PACCSA Aids Skiers
Inside the Outdoors, February
14, 2014

Not everyone is fed up with all this snow that continues to plague the nation. Word has it that cross country skiers and snow shoers are enjoying the sport as they traverse the trails that await them in the Laurel Highlands, particularly in this case, Laurel Mountain. A matter of fact, enthusiasts have been driving to the summit for years just to avail of the flat surfaces along the ridge.

What many people don’t know, however, is that many of the trails where people traverse are first groomed by a special group of volunteers from the Pennsylvania Cross Country Skiers Association. These dedicated men and women will come from all over the area each weekend to clear and form trails for beginner to intermediate enthusiasts.

One of its members, Wayne Confer, told me recently he likes to travel around to different parts of the country to cross country ski. Recently while riding in a Veteran’s Cab he was driving, he told me first that he had just returned from Lake Erie where he participated in his favorite sport. One thing led to another and before I knew it, his mentioning of the PCCSA brought smiles to his face and eagerness to tell of this fine organization.

“Just recently,” the Latrobe resident said, “I was up on Laurel Mountain helping to clear trails and pack down the snow.”

According to Ed Callahan, district forester for the Pennsylvania Department of Forestry, an idea surfaced approximately three years ago concerning creating manmade paths for cross country skiers and outdoor lovers who participate in the sport of snow shoeing. Before then there were no trails carved in the snow. This was about to change.

“First, one of the PCCSA volunteers used a snowmobile to make trails. Only after attaching a groomer, a wide, metal dragging device, did the trails start to take shape,” he stated.

It was through the coordination and co-operation between the Department of Forestry and the PACCSA, an area would be mapped out whereby individuals would tailor paths. “We designed a triangle where they would be laid out,” Callahan said. “Working with them, the trails cut across Laurel Summit, Summit Ski and Locust Camp Roads.” They are located in Forbes State Forest as well as Laurel Mountain State Park.

The PACCSA applied for and was given a grant to pay for the groomer, a shed and other necessities utilized to do the manicuring of the properties. “We give them maintenance such as gas and oil,” Callahan said.

In addition to the PACCSA, an all-volunteer Laurel Summit Nordic Ski Patrol operates out of a warming hut on Laurel Summit Road. Not only does it provide first aid assistance, but the patrol provides information on trail conditions. Beverages, light snacks and trail maps are available for a donation. Conditions permitting, the Ski Patrol is on duty most winter weekends and some holidays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

The warming hut, mentioned above, contains a wood stove and picnic tables. Often skiers and visitors will stop in to warm up from the cold, Callahan said. “We provide the wood for the stove,” he said. The facilities are open seven days a week. Pit toilets are located adjacent to the warming hut.

“Most people will drive to the warming hut and then venture out from there. Since the building is right along the road, it is not hard to find,” he said.

Those wishing to try their hand at cross country skiing or snow shoeing may rent equipment at Ligonier Mountain Outfitters, adjacent to and affiliated with the Ligonier Country Inn (724-238-3651), 1376 Route 30 East. Information on moon light ski trips is available by logging onto www.ligoniercountryinn.com.

For additional information on the organization, log onto www.paccsa.or/about-paccsa or go on its Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/PACCSA.

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The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission (PFBC) voted at its quarterly meeting to create a voluntary $1 youth fishing license and to dedicate the revenue generated from it to programs to increase youth fishing participation.

It is available now at all licensing agents and online through the PFBC’s Outdoor Shop. With a $1 agent fee and a $0.70 transaction fee, the total cost to purchase the license will be $2.70.

Youth who plan to participate in the upcoming Mentored Youth Fishing Days must obtain either a voluntary youth fishing license or a free mentored youth fishing permit. It is not necessary to obtain both. The Mentored Youth Fishing Days are scheduled for March 22 and April 5. More information is available at http://www.gonefishingpa.com.


- Paul J. Volkmann
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