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6 Winter Gear Picks from Hudson Valley Sports Outfitters

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Belleayre Mountain. Courtesy of Ulster County Tourism. - MIKE BLOOM
  • Mike Bloom
  • Belleayre Mountain. Courtesy of Ulster County Tourism.

Bundle Up and Get Outside

Why head out into the winter cold, when you could be at home, huddled under a blanket, enjoying a cup of hot cocoa, or sitting by a roaring fireplace? While it may sound counterintuitive, Wynter Kennedy of Kenco in Kingston says that the best cure to winter blues is to get outside. Of course, it is easier to get excited if you have the gear to brave the elements.

"If people come in the door, it means they've got spirit," says Rich Gottlieb of Rock & Snow in New Paltz. According to Gottlieb, there's no need to feel discouraged if there is a piece of gear you're missing. "I often tell people, if you need to get out, get out," he says. Just make your plans according to the weather and the gear you've got. Gottlieb adds, "If you're hiking in your Converse All Stars, just don't go too far."

Bearing in mind that important wisdom, having the right outdoor winter equipment can make you safer and more comfortable, while giving you more flexibility in a wider range of conditions. And, of course, experience and good sense is always most crucial of all—in particular, knowing the limits of your skill and physical conditioning, knowing how to use whatever gear you have, and watching the weather.

We asked six local outdoor sports outfitters to share some of their favorite winter items, and where they recommend going to get outside this season. Read on for their gear picks.

Outdoor Gear Picks

Kenco (Kingston)

Kenco is short for "Kennedy Company." Founded in 1982, it remains a family business to this day, specializing in what Wynter Kennedy calls knowledge-based retail, that blends choice equipment with a team of staff ready to share their long experience in outdoor sports. Kenco works to set their prices low and offers price-matching in order to be competitive with online retail. 
Mohonk Preserve. Courtesy of Ulster County Tourism. - MIKE BLOOM
  • Mike Bloom
  • Mohonk Preserve. Courtesy of Ulster County Tourism.
Wynter Kennedy recommends picking up the Atlas Access Snowshoe for $179.95 and heading out for the Catskills classic—the Overlook Mountain Trail just north of Woodstock. Overlook Mountain marks the southern boundary of the Catskill Escarpment and the trail to the summit passes the ruins of the old Overlook Mountain House. Further on, the 3,140-foot summit of Overlook is topped by a 60-foot firetower that reopened in 1999, offering 360-degree views of the Catskill Mountains, and (to the east) the Hudson River Valley and the Berkshires. A spur trail from the summit also opens up views of the Ashokan Reservoir nearby to the south.



For the budget adventurer, Kenco also offers a beginner snowshoe kit. And for those seeking a less busy trail than the well-known Overlook hike, Wynter recommends the Kenape Brook Trail in Ashokan.

Rock & Snow (New Paltz)

Rock & Snow has been a New Paltz establishment since 1970, specializing in ice and rock climbing, cross-country skiing, and hiking with a selection of gear that would satisfy even the most seasoned outdoor adventurer. The annex, which opened in 2013, offers second-hand outdoor gear on consignment, a much-needed pillar of resistance in our throw-away culture.
Rich Gottlieb at Rock & Snow recommends Snowline's new Chainsen Claw ($69.95). The Claw offers traction for hiking up steep and slippery ice or rock without what Gottlieb calls the "stilted" stepping required when using crampons. He likes how easy it is to take the Chainsen Claw on and off his boots, and how it's possible to maintain a natural gait with this device. "This is just like Microspikes, except it has a series of points that go up the toe as well. So if you're just walking at a normal gait, you can be engaged as your heel is sort of up in the air, and your toe is down,” he explains. “If you come up to a rock band in the Catskills, you don't have to artificially use the side of the foot. You still get purchase using your toe area if that seems more natural."

Gottlieb recommends taking the Chainsen Claw to High Peters Kill Trail in Minnewaska State Park, on any day when the temperature falls below freezing. Unlike some of the wider carriage trails that are groomed for cross-country skiing in Minnewaska, traction devices are allowed on this rougher path.

Potter Brothers (Kingston)

Potter Brothers is a family-owned business that first opened in 1945 and has evolved to specialize in second-hand winter sports, namely skis and snowboards, with shops in Kingston, Fishkill, Jiminy Peak (in Massachusetts) and Bromley and Killington (in Vermont). Kyle Potter recommends the YES Libre Snowboard ($369.00) for a trip to Hunter Mountain—the ski resort located on the second-highest peak in the Catskills, a short distance from the 4,140-foot summit. 
Belleayre Mountain. Courtesy of Ulster County Tourism. - MIKE BLOOM
  • Mike Bloom
  • Belleayre Mountain. Courtesy of Ulster County Tourism.

Old Souls (Cold Spring)

Tara and James Carroll opened Old Souls five years ago. Running this outdoor and fly-fishing equipment shop has been a labor of love. Tara describes the life they have chosen: "If we are not working, we are outside—from stacking wood, skiing, or hiking with our great danes, to fly fishing the flats of the Bahamas." Old Souls is a member of 1% for the Planet, donating a fraction of all sales to nonprofits that work to protect the environment. So Tara and James work to do their part as stewards too.

Tara enthuses about the value of a wool base layer at this time of year. "Base layers can (and should!) be worn on your commute to work, running errands, even lounging at home. They're not just for skiing!" She also emphasizes that a wool base layer isn't just for function; it can look good too. And wool is also slow to smell compared to synthetics, even when you're working hard in it. She recommends the Smartwool Men's Merino 250 baselayer 1/4 zip for $100.00.

Tara suggests taking that new base layer out to Clarence Fahnestock State Park: "It’s great for cross-country skiing because they groom trails and provide a trail map. There are trails for all levels from beginner to advanced. Also, hiking there is great in the winter because it is rolling hills, not so steep, and so easy to do in the snow or compromised conditions. You can go for hours and not run into anyone."

Mountain Tops Outfitters (Beacon)

Katy and Leonard Behney got their start selling t-shirts with four different designs all based on Mount Beacon. One shirt featured the latitude and longitude of the Beacon Fire Tower. Using the savings they built up over one year of sales at a bookstore and local events, they were able to open their first shop 12 years agom across the street from their current location. The shop’s name is a play on words based on those early shirts—or tops—that featured variations on the theme of Mount Beacon. Thus: Mountain Tops Outfitters. Katy and Leonard wanted the good people of Beacon to be able to wear their Hudson Valley pride. They still stock two of the original shirt designs. 
Mohonk Preserve. Courtesy of Ulster County Tourism. - MIKE BLOOM
  • Mike Bloom
  • Mohonk Preserve. Courtesy of Ulster County Tourism.
Katy recommends the Patagonia Hi Loft Down Hoody Jacket for $279.00, saying: "This jacket gives you all the warmth without the weight for these blustery winter days when you aren't necessarily looking to work up a sweat (we've got lighter jackets for that) but just stretch your legs." Although its performance is affected by moisture, when dry, down still has a better warmth-to-weight ratio than nearly any synthetic-fill jacket.

Katy suggests heading out to the Long Dock Park and the one-mile Klara Sauer trail in Beacon with your new jacket. "It's always a beautiful place to walk and great for all ages and abilities. This time of year you can watch the ice pile up on the shore of the Hudson River which is a sight if you've never seen it before,” she says. “The park is located next to the Beacon train station and is open every day dawn until dusk."

Cabin Fever Outfitters (Rhinebeck)

Cabin Fever Outfitters got its start in Woodstock in 2003 before moving to Rhinebeck the following year. Owner Steve Patch recommends the Cork Ergo Trekking Pole for $124.95. These poles are distinguished by their gently-angled cork handles. The bend allows the user’s hand to be articulated at a slight downward angle as she grips the trekking pole—similar to a handshake—putting less strain on the wrist. "We sell what we use," Patch says. And he's been using Black Diamond trekking poles for 20 years. In the warmer months, trekking poles are usually reserved for steep ascents or rough terrain, but in the winter, they can provide greater stability even on flat terrain, in combination with snowshoes or traction devices.

Patch recommends taking your new trekking poles to Poet's Walk or Burger Hill— two Rhinebeck-area favorites. He describes Poet's Walk as, "relatively flat, rambling farmland that goes all the way out to the river—beautiful views of the Catskills,” adding that the cleared gravel path is often icy during winter. “There are a lot of people out there with their snowshoes, or just winter hiking." His other recommendation, Burger Hill, is a popular destination for sledding or people looking to take their dogs out for a longer jaunt, and offers a moderately steep ascent.



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