Cross-country skiers enjoy best conditions in ages

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Snow-sports enthusiasts would readily agree with Brian Joly that snowfall is a "hit-or-miss" proposition in Western Pennsylvania, especially for cross-country skiers.

They also would agree that this season has been a hit, a big hit.

More than 10 feet of snow has fallen in the Laurel Highlands, home to some of the best cross-country ski trails in the state. And more snow is in the forecast for Sunday night.

"The 2013-2014 season has been outstanding," said Joly, newsletter editor of the Pennsylvania Cross Country Skiers Association (PACCSA).

"Mother Nature has brought us plenty of snow and, for the first time in recent memory, every scheduled local [cross-country] ski race went off without a single cancellation."

But it's not necessary to race to enjoy the snow-covered -- and groomed -- trails on Laurel Mountain, 10 miles east of Ligonier, and on Laurel Ridge, 8 miles east of Normalville. It's simply a matter of sliding one foot in front of the other, and free instruction from PACCSA helps everyone get off to a good start.

"There's nothing like a crisp winter day, good snow conditions and a pair of cross-country skis to raise the spirits and release stress," said Bruce Cox, association president.

"Even when the lower elevations have no snow, the mountain tops can be a winter wonderland."

And those mountaintop snow conditions are easy to check on, thanks to Webcams the association installed on Laurel Mountain and Laurel Ridge. Although the Webcams showed both sites had snow cover yesterday afternoon, they both will benefit from the additional snowfall -- 3 to 6 inches -- predicted in the weather forecast Friday night.

In his Letter from the President in the association's current newsletter, Cox praised the efforts of PACCSA members who removed rocks, pulled roots and hauled fill last summer to improve Laurel Mountain's cross-country trails, a task that made it easier on the equipment used to groom them.

Because hit-or-miss snow conditions have been "miss" all too often in recent years for the association's annual Pennsylvania Nordic Championship Races in early February, they were moved to the trails at the Wilderness Lodge in Wattsburg near Erie.

"They were a huge success," Joly said.

More than 140 adults and children participated, "a new record."

Jim Samuels won the 17-kilometer freestyle Pennsylvania nordic champion race in 46:44 minutes. Joly said Samuels "has owned" the race for the past decade. Sheldon Degenhardt was second (50:30) and Gregory Harkay was third (52:19). Nancy Herbst was the fastest woman (57:52). Kristin Lazzara second (1:00:49) and Alicia Cruz-Uribe third (1:00:54).


Canaan Valley deals

Talk about spring specials.

How about lift tickets for $20, ski/snowboard rental equipment for $10/$20, and midweek/weekend lodging in a standard queen or king room for $79/$89?

It's all available at Canaan Valley Resort State Park near Davis, W. Va., through March 23, when the resort will close its slopes and trails for the season.

Information: (1-800-622-4121).

Hail the Goddesses

Blue Knob's Annual Beer Goddess Parade will be at noon today (03/15)and be followed at 2 p.m. by the resort's "First Ever Pond Skim." The $10 pond skim entry fee will subject the participants to at least one of the following -- cheers, jeers and/or a few beers. Information: (1-814-239-5111)

Check those hours

If you plan to ski or snowboard any weekday the rest of the month, check the resort's websites or call before you go. Some resorts are limiting hours and/or days they are open to save snow for weekends.

Larry Walsh writes about recreational snowsports for the Post-Gazette.

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