For youngsters who dream of emulating the high-flying competitive snowboarders soaring out of the Seven Springs Superpipe this week, the resort now offers Pirates Riglet Park.
The park, a partnership with Burton Snowboards, had its grand opening. It is designed to provide "a tailor-made snowboarding experience" for children 4 to 7 years old, said Joel Rerko, mountain operations manager.
"[It is] essentially an on-snow playground filled with features designed to teach kids the basics of snowboarding," Rerko said. "The overall design has the look and feel of a baseball field complete with images of Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen, the Pirate parrot and more."
Located at the tennis courts just down from the base lodge, the park has a variety of fun features, including:
• A cone zone to learn to weave in and out of the well-spaced cones while being towed by their coaches.
• Oversized baseball bats for jibs to slide on.
• A T-ball area to hit snowballs off a tee.
• A home plate fort with a mini-chairlift to practice safe loading and unloading skills.
• A dugout for an on-the-snow chill-out zone.
Children enrolled in the program will start their day in the Pirates locker room area of the Tiny Tots Snowboard School where they will be issued a locker with their name on it, a Pirates helmet and a vest. Pirates Riglet Park will offer full- and half-day group snowboard and freestyle ski lessons taught by certified instructors.
Seven Springs, which earned a top rating for its terrain parks and half-pipes from the readers of TransWorld Snowboarding and Ski magazines, were host to the 2013 Burton U.S. Qualifiers and Revolution Tour Feb. 1-7.
Hidden Valley, Blue Knob, Cambria County War Memorial Arena and Planet Ice will serve as venues for the individual, team and relay events for Special Olympics Pennsylvania (SOPA) that will be held Monday. More than 300 athletes and 135 coaches will participate.
To bring awareness to the games, at 1 p.m. today, hundreds of individuals will be "freezin' for a reason" as they plunge into the cold waters of Quemahoning Reservoir near Boswell, about 12 miles north of Somerset. The plunge is open to the public and spectators are welcome.
Opening ceremonies will be at 10:30 a.m. Sunday in Central Park in Johnstown. Award and closing ceremonies will be Tuesday afternoon at each venue. Hidden Valley will be the host of the alpine skiing events and Blue Knob will welcome cross-country and snowshoe competitors. Figure skating and speed skating will be at the arena and Planet Ice.
"Playing host to athletes for the alpine events is a highlight of our winter season," said Laura Argenbright, marketing manager of Hidden Valley. "The enthusiasm of the athletes as well as the dedication of the volunteers is an inspiration to us all."
More than 1,000 volunteers from communities, corporations, schools and universities served in a number of capacities last year, including officials, athlete escorts, award presenters and administrative support services.
"Volunteers from across the state are welcome and spectators are encouraged to visit any of the competitive venues to cheer on the athletes," said Mike Ermer, associate competition director for the western region.
SOPA provides year-round training and competition in 22 Olympic-type sports to more than 20,000 children and adults with intellectual disabilities or closely related developmental disabilities.
Lee Initiatives Inc., Sheetz, GEICO, UPMC, The Palumbo Charitable Trust and the Jack Buncher Foundation are sponsoring the events.
Larry Walsh writes about recreational snow sports for the Post-Gazette.