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Monday, December 15, 2008

Peek 'n Peak is great fun off the slopes, too

Snow flurries add to the charm of the welcoming Tudor-style Inn at the Peak, part of the Peek 'n Peak Resort and Spa.
Joan Barone McDonald

Updated: 12/14/08 09:33 AM

One-Tank Trip / Findley Lake


We drove through Findley Lake on the day of its first November storm. A light breeze swirled the falling snow, spinning us into a gossamer cocoon, and we inched along, taking a right onto Olde Road.

After a moment, the sprawling Tudor-style Inn at Peek 'n Peak came into view like the image in an old Polaroid picture. There it stood in a mix of flurries, fronted in creamy stucco, accented in hewn wooden beams, and covered with expanses of fieldstone: a castle — inviting us to explore its hidden treasures. And treasures there are. The Peek 'n Peak Resort and Spa isn't just for skiing anymore.
Enter the lobby and look to the left. An 8-foot-wide wooden cherry fireplace, topped with a handcarved mantel, rises 12 feet and acts as a centerpiece for the Old English Manor House motif. You can sit here in an overstuffed leather chair in front of a roaring fire to read a book or plan the day's activities and, like a royal guest, feel completely at home.
Of course, skiing and boarding are the kings here, with 27 slopes and trails to accommodate not only expert skiers and boarders, but first-timers as well. If you are into speed but not precision, you can enjoy tubing and can even catch a lift back up the hill for the next run. If cross-country skiing or snowshoeing are more your speed, you can rent equipment and spend some quiet time communing with nature.
Whatever your outdoor pleasure, you can finish the day in the hot tub, designed to allow free access between the indoor and outdoor portions of its unique configuration. Also available are an indoor Olympic-size swimming pool and a sauna, and if the longing for summer overwhelms you, you can even slip into a tanning bed.
Looking for even more relaxation? The Spa at Peek 'n Peak offers a full range of services. After a Deep Cleansing Facial, a Multivitamin Body Treatment, a Jasmine Body Wrap or a Hot Stone Massage, thoughts of snow shovels, slippery roads and wintertime hassles will vanish in an aroma-therapeutic haze.
Hungry? Plenty of dining options exist here. Chow down on Mexican fare or subs and sandwiches at the Retreat Lodge; enjoy a genuine wood oven pizza or spaghetti at Pizzaiolos; grab a burger at the Main Ski Lodge; or save your appetite for an elegant meal at the Royal Court Dining Room.
One of the most popular offerings is the Champagne Brunch. It prices in at just under $25 and garners an average of 400 reservations every Sunday. Traditional brunch items — eggs, waffles, salmon and carved meats — are served alongside varying themed cuisine like "American Heartland," "Caribbean Islands," "Earth, Surf and Turf" and "Texas Chuckwagon BBQ" fare.
As a special treat, through Dec. 23, Peek 'n Peak will host the only ski slope "Trail of Lights" in the United States. Take a 20-minute chairlift ride over snow-blanketed terrain, highlighted by animated reindeer, Santas and a host of other cleverly designed light displays. "Trail" rides are available 6-9 p. m. Wednesday through Sunday and cost only $5 per person.
Findley Lake
Once you're in the area, make sure you spend some time kicking around the town of Findley Lake, a place that could have modeled for a Currier and Ives greeting card.
If you're in the mood for shopping, stop in at Wonderments, 10365 Main St., a little boutique specializing in Victorian designs. Woodcarved red and gold statues of St. Nicholas beckon from the front window, lacy shawls hang casually on a back wall and Troika dolls share shelf space with a rose-print picture frame. French milled soaps in delicate scents like olive citron and honey rosemary line an opposite wall, creating an enticing pale pastel rainbow of aroma and color.
For a gift shop with an eclectic mix, Our Own Candle Company, 2762 North Road, does the trick. Don't let the name fool you: Most of the company's candles are across the street at the outlet store, leaving this shop with room for everything from stuffed snowmen on skis — lined up like a little army ready to conquer the slopes — to jars of homemade relishes and pickled beets. Other culinary treats are mixes for Amish corn soup, cous cous with chives and saffron, and cranberry corn bread. You can also snag a velour warm-up suit here, an art deco-era dressing table, and a set of antique splatterware kettles and fry pans.
If it's candles you're after, Our Own Candle Company Outlet Store, 2779 North Road, is chock full of choices. Name a flower and you'll find a corresponding scent. Think of a dessert: Fried Ice Cream? Lemon Pound Cake? Oatmeal Cookie? Drop them in the bag and you won't gain an ounce. Even your most primal memories line the shelves here, ready to be burned: Baby Powder, the Beach, Country Clothesline and even First Snow.
For an authentic rural experience that is hard to come by in a city or suburban area, have lunch at the French Creek Tavern, 1614 French Creek Road, Clymer. Step back in time. Look at the shuffleboard table that runs the length of the dining area and notice the sign over it: "Please Don't Allow Your Children to Play in the Wax." Eavesdrop on the tales of hunters, dressed in bright orange camo pants with matching hats. Eat the special of the day which, if you're lucky, will be Country Fried Steak that melts in your mouth. Or chomp into an All American cheeseburger with onion rings on the side. No matter what you eat here, you'll feel like you're in the heartland.
Another choice for a good meal is the Blue Heron, 10412 Main St. in Findley Lake. It's a big, old grandma's house with a small bar and two separate dining rooms. Light floods in through the floor to ceiling windows, filtering through the lace curtains and mellowing the dark green walls to a relaxing hue. Try the Greek salad with chunks of chicken or order the pan-fried trout and you won't go home disappointed. The food is tasty here and the service excellent.
No matter what you choose to do at Peek 'n Peak or in Findley Lake, you will find yourself immersed in a winter wonderland of quaint boutiques, majestic pines, dense stands of trees, and gently falling snow. Bring your camera along and make it a photo shoot. Even if you don't give Ansel Adams a run for his money, you'll capture great memories and be one step closer to taking the advice on a sign in Our Own Candle Company: "Live as though Heaven is on Earth."
If you go
Findley Lake: The area chamber of commerce has maps, directions, and suggestions for nearby activities.
Peak 'n Peak: 1405 Olde Road, Clymer; (716) 355-4141, Official Web site has information about accommodations, brunch reservations, weather conditions and events.
(from Buffalo)
Travel I-190 south; take the I-90 west. Take exit 41 (toward North East, Pa.) Turn left onto PA-89 south. Turn left onto I-86 east (toward Jamestown). Exit at Findley Lake (Exit 4). Travel south on Route 426 and follow the signs to Peek'n Peak.

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