Ohiopyle State Park celebrates season with annual Winterfest
Skiers, sled riders and snowman builders all are hoping a significant amount of the white stuff is still to come to the region before the winter season ends.
So is Barbara Wallace, environmental education specialist with Ohiopyle State Park, where the annual Winterfest is set for 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Feb. 2.
She’s keeping her own eyes skyward as the event approaches. “I’m a weather stalker,” she says, laughing.
Curious about snow snakes and snowflake catchers?
If there is snow on the ground, and, better yet, snow falling from the sky on Feb. 2, visitors will have a chance to try out both.
There is no “no-snow” date for the event, Wallace says.
But if Mother Nature and Old Man Winter cooperate, those heading to the Fayette County park can enjoy sledding, cross country ski lessons, snowshoe loaners, sleigh rides and food. Everything but the sleigh rides ($5/adult, $3 for kids) and the food concession, operated by co-sponsor Friends of Ohiopyle, are free.
“Last year it was very popular,” Wallace says.
Because parking options quickly filled, event planners are considering running a shuttle this year. Those attending can check at the visitors center to see if a shuttle is available, she says.
Those attending should bring their own sleds, Wallace says, but skis, snowshoes and accompanying lessons are provided. “It’s the perfect time to try” (either sport), she says.
Those who enjoy a challenge can try the human dog sled race.
“It’s a three-person event, with one person in the sled and two people pulling, and you race other people,” Wallace says.“The same family has won for several years now. We need a challenger.”
Snow snakes and catchers
The snow snake is based on a Native American game, Wallace says. “Back in the day, Native Americans didn’t necessarily get together that often.” But they did have snow snake tournaments. Think broom handle luge.
Volunteers build a snow trough about knee height, Wallace says, and about 100 feet long. Participants vie to see how far down they can throw a “snake” (broom handle).
Snowflake catchers are pieces of black velvet stretched over cardboard.
“As snowflakes fall, you can see their definition. We have portable outdoor microscopes, and you can take a picture,” Wallace says.
Those attending are advised to dress in layers and bring a change of clothes in case they get wet.
The festival address is 950 Sugarloaf Road, Ohiopyle.
724-329-8591 or facebook.com/Ohiopyle
Mary Pickels is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Mary at 724-836-5401, [email protected] or via Twitter @MaryPickels.