New Paltz Chamber of Commerce will offer new cross-country ski race at Minnewaska State Park

A 10K, 5K and 2K cross country ski race will take place at Minnewaska State Park on Saturday, February 6. Pictured are Mark Ruoff and Veronica O’Keefe of the Shawangunk Nordic Ski Association cross country skiing at Minnewaska State Park. (photo by Veronica O’Keefe)

A 10K, 5K and 2K cross country ski race will take place at Minnewaska State Park on Saturday, February 6. Pictured are Mark Ruoff and Veronica O’Keefe of the Shawangunk Nordic Ski Association cross country skiing at Minnewaska State Park. (photo by Veronica O’Keefe)

A little more than a year ago, a group of Hudson Valley cross-country ski enthusiasts filed a Certificate of Incorporation as the Shawangunk Nordic Ski Association, their intended purpose to promote and support cross-country skiing in the Shawangunk Mountains and beyond. Now the group has aligned their efforts with the New Paltz Regional Chamber of Commerce to sponsor the Chamber’s first-ever cross-country race event, the New Paltz Challenge XC Ski Race 2016 on Saturday, February 6 at Minnewaska State Park. The inaugural event includes a challenging 10K, a moderate 5K and a family-friendly 2K suitable for all ages and beginners.

“We reached out to the Shawangunk Nordic Ski Association to help with the nuts and bolts of this,” says Kathy Prizzia, executive director of the New Paltz Regional Chamber of Commerce. “We’re working closely with them to map out the trails. They’re very passionate about what they do and they’re providing volunteers to help sweep the course and maintain the safety aspect of it. And Minnewaska State Park has been fantastic; they’re really enthusiastic to do this. After Governor Cuomo did his presentation there last fall about injecting some money into the state park system, they’ve got some funds for some really great grooming equipment and they’re looking to expand that part of their business as well.”

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Governor Cuomo visited Minnewaska this past October to unveil a $7.3 million plan to modernize the gateway to Minnewaska State Park Preserve and better accommodate the growing number of visitors to the destination. The funding will build a new 6,000-square-foot visitor center with exhibit and classroom space, public bathrooms and park offices, and a warming hut that accommodates up to 50 visitors will offer a place to get out of the elements or conduct park programs. The first phase of the multi-year project will begin this spring with the reconstruction of the Route 44/55 entrance to create stacking capacity for up to 50 vehicles waiting to enter the Preserve and add automated parking fee payment options, relieving traffic congestion on peak visitation days.

The New Paltz Challenge XC Ski Race 2016 on Saturday, February 6 begins at 11 a.m. The online prepaid registration fee — through noon on Friday, February 5 — is $35 per person for the 5K and 10K, and $20 per person for the 2K (all ages), which includes admission to the park and a commemorative t-shirt. Registration on the day of the race is an additional $5 for each race per person.

The 2K (which is just a little more than a mile long) will be an easy “out and back” on an area at Minnewaska where a now-defunct golf course once was. The 5K will be on one of the carriage trails extended with a loop through the golf course. The 10K will be the 5K loop done twice. “It’s going to be challenging,” says Prizzia. “At the finish it’s uphill.”

All the races start at the yurt off the parking lot, which will provide a registration spot and a place to warm up, with coffee, hot chocolate and perhaps even some chili available. Signage will make it clear where to go, and it will be a chip-timed race with skiers starting at one-minute intervals. Prizes will be awarded to the top three male and female winners in the 5K and 10K: local businesses are donating items for gift baskets to be awarded containing a sampling of their products. Plans are underway now to arrange for a vendor at the event to rent skis to those who don’t own their own, or skiers can rent from local sporting shops. The Chamber’s website at www.newpaltzchamber.org has a dedicated page with all the race details, including additional sponsorship opportunities.

And although it’s more than likely that Old Man Winter will return with snow by next month, the backup plan would be to make it a run.

With access to more than 100 miles of carriage roads and trails along the ridge, the Shawangunk Mountains have become increasingly popular as a destination for cross-country skiers in recent years. But up to now there hasn’t been an organized race there. “Cross-country racing is popular in the Adirondacks and there are a few events in the Albany area, but this is the first cross-country race of this kind in this region,” says Prizzia. “This also helps us fulfill our mission of helping our members’ businesses in a difficult economic time, bringing people in to the area. It’s a great way to introduce another way to enjoy our local state parks and our area, particularly in the off-season.”

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