Last weekend I got a taste of MidAtlantic skiing, a term that refers to the uncertainty of the weather throughout the winter and the ever-changing quality of snow.
The trip leader to southwestern Pennsylvania with the Ski Touring Section of the Potomac-Appalachian Trail Club didn’t even let us know the outing was surely a “go” until Friday morning, as weather forecasts were so unclear. Some predictions called for snow, others rain.
We stayed at a Super 8 in Somerset, PA, just off the Pennsylvania Turnpike. My assigned roommate was an energetic woman in her late 50s who let me know right away that she would be on the move constantly — that meant an hour walk as soon as she woke up, and then on the ski trails from 10 to 4 without a break. I had no interest in keeping up that kind of pace. I skiied with her one morning, spent that afternoon on my own and then the next day joined others for a more leisurely time of it before a mid-afternoon departure.
We awoke Saturday morning to a drizzle, which continued on and off all day, with intermittent bursts of heavier rain. We went to a place called Laurel Hills, which is a state park with a for-profit concesionaire that grooms and tracks the trails and sells minimum snacks. The trails were lovely, fairly wide and mostly in the woods, and with just enough gradual ups and downs to keep it interesting.
The light rain kept the snow soft and nicely skiiable. I only became a bit uncomfortable later in the day, when the accumulated dampness made me start feeling slightly wet all over, despite my waterproof clothing and boots.
We were really worried about the next day, fearing that everything would freeze overnight and turn the trails to pure ice. But again we were lucky, as there was 1 to 2 inches of new snow overnight to just dust the trails enough to make them quite pleasant.
We spent the morning at Laurel Mountain, another nearby state park, but this one maintained by volunteers, so there was no trail fee. (We contributed by buying hot dogs and sauerkraut for lunch.) These were narrower trails in a confusing layout, so I kept close to a group so I wouldn’t get lost.
I learned that this ski club has 2- or 3-day weekend outings throughout the winter, plus some longer trips to familiar places like Garnet Hill, the Tug Hill Plateau and Vermont. One woman is heading to Germany with the club in a couple of weeks.
It’s a new concept to have to spend time and money for a weekend of cross-country skiing, rather than just making daytrips to the Adirondacks, as I was used to. But it’s a way to keep up at least somewhat with a favorite sport.