Situated 18 miles from the shores of Lake Erie and 1,000 feet higher than the lake, The Wilderness Lodge in Wattsburg, Pa., rests squarely in the Snow Belt. Translation: Lake-effect snow can dump up to 20 inches in a day and more than 200 inches in a year. So get your cross-country skis or snowshoes and head due north on Interstate 79 a couple of hours from the Public Lands store in Cranberry Township for a great winter outing. Located just southeast of Erie (ancestral home to the Erie people), the privately owned Wilderness Lodge provides some 20 miles of trails in an area where, otherwise, no extensive network of public trails exists.
Family-owned since 1969, this Nordic center caters to skate and traditional cross-country skiing as well as snowshoeing. Groomed trails await during the season, which can begin as early as the week of Christmas, but will be in full swing by the second week of January. A thick base means the season regularly goes into March with an occasional April weekend. An average year will still see some 120 inches of snow. Check the webcam and Facebook page for current conditions.
The trails are open Wednesdays through Sundays 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. The lodge is generally open for dinner and drinks; on weekends it often stays open until 11 p.m. Day passes are $22 for adults and $6-$12 for children (6 and under free). Rentals run $18-$20 for adults and $7-$12 for children. Lessons are available as well as season passes, which do not black out, allowing passholders to ski any time, day or night, though trails are not lit except for the once-a-year Torch Night, when 1½ miles are lit by torches.
You can book the entire lodge (up to 40 guests) for $2,500 per weekend. Reservations can fill up a year in advance. Not that much of a planner? Call after December 1 when deposits are due to see if any individual rooms are available.