Seven places to cross-country ski around Pittsburgh | Community Profile | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Seven places to cross-country ski around Pittsburgh

Pittsburgh just had one of its snowiest December days in history. And yes, it’s still a pandemic, too. But why not make lemonade out of the lemons? And, in this instance, make some fun out of historic levels of snow. Downhill skiing is always fun, but it’s pretty expensive, not to mention crowded.

But you can avoid the crowds and enjoy the snow by cross-country skiing. And the Pittsburgh region has a lot of options. Most cross-country trails are free to use, but don’t usually have ski rentals on site, so it’s best to pick up some rentals beforehand.

IT'S SNOWING! We have skis! -

Posted by 3 Rivers Outdoor Company on Wednesday, December 16, 2020

If you are in the city of Pittsburgh, 3 Rivers Outdoor Company has cross-country ski rentals available, and they come with boots and poles. Rentals start at $25. In the suburbs, Willi’s has a location in the North Hills and in the South Hills, and offers ski, binding, and pole rental packages starting at $20 a day.

Here are Pittsburgh City Paper’s picks for areas nearby to cross-country ski and enjoy some snowy trails.

Raccoon Creek State Park - Beaver County

This Beaver County Park is full of trails that, when covered in snow, are great for cross-country skiing. It’s best to avoid the trails marked difficult, though, when skiing, as they are not ideal for sliding. The state park even has a designated 2.2-mile cross-country skiing trail located between the beach access road and the roadside east picnic area. Follow the white blazes.

Hartwood Acres Park - Indiana Township

This Allegheny County Park probably has the best options for cross-country skiing out of the nine county parks, which all allow cross-country skiing when snow is plentiful. The 629-acre park has several trails and open fields to get some Nordic skiing in.

Moraine State Park - Butler County

Surrounding a lake, this Butler County Park is great for vistas and for cross-country skiing. The Pleasant Valley and Sunken Garden trails are groomed when snow conditions permit, which offer a much easier trail to navigate and is great for beginners. Trails that are blazed with blue marks are suitable for skiers of all skill levels.

Schenley Park - Oakland

Yes, you can cross-country ski even within the city of Pittsburgh, though it's not really advertised. Schenley Park has several large open fields, good for practicing Nordic skiing. It also has trails to slide through. It’s not necessarily the best option for cross-country skiing, but it’s still an option within city limits.

Ohiopyle State Park - Fayette County

Get into the mountains and explore the nearly 34 miles of trails that this state park recommends for cross-country skiing. Though Ohiopyle is more famous for its natural water slides in the summer, the park also offers trails that were created specifically for cross-country skiing: The Sproul Trails and a section of the Kentuck Trail. And with deep snowfall, the 27 miles of the Great Allegheny Passage trail are also great for cross-country skiing.

Sewickley Heights Borough Park - Sewickley Heights

This off-the-beaten-path in the hills just north of Sewickley is pretty ideal for cross-country skiing. It has a wide Gravel Path trail, with not too much elevation gain, and locals tend to use it plenty. Access it from the first parking lot on Hallaway Road.

Laurel Ridge State Park - Somerset County

This is one of the most extensive and well-managed cross-country skiing trail systems of the state park system. So much so, that there is a trail usage fee. But it’s worth it. About 35 miles of trails are available for cross-country skiing, and 20 of those are a well-groomed touring concession. Skiers can access the touring concession located adjacent to the PA 653 parking area.

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By Mars Johnson