The Newcomb Winterfest is more than a celebration of all things winter, it’s also a glimpse into life in the Adirondacks. The free event happens Jan. 13 in Newcomb from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Ruth and David Olbert, owners of Cloud-Splitter Outfitters, explained that life in the Adirondacks doesn’t end when it gets cold. Instead, people adapt. And skis help, too.

“It’s truly a lifestyle because we live it, we don’t just do it on weekends,” Ruth said. “We play together and we live together. It’s the way life is in Newcomb and it’s intriguing to some people, and that’s why we do this event.”

Visitors don’t have to be hardened mountain dwellers to get into the pro-winter spirit. That’s where Winterfest comes in. Anyone with an adventurous curiosity can try cold weather endeavors like fat tire biking, ice fishing, and cross-country skiing.

No prior experience is required; on the contrary, beginners are encouraged to sample it all.

“That’s why we do this, to kind of help people gently get to know these activities, and to show them it’s OK, they can handle it,” Ruth said.

Fat tire biking

This is exactly what it sounds like: bikes with really wide, knobby tires that are especially good for riding over snow.

David says the bikes are not built for speed, but they are faster than walking.

“They’re not great for going fast, but the thing about fat tire bikes is they have so much floatation, they’re really good on anything that is a soft-type surface, like snow or sand,” David said. “Basically, any surface that a traditional mountain bike would sink into more.”

The wider tires also give the bikes better traction. Right said that makes them popular for riding across frozen ponds, something younger people especially enjoyed last year.

“We were at Lake Harris Bay, so the 16-, 17-, and 18-year olds were riding out on the ice,” Ruth said. “They were really having a great time. They’d leave, ride out, come back, then do it again, so they were really enjoying that.”

Ice fishing demos

Ever wonder what it’s like to ice fish? At Newcomb Winterfest, you can find out.

Ice fishing demos outline the sport from start to finish, and include a review of the equipment necessary to partake in the sport.

“The guy who does it, Jason Richards, is really good at communicating with people who have never done any of this, so he’s perfect for this” Ruth said. “It’s a complete set up.”

Ruth said Jason hits everything, including how to drill holes, how to set up a tip-up, and how to put bait on a hook.

Cross-country skiing

It’s true, you need gear to cross-country ski, but it’s easy to try at Winterfest.

That’s because Ruth and David use hok skis. They’re short and wide, which makes them feel more secure, kind of like a cross between snowshoes and cross-country skis.

“My sister-in-law, she is a non-skier and she’s really nervous about it,” Ruth said. “She tried the hok skis last year at Winterfest and she bought two pairs for this year.”

Hok skis also have a universal binding, similar to a snowboard binding, so any boot can be strapped into them. The undersides of the ski have integrated mole hair, making them able to ascend hills.

“They can go up almost any hill,” David said. “If you’re in the High Peaks, on the real steep sections, you’d have to switch to snowshoes, but with a universal binding like that it’s easy to just throw your shoes on, then go back to the skis.”

Everybody plays together

Other Winterfest happenings include self-guided tours of Camp Santanoni — an Adirondack Great Camp that’s accessible by snowshoes or skis in the winter, and sled dogs, food, a bonfire, tubing, snowmobile rides, and downhill skiing and snowboarding.

And once the sun goes down, everyone congregates at the Newcomb Central School gym for live music and square dancing. Like anything at Winterfest, no prior experience is required to square dance — a few people will even be on hand to guide newbies.

The event is, after all, about community and trying new things, and everyone is encouraged to join the fun.

“The one thing that always stands out to me is the age difference in the people doing things together,” Ruth said. “At last year’s square dance, I think the youngest person was 6, and the oldest was probably 79 or so. Everybody plays together.”

Why not make a weekend out of Winterfest? Stay nearby, then use those new winter skills in the backcountry!

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