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Winter Trails Day organizers wishing for more snow at Keystone State Park in Derry

| Tuesday, Jan. 7, 2014, 9:00 p.m.

Keystone State Park is welcoming more winter weather as it prepares to host Winter Trails Day on Saturday afternoon.

The park in Derry Township has held Winter Trails Day in the past, sans snow, but Keystone Park environmental educator Pam McQuistian said the event is geared to promoting snow sports — specifically snowshoeing and cross-country skiing.

“We've had a lot of people who are enthusiastic about learning snowshoeing,” McQuistian said. “That's been a big draw, but the problem was we haven't been getting the snow. We have the enthusiasm and the people. Sometimes when I call and tell them we'll still be hiking, but we won't be snowshoeing, then they cancel.”

Last year, although the snow wasn't deep enough to snowshoe the trail, the park did host Winter Trails Day and gave visitors a chance to learn about and briefly test out snowshoeing equipment.

“We did have a group of enthusiasts show up last year, and we went ahead and learned about the snowshoes,” McQuistian said. “And we actually put them on and we went out just to try them very briefly, because it's really not good for the shoes unless you have about three inches of snow or more.”

Snowshoeing burns up to 550 calories per hour, according to SnowSports Industries America, which also lists the calorie-burning benefits of three other snow sports: cross-country skiing (700 calories per hour), alpine skiing (500) and snowboarding (450).

“Snowshoeing and cross- country skiing are excellent aerobic activities,” said Reese Brown, director of the Winter Trails program. “They are fun to learn and appeal to the entire family. Plus, they offer a great way to keep the weight down after an overindulgent holiday.”

If the Lakeside Loop trail is sufficiently snow-covered, McQuistian said, the park can borrow snowshoes from Laurel Hill State Park to accommodate a limited number of guests.

“We have two pairs that are here all the time. And I tell people, ‘If you want to come in and borrow them, just come on in and take them around, if there's enough snow and if we're open to lend them out,' ” she said. “The ones that we'll have for Winter Trails Day, we will have about 12 to 15 pairs that we're borrowing from Laurel Hill State Park.”

Snowshoers and cross-country skiers with their own equipment are welcome to join the group for the event, which will start and finish at the visitor center. After the hike, visitors can warm up with shade-grown coffee in the visitor center.

“It's nice to get some extra people out in the park, people who don't realize all the winter activities that they can partake in,” McQuistian said. “Hopefully, it will get people excited about getting out in the cold.”

The Lakeside Loop trail is about 2.2 miles and circles Keystone Lake.

Because of the need to reserve snowshoeing equipment, anyone interested in attending the event should register in advance by emailing McQuistian at pmcquistia@pa.gov or by calling 724-668-2566.

Greg Reinbold is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-459-6100, ext. 2913, or greinbold@tribweb.com.

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