Garrett County’s activities will warm up the coldest winter day

Reed Hellman

While Garrett County is home to Wisp Resort, Maryland’s premier ski venue, not everyone enjoys skiing, and even the most ardent skier occasionally enjoys a change of scene.

Wisp also offers snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, and ice skating, along with an exciting Mountain Coaster that runs year-round, conditions permitting. 

And, Garrett County also offers many “off-slope” activities that can warm up the coldest winter day.

The snow-bound winter landscape lends itself to horse-drawn sleigh rides.

“This is a good relaxing way to enjoy time with the whole family,” said Dana Richard of Circle R Ranch Sleigh Rides.

Circle R has offered horseback riding for years and recently added carriage and sleigh rides. Enjoy a classic “one-horse open sleigh,” drawn by the ranch’s majestic Percherons and Clydesdales, as you snuggle down under the warmth of blankets with friends and family. Private sleigh rides are available, too, as well as horseback riding if weather permits. 

You can take a dogsled ride in Garrett County even if there’s no snow.
You can take a dogsled ride in Garrett County even if there’s no snow.

For a different kind of ride, try Husky Power Dogsledding at Mountain Maryland Kennels, only eight minutes from Wisp. You can enjoy dog-sled rides through the snow or a “dog-sled-on-wheels” for drier conditions, both of which are pulled by teams of hard-working Siberian huskies.

“We believe the total dog-sledding experience should not only include exciting rides, but also a chance to see how the huskies live, play, and train,” said owners Mike and Linda Herdering.

“All tours beginning at Mountain Maryland Kennels will start with a kennel visit along with a presentation of dog-sledding tidbits, lore, and facts.”

Husky Power Dogsledding is open all year and offers private tours and rides every day by reservation.

Take it indoors

Garrett County also offers some intriguing indoor attractions.

The Garrett County Arts Council operates The Gallery Shop in Oakland to showcase the fine arts and crafts of regional artists. More than 150 artists and artisans currently participate in gallery displays, exhibiting paintings, photographs, pottery, porcelain, line drawings, wall hangings, knit goods, glass, jewelry, wood, ornaments, note cards, baskets, iron work, literary publications, and handmade soap.

“There is never a lack of something to do related to the arts in Garrett County,” said the council’s Karen Reckner. “Our artists have been juried, and we change our main gallery exhibit three times each year and rotate special exhibits in our Backroom Gallery, showcasing solo artists, every six to eight weeks. From Dec. 1 through mid-January, we are featuring an exhibit of ‘Gifts for the Kitchen.’”

FireFly Farms Creamery & Market in Accident calls itself “your one-stop destination in Garrett County for delicious cheeses and specialty food and drink items.” FireFly Farms makes and ages superb goat cheeses that are free of additives, preservatives, or stabilizers.

FireFly’s staff is very helpful and readily offers samples of the many cheeses made on-site. You can watch apprentices make the cheeses, as well as make a reservation for a “Tasting & Pairing Experience,” which presents cheeses and wines along with a selection of charcuterie meats, nuts, olives, tapenades, and antipasto items.

“We make cheeses seven days each week, so there is always something going on here,” said FireFly’s Michael Koch. “It’s a great way for families to learn the process for making cheeses. We carry everything that goes with cheeses and wines, so you can take home all that you need for a good meal.” 

To add to the pleasure, Garrett County has numerous spas — including some that offer in-home massages. Four museums encourage you to explore the region’s natural and cultural history. And, Spruce Forest Artisan Village in Grantsville features artisans creating pottery, metal sculpture, stained glass, and more in historic structures. (spruceforest.org)

Winter in Garrett County does not have to be all about skiing. Even indoor activities abound. But, be sure to call in advance for hours and availability.

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