Cross Country Skiing in Tioga County, Pennsylvania

On a cold Saturday morning in January, I headed downtown from my family’s cabin near Morris, Pennsylvania, to the quaint former-logging town of Wellsboro, Tioga County’s seat, to learn a new snow sport: cross country skiing. Home to the 47-mile long, 1,200-foot-high gorge of the Pennsylvania Grand Canyon, Wellsboro is well known to many for their Victorian architecture and annual events like the Pennsylvania State Laurel Festival and Dickens Christmas.Having spent many long weekends in Tioga, Pennsylvania throughout my life, I have long been familiar with Country Ski & Sports, a great local ski and bike shop. I will often stop by to look longingly at their ample supply of everything from Trek mountain bikes to Columbia snow gear. Their prices are in close range with larger competitors, despite them being a small town supplier. Everyone that works at Country Ski & Sports is well versed in the local trails and outdoor activities to keep you busy year round.

I met with Pat Kovchok, a highly recommended guide, of Country Ski & Sports on Main Street in downtown Wellsboro to head out on my first cross country skiing lesson. The night before, Pat and I had met at Country Ski & Sports to have me properly fitted for my cross country gear. He pointed out some trails he had recently skied within the area. We chose a trail in Anton, just 20 minutes outside of Wellsboro that he recommended for well groomed state forest trails.

Pat’s love of the Northern Pennsylvania wilderness and outdoor sports is what brought him here permanently from a fast paced life in Manhatten, New York. Pat is a friendly fellow who is more than happy to share his love of outdoor adventures with anyone who will listen and are willing to dedicate some time to the variety of sports you can explore in Tioga County, Pennsylvania.

Mid-morning on Saturday, Pat drove me to the back roads of Tioga-roads that you would not find if you did not live in Tioga, or at least know the outdoor adventures this county offers. We arrived at the trail, and just as we were gearing up, one of the locals pulled in behind us. Pat had given him the recommendation of this very trail earlier in the week. Visiting local towns such as Wellsboro means you are guaranteed to connect with great insider tips when you visit the local businesses. They can help you explore places that are mostly unseen by the general tourist public.

Once my cross country ski boots were on, Pat showed me the map of the trail before we headed out, and then walked me through how to click into my skis and general first time tips. The initial uphill climb was a bit intimidating, but once we got onto the actual trail, my skis smoothly glided across the powdery snow that had just fallen the night before-the perfect condition for cross country skiing.

Pat showed me different techniques to get up steeper inclines, as well as the best ways to glide downhill (knees bent), and breaking in a new trail. He let me lead as much as I wanted to, but breaking trail meant a harder workout. I was even more appreciative that I had been hitting the gym for the past two months, but do not let this intimidate you. As a cross country skiing novice, it was quite a workout, but one that most would be capable of accomplishing, and enjoying.

The trail was bumpy at times with fallen trees and twigs, but overall it was smooth gliding, even when I was the one breaking the trail. After an hour and a half, we made it back to the vehicle, and I was relieved. It is especially important to be well hydrated and stretched out before and after cross country skiing so that you do not cramp or become injured.

Pat was an excellent guide, and thanks to the Pennsylvania Department of Tourism, Tioga County Department of Tourism and Country Ski and Sports for providing an excellent first experience of cross country skiing. Cross country skiing was a fun, new way to explore Tioga’s wilderness and an even better exercise. Rentals are convenient and inexpensive through Country Ski & Sports, and any of their staff would be happy to help assist you in choosing the proper trail and equipment to keep your journey safe and exploratory.


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