Frost Valley YMCA’s free annual Maple Sugaring Open House Weekends brought scores of people to the Catskills to learn all about how maple syrup is made.

The event took place during the weekends of March 20-21 and March 28-29, just as the sugar maple trees began to thaw in our region. Due to colder weather, there wasn’t much sap available during the first weekend, however, guests were still able to learn about the entire tap-to-table process. During an educational walk, staff members from Frost Valley’s Natural Resources department taught families how to identify sugar maple trees, which only grow in northeast North America. They were allowed to walk through the Sap House and see the evaporator that boils sap as part of the process, as well as learn about tapping trees. At the end of the tour, guests were allowed to taste a sample of Frost Valley’s fresh maple syrup.

“Frost Valley has been maple sugaring since the late 1970s, and what started as just a humble operation — gathering sap in just a few hundred buckets — has now grown into a full-fledged tradition and fun learning opportunity,” says Heather Bowman, Director of Natural Resources. “Today, we have more than 1,200 taps in sugar maple trees, and thanks to a tubing system, we can now collect and store larger amounts of sap to be transformed into our delicious, Catskills syrup.”

Those who are interested in purchasing Frost Valley Maple Syrup can do so in person or online at FrostValley.org (please contact them first to ensure the store is open and stocked). As of print, Frost Valley was still producing light syrup, but a dark syrup will be available soon. Learn more at FrostValley.org.

This article originally appeared in the Tri-Valley Townsman, 2015.

Frost Valley YMCA celebrated Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. on January 16-19 by offering a weekend to connect with family and put into practice some of the same values shared in King’s teachings.

As always, the weekend was filled with fun programs, such as snow tubing, yoga, ice fishing, and family crafts, but Frost Valley also incorporates meaningful, lifelong lessons — both subtle and outright — in each activity.

For starters, inclusiveness and caring for others are highly encouraged throughout the Valley. Both kids and parents are given the opportunity to try new, sometimes challenging activities that they may need extra encouragement to try — an uphill hike can seem overwhelming to some. But in the spirit of inclusiveness, Frost Valley’s supportive environment encourages participation and allows others to overcome their fear.

Frost Valley sees families who visit from not just New York, but from a wide variety of locations. As families meet and mingle around the fireplace, in the dining hall, or during an activity, a greater respect is gained for cultural awareness and diversity. The more families learn about each other, the more they learn about themselves.

While global awareness is important, Frost Valley also places an emphasis on including the local community. Those in the surrounding area should mark their calendars for Spring Break Day Camp from March 30-April 3. Campers ages four through 15 can enjoy four fun-filled days of hiking, sports, games, arts and crafts, climbing, and trips to a local swimming pool. Campers will also get to visit Frost Valley’s Educational Farm to meet and learn about animals (Frost Valley expects plenty of baby animals to be newly born), visit a maple sugaring house to taste fresh-made syrup, try candle making, and much more.

Originally published in the Tri-Valley Townsman, Jan. 2015.