PA Nordic Championship
History - racing since 1993
The first PA Nordic Championship race took place on March 7, 1993, at Laurel Ridge State Park. It was a 12km freestyle race in soft, warm conditions. The overall winner was Jim Samuels, who bested a field of 62 skiers with a time of 32:32, and the women's division was won by Lori Messenger in 43:55. From then until 2011 the race was held annually at Laurel Ridge State Park, conditions permitting, with course distances varying from 12 km to 17 km and temperatures varying from near zero to the high 40's. A shorter freestyle race (6 to 8.5 km) and a classic race (5 to 6 km) were both added in 1995, and children's races were added to the proceedings in 2007.
In 2014 the race venue was moved to Wilderness Lodge in Wattsburg, to benefit from the lake effect snow belt which prevails near Lake Erie. In the 20+ years that the race has been scheduled, only seven events (1999, 2002, 2006, 2010, 2013, 2016 and 2018) were canceled for lack of snow. One event (2012) was canceled for the improbable reason of too much snow - the Laurel Highlands became blanketed with a 3ft snowfall on the Friday night and many of the roads were impassable for most of the weekend.
The PA Nordic Championship races were the inspiration of PACCSA members Rick Garstka, Stokes Clarke, Bill Kircher and Bob Mazur, most likely after an afternoon spent skiing around the red trail at Laurel Ridge State Park. Rick Garstka was Race Director from 1993 until 2010. In 2011 David Jenkins took over as Race Director, joined in 2014 by Brian Joly. Brian then took over as Race Director in 2015. In addition, Charlie Nash joined in as Assistant Race Director in 2017. Each year many volunteers have helped with the race operations, filling all the needs from course marshalling to shovelling snow and chopping bananas.