By Greg Hitchcock
It is winter at Lapland Lake Nordic Vacation Center, a snowshoe center with 50 kilometers of private trails for families and individuals of all ages.
Eleanor Anderson, who owns a summer camp on Indian Lake, has come from Ulster County for a family cross-country ski reunion, renting two “tupa” cottages and a farmhouse for 18 people. Anderson’s nieces, college students Rowan and Kaija Groom from Brooklyn, say the cold, the snow and the quiet peace of the southern Adirondacks has grown on them.
“I like simplicity, being with family and being in the woods at your own pace,” Anderson says. “The best gift is the gift of time spent together.”
Visitors could mistake Lapland Lake for a slice of Finland, with cabins named “Pohjan” and “Latu,” and a trail called “Karfu” (Finnish for bear). The story goes that when founder Olavi Hirvonen was out planning trails he saw a bear marking on a tree. The name “Lapland Lake” itself alludes to northern Finland. (The center is actually near Woods Lake, northwest of Northville.)
“We admire the Finnish character of the place,” current owner-operator Paul Zahray says.
Hirvonen founded Lapland Lake Nordic Vacation Center in 1978. A Finnish-American who competed with the 1960 U.S. Olympic cross-country ski team, Hirvonen wanted to share his love of the sport, Zahray says. Zahray picked up on that when he and his wife, Kathy, vacationed there. They bought it in 2014 and “haven’t changed a thing.”
Child-friendly activities include sledding, tubing and sleigh rides.
Long Islander Patrick Flynn watches his three daughters, Vivian, 9; Finola, 6; Gwendolyn, 3, tubing near the skating pond. “Our best vacations are when we are outdoors,” he says.
Other activities include Lapland Ladies Love to Ski, a special program for women taught by women who receives lessons about skate or classic cross-country skiing; moonlight snowshoe tours; and popular 90-minute programs of children’s ski games.
Over a season on a good weekend, Lapland Lake gets between 200 and 300 people skiing or snowshoeing on beginning, intermediate or advance trails.
“But, even when the place is full of people with cars overloaded on our parking lot, people still comment on how quiet the trails are and how alone they feel with nature,” Zahray says. “Cross-country skiers like solitude.”