Ski Enthusiasts Enjoy the First Nordic Ski Swap and Sale at the Taconic Center

Benefits both visitors and the park

By Alison Rooney

The 15 kilometers of groomed trails at Fahnestock Winter Park draw large numbers of cross-country skiers whenever the snow appears.  Along with local residents, many people travel up from the city and Westchester to enjoy the crisp winter air and stunning scenery aerobically, gliding through the woods, getting a thorough workout and taking in the tranquil beauty of this area while doing so.

Paul Kuznia, Director of the Taconic Outdoor Education Center, (TOEC), located within Fahnestock, works to maintain these trails all season long, and came up with an idea for an event, which benefited both the visitors to the Park and the Park itself, and so the first “Nordic Ski Swap and Sale” came to be.  Sponsored by the Friends of Fahnestock and Hudson Highlands State Park (FOFHH) in combination with Fahnestock Winter Park, the swap took place on Sunday, Nov. 7 in the TOCE Lodge.  Kuznia says that “I always wanted to do this; it’s a great community thing.  It supports those just beginning in Nordic sports, and gives everybody an opportunity to buy equipment cheaply.  Also it works well with both supporting the Park and fulfilling our outdoor recreation mission.”

Those interested in selling potential merchandise were advised to drop off equipment the day before, to – set a reasonable price -and complete an Equipment Swap Form.  If sold, 20 percent of the sale price was retained by the Friends to be used for improving Fahnestock Winter Park programs. On sale in the large room were classic skis and skate skis, as well as new and

Eyeing the skis on offer

 used skating boots and other related equipment such as bindings, snowshoes, blades, car racks and ski boxes. One retail establishment, Pawling Cycle and Sport was on hand and the store’s Robert Kelley was busy all morning long demonstrating and working on skis.

Lots of regular Fahnestock Winter Park visitors attended, many arriving early, hoping to catch the best ski bargains.  These first arrivals included Donnarae Aiello and Michael Falasco, who were very excited about participating in the event, which they heard about through an email blast.  They donated equipment to the swap, and scouted out the swap while doing so.“We’re always in the market for gear, and we also came today to meet our fellow cross-country skiers”  They are enthusiastic about their sport and about their Park.  As Aiello described it, “We ski every winter at Fahnestock.  The park is truly beautiful when the ponds are frozen.  I love the outdoor fireplace; I love hearing all the different languages spoken on the trails here. So many people of different nationalities come up from the city, so you hear them.  We’ve taken our nephews skiing here; it’s a great way to interest younger generations to winter sports.”  Her husband, Michael Falasco, added that “the tubing hill is a great lure — it leads kids into skiing.  Also, you meet people of all different

fitness levels.”  Both Aiello and Falasco were proactive and involved in the fight to keep the Park open over the past year when it was threatened with closure due to New York State budget woes. Declaring it “not chic, low-key, with a great vibe,” Aiello suggested that everyone give it a try: “Lessons are essential, and they’re really reasonable here.  Around $25 — get a couple of friends together, they’ll teach you the fundamentals and you’ll be up and running.”

Donnarae Aiello and Michael Falasco head in to the ski swap.

As if to prove the point that international skiers abound at Fahnestock, Andrew Wojton, a Portchester resident and a former member of the Polish ski team attended the swap. He still races across the USA and Europe in Masters events. Wojton, who attended because “maybe I can buy, and besides, I love the people,” said that he skis at Fahnestock frequently in the winter, “it’s so close.”

Lots of families were on hand.  One dad checking out the skis, who preferred not to be identified, said “I cross-country ski recreationally, and I dragooned my family into coming to this.  I’m hoping to score some  equipment for the kids.  Last year we had a great time skiing here.  I think itss awesome that they set tracks up here.  It’s a great spot, and just gorgeous.  We live in southern Westchester and it’s not far.” Echoing now familiar themes, he added that “It’s great to hear the Slavic tongues spoken.  I’m glad that the Park made it through the budget cuts.”

Polish ski racing champ Andrew Wojton

Garrison’s Joanna Suits was at the sale with two of her children looking for equipment. Suits said she came to many TOEC events: “we do the sledding hill, all of the summer programs, the Pancake Breakfast, the Winter Fest.”

Cold Spring’s Rose Inman was there too, and extolled the pleasures of skate skiing, “lots of people who love cross-country are excited about going skate skiing. [Editor’s note: skate skiing is a form of cross-country skiing using a different technique, which mimics the strides used in skating.] They groom the trails here for both.” Inman said that she would “love to join a group and begin a club in this area.”

The Suits family with their new skis

Katrina Shindledecker, President of the Friends of Fahnestock and Hudson Highlands State Parks, pronounced the First Annual Nordic Ski Swap “a great success. It was a win-win situation for everyone — attendees, the Friends, Fahnestock Winter Park and all of its loyal users. Attendees were able to get new and lightly used gear at fantastic prices and the Friends were able to raise funds to underwrite upgrades at the Fahnestock Winter Park. We are looking forward to the upcoming Winter Park season, the annual Winterfest on Jan.9, 2011, and next year’s Nordic Ski Swap.”

Robert Kelly working on a skate ski

Cross Country ski equipment, and much more, can be found nearby at Pawling Cycle and Sport, www.pawlingcycle.com.

For more information on the activities at the Taconic Center, visit their website.

For information on the Friends of Fahnestock group, whose mission statement is “Friends of Fahnestock and Hudson Highlands State Parks supports stewardship of the landscape’s natural and historic resources, as well as educational and recreational opportunities for the public and to be added to their email list, visit www.fofhh.org.


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