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The "Art" of Cross Country Skiing

Past and Present: The Art Roscoe Ski Touring Area of Allegany State Park

Normally, I don’t inject myself into storylines, but with this particular article I feel compelled to make an exception.  My father, Nelson Hegeman, was an avid skier in his youth.  He instructed downhill skiing at Glenwood Acres and Kissing Bridge and later, after relocating to Cattaraugus County, spent many hours each winter x-country skiing at Allegany State Park where he was able to bask in the solitude and serenity of the park in all of its snow-covered glory.  I was about two and a half years old when I was first introduced to skiing; my first memory of being on skis involves x-country skis and an unfortunate lack of coordination.  With time and practice came improved balance and muscle usage and eventually, I was able to follow my father around some of the easier routes on the Art Roscoe Ski Touring Area.  To this day, I have vivid memories of my father coming home from cross country ski races at the State Park and how enthusiastic he was, even if he didn't medal, as a result of being out in nature and one with the elements.  He was a definite advocate of the Art Roscoe Ski Touring Area and did his best to pass that love on down to me.  In hindsight, I wish that he had been more successful in that endeavor.  

Arthur J. Roscoe first came to Allegany State Park in 1925 after graduating from Syracuse University.  In 1930 he got a permanent job as a Park Forester.  In 1956 he was promoted to Assistant Regional Director.  He held that position until he retired in 1968.  During his time at the Park, Mr. Roscoe was instrumental in the development of skiing activities at the State Park and as a result, in 1979, he was honored by the Park when it dedicated the cross country ski trail system in his honor.  

Today the Art Roscoe Ski Touring Area is made up of six trails with various difficulty levels and approximately 30 miles worth of winter-time cross country euphoria.  All the trails are accessible from the parking lot of the Mountain Shop and the Red House Administration Building.  Cross Country skis are available to rent at the Red House Gift Shop.  For more information about rentals call 716-354-9282.

Naturally, the best way to acquaint yourself with the park is to go there in person and experience all the natural beauty that it has to offer.  It doesn’t matter if it is spring, summer, fall or winter, Allegany State Park has year-round majesty that is unparalleled in Cattaraugus County.  That said, if you haven’t had the opportunity to go there yourself yet, then take notes from some of the Park’s finest.

Thomas Livak is a Park Manager 3 and has worked at the park for 8 years in a variety of roles.  In his current position, one of his many responsibilities is to work with the park managers of both the Red House and Quaker areas to coordinate facility operations.  He is also ingrained in the improvement and evolution of the multifaceted trail network at the park.  These various trails, he points out, can be used for x-country skiing, mountain biking, hiking, equestrian, snowmobiling, snowshoeing, as well as walking and biking (paved paths).  

Livak is an avid skier and actually grew up learning to downhill and cross country ski at Allegany State Park.  “I always enjoy getting out on the trails after a fresh snow,” stated Livak.  “Christian Hollow and Patterson trails are probably my favorite trails for skiing and biking.”

John Snyder holds the role of Park Manager 1 for the State Park Red House Area where he has worked for the past 9 years.  He has managed the Red House Area for 6 of those years.  Snyder is also the Director of Cross Country Ski Operations for the Art Roscoe Ski Area, which means that he oversees the maintenance of the trails year round and also helps take care of any grooming needs that the trails have in the winter.  All winter long Snyder inspects the trails and surveys staff and guests about trail conditions.  He then generates ski reports as a way of keeping the public informed and up to date on the trails.  When necessary, Tuesdays and Fridays are trail grooming days at the park.  

“I consider myself a rookie and I really enjoy skiing on Sweetwater,” said Snyder.  “During the offseason, I enjoy exploring the entire trail system while hiking with my family or biking with friends.”  

Adel Wellman has worked at the park as a seasonal employee for the past 16 years.  She started as a 10-week summer naturalist and is now the lead naturalist at the park.  Wellman has a passion for all things snowsports related.  

“My favorite part is how quiet it is in the woods,” Wellman said.  “I like the feeling of gliding, the smooth rhythm the body gets into when skiing.  It’s a great workout, very refreshing, makes you feel alive.  I like looking for animal tracks and sparkles of different kinds of snow.  It’s a different forest in the winter, lots of interesting textures and muted colors.  My favorite trail is Sweetwater skied from the second entrance.  It flows nicely, good downhills and gradual uphills.”  

If you are looking to give the trails at Allegany State Park a try for the first time, our three Park Employees have some sage advice for you:

LIVAK: “Take time to get a feel for the equipment before you head out on an official trail. Find a nice flat area to practice with a friend with skiing experience.  And make sure you rent or purchase equipment that is properly sized for you and your ability.”

SNYDER: “Start early in the day and give yourself plenty of time to explore the vista on Christian Hollow.  We have a few picnic tables located on the trail system so that you can take a break and enjoy the views.”

WELLMAN: “If it’s your first time on the trails, start with an easy one like Christian Hollow or Sweetwater. You may even want to practice on the flat part of the Stone Tower trail. It’s a lot like walking, but keep your chest ahead of your feet. Dress in layers, you get warm quickly. Take a snack, some water and a map. Go with a friend. Always more fun with someone else. Make sure you have enough daylight to finish a trail.”

Every winter, on average, the Park will see between 4,200 and 6,300 skiers all ranging in both age and ability level, but all sharing a love for the great outdoors.  

Keep this information on-hand as you start to prepare for your winter excursion to Allegany State Park:  

• Allegany Loppet Race 2/12/17, rain date 2/26/17.  More information at www.heartrateup.com

• Moonlight ski 2/19/16.  More information at www.facebook.com\alleganystatepark

• The park begins grooming operations on 12/21/16 and will continue until the end of the ski season.  

• The Summit Warming Hut is open from 8:30am-4:30pm from 12/21/16 until the end of the ski season.  

• Guided snowshoe hikes are Mondays from 4:30-6:30pm.  This program begins on 1/3/16 and runs until the end of February.  Meet at the Summit warming hut at 4:30pm.