Thursdays, with a discounted $5 ice skating admission and rental package, and the Lake Effect Fitness Series at Canalside. The series will include Snow Zumba, Frosty Fusion, Ice Chisel, and Snowga classes at 11 a.m. Saturdays and Sundays for the next six weeks. There is no preregistration. Participants are asked to dress warmly and in layers. “We saw this as an opportunity to build on the success we’ve had during summer classes,” BlueCross BlueShield of WNY spokesman Kyle Rogers said. Canalside is considered a “Healthy Zone” for the insurer.

3. HEALTHY ZONE RINK

41 Riley St., East Aurora; thinkrink.org

Public skates 7 to 8:45 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 1 to 2:20 p.m. Saturday and Sunday; special extra open skates from 1 to 2:20 p.m. Monday and Feb. 15 and 16. It costs $5 to skate and $3 to rent skates; BlueCross BlueShield members receive $1 off by presenting their membership card.

The Aurora Ice Association purchased the ice-making equipment from the NHL used for the first Winter Classic on Jan. 1, 2008, and has used it since to chill its covered outdoor rink. The 4-acre site, a half block off Main Street in the village, includes locker rooms and, for this outdoor season, a new 5,000-square-foot, timber-framed warming lodge. “The lodge has made a big difference,” said John Cimperman, vice president of the ice association, a nonprofit committed to increasing accessibility to ice sports in the region. “Now we have a heated area for skate rentals and skate changing and a little concession stand.”

Like its largest two outdoor companions, chillers will allow the rink to stay open through mid-March, pretty much regardless of unpredictable weather. “Even on days when it’s upwards of 60 degrees,” Cimperman said, “we have the equipment to make ice.”

MORE SKATING

Martin Luther King Park: The city, Buffalo Olmsted Parks Conservancy and BlueCross BlueShield combined last year to launch a rink at the park alongside Humboldt Parkway and the Buffalo Museum of Science. Skating is free here, and the insurer and the Buffalo Sabres Foundation have made available more than 400 pairs of rental skates. Weather permitting – there is no chiller here, save Mother Nature – regular hours run from 1:30 to 5:30 p.m. weekdays, noon to 5:30 p.m. weekends; call 838-1249, Ext. 17 for ice information.

Rotary Rink: Skate free at this downtown winter mainstay in Fountain Plaza. Open skating runs from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 5 to 9 p.m. Tuesday to Friday; 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday; and 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday through March 13, depending on weather. If you don’t have skates, no problem. Rental costs are $2 for children and $3 for adults. For more information, visit buffaloplace.com/rotaryrink.

Niagara County: Reservoir and DeVeaux Woods state parks – which flank each other and the Robert Moses Parkway near the Niagara River Whirlpool Rapids – offer free ice skating at their rustic rinks starting this weekend. Skate rentals are unavailable. Both rinks are open from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday to Thursday, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, depending on weather conditions. Call 284-5778 for updates.

CROSS-COUNTRY SKIING AND SNOWSHOEING

Reinstein Woods: The nature preserve, at 93 Honorine Drive in Cheektowaga, offers arguably the best deal in the region when it comes to cross-country skiing and snowshoe rentals. Trails are open when 6 or more inches of snow are on the ground. Rentals cost $5 daily, or $2 for Friends of Reinstein Woods members, and are available 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. weekdays, 1 to 4:30 p.m. Saturday and the same time on Jan. 17, 24, 31 and Feb. 14, 21 and 28. The center offers five interpretive trails, all shorter than a mile, and serves hot cocoa for $1 at the rental station. A rustic lodge allows for a warm-up. For special events and more info, visit reinsteinwoods.org.

Buffalo Nordic Ski Club: Those with skis can join this loosely knit club – for $15 as an individual, $30 as a family – and head out with fellow members on regular excursions in Western New York and beyond. Club President James Klein also hosts free learn to cross-country ski lessons for the public that start at 10 a.m. every snowy Sunday at the Rose Garden in Delaware Park. To sign up or learn more, visit buffalonordic.org. The website also has a lengthy list of trail sites across the region.

TOBOGGANING

Chestnut Ridge County Park: Toboggan chutes are now open from 4 to 8 p.m. Fridays and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekends and holidays. The sled hill is open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily, weather permitting. Visit erie.gov/parks or call 858-8513 for weekday winter sports and activities updates at all Erie County parks.

email: refresh@buffnews.com

See more photos of curling at galleries.buffalonews.com

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