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2 Can’t-Miss Winter Events and Festivals in Ulster County


Celebrate winter at these outdoor events where snow is a most welcome guest.


January 10, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Hudson Valley Rail Trail Pavilion, Highland

Even when the temperature dips, people pour out of the woodwork by the hundreds for this family-friendly fest, a spot of cheer in mid-January when we need it most. Oh what fun it is to roast chestnuts — and marshmallows — over an open fire, not to mention take a wagon hayride down a stretch of the Hudson Valley Rail Trail. Arts and crafts activities and fun games like bean bag toss amuse the kids, while a surprisingly competitive people’s choice Chili Contest draws a number of area restaurants (there are meat and vegetarian categories). All proceeds go right back into trail maintenance and improvements like benches and signage. 845-691-2066; www.hudsonvalleyrailtrail.net

Shandanken Primitive Biathlon

January 18, 9 a.m. to 12 p.m.
Upper Esopus Fish and Game Association, Oliverea

If you encounter a group of men (and some women) with Daniel Boone guns and outfits to match running through the woods on old-fashioned snowshoes, just hope they’re participants in this annual wild-and-crazy event, now in its 18th year. Basically a black powder shoot (that is, a sporting event using muzzle-loading firearms) combined with snowshoeing, this timed competition requires participants to cover a mile-plus-long course over challenging terrain, shooting at targets along the way. Those who don 19th-century garb have a minute detracted from their final time. The day ends with a hearty soup-and-sandwich lunch in the lodge and awards ceremony featuring prizes geared to the hunting life. 845-246-3954; www.shandakenprimitivebiathlon.net