Less than 15 miles from Ellicottville, just south of the Southern Tier Expressway at Parkway Drive, there is a parking area where you’ll find cars from New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Ontario, Canada and beyond. The occupants of those vehicles have traveled from near and far to experience cross-country skiing at its best on the Art Roscoe Trails of Allegany State Park.
“You can ski for 20 miles without seeing a power line or building – just nature and wildlife and breathtaking scenery,” said Andy Dickson, co-founder of Allegany Nordic, an all-volunteer group that works hard to keep the trails safe and in good condition for all comers.
Allegany Nordic was established in 2006 by Dickson, Jack Luzier and other dedicated cross-country skiers to improve the skiing experience on one of the most beautiful double-track trail systems in western New York, if not the entire eastern U.S.
“At the time, the ski program on the trails was in decline. The park is, to this day, terribly underfunded. It was losing staff, as well as maintenance funds. As avid cross-country skiers, we recognized that if we wanted to maintain a great skiing environment there, we had to take action,” said Dickson.
The first item on Allegany Nordic’s agenda was to create a Web site that includes up-to-date trail conditions. “No one was providing accurate information,” he said. “Our site now provides regular status reports and allows skiers to post updated trail reports themselves.”
The site (www.alleganynordic.org) also provides comprehensive information on everything anyone could possibly want to know about the trail: amenities, equipment and cabin rental fees and rates, rules and regulations, directions, maps and more. The site is becoming very well-known among skiers. Dickson reports that it had 1,900 unique visitors in December 2012, compared to 800 in December 2011, which Dickson attributes mostly, of course, to the lack of snow last season.
Other major agenda items for Allegany Nordic are to organize volunteer trail workdays to address drainage and vegetation cutbacks, inventory and map trail culverts (more than 60 of them to date), advocate for better grooming and equipment, seek grants and other funding, build state legislature support for the trails, and develop networks of supporters – both individuals and organizations. To date, the organization has raised more than $8,000 for the Art Roscoe Trail; most has come from individual cross-country skiing enthusiasts.
Allegany Nordic points to a number of accomplishments in its relatively brief history. One success was the construction of a barn to house grooming equipment at the summit.
“Equipment had been stored miles away, and it took a lot of time and resources to get it to the trails,” said Dickson.
Allegany Nordic had just begun a fundraising effort for the barn when J-Con Parks, the concession operator of the Summit Mountain Shop, came forward with a generous donation. The barn was completed in 2011. “Now the equipment can quickly be deployed,” Dickson explained.
Through its fundraising efforts, Allegany Nordic donated a $3,500 high-density roller and compactor to the park for trail grooming, as well as two track setting implements.
“There is still a tremendous need for additional or replacement grooming equipment,” said Dickson, who bemoans the fact that cross-country trails typically never have funds for the quality equipment that alpine resorts are able to purchase.
“The park recently was able to fund the purchase of two new snowmobiles, but its 25-plus-year-old diesel LMC Cat desperately needs to be replaced,” he said. “We have our sights set on finding a way to do that.”
Park personnel are 100 percent responsible for grooming this very big trail system, said Dickson, “and they are the best guys in the world, putting in extra time and effort to get the job done.” He especially credits Chad Herrick and Patrick Dove for their hard work and dedication.
The efforts of Allegany Nordic have not gone unnoticed by the regulars at the Art Roscoe Trail.
“I have been skiing this trail system for nearly 30 years, and the trails, signage and grooming have never been better,” said Kimberly LaMendola of Olean. “The summit area offers the ultimate in outdoor winter fun with no admission fee to the park or to use the trails.”