KIRTLAND, Ohio — Recent snowfall is helping make one outdoor sport possible in Northeast Ohio.
Molly Johnson took advantage of the winter weather by taking her kids to Chapin Forest Pine Lodge Ski Center.
“They were interested in skiing and snowboarding, and we’ve never tried it,” she said. “And it was a little bit of a price tag for a budget."
Instead of downhill slopes, Lake Metroparks offers the chance to tour the hiking trails of the Chapin Forest Reservation on skis.
“I’ve always wanted to do this; we just haven’t had quite the winter for it until now,” Johnson said.
Johnson said her son Quinn, 11, and daughter, Collette, 9, needed to step away from their screens.
“With COVID, they’re homeschooling, so we have a lack of activities that are not virtual, which is challenging.”
The family joined dozens of other people on the packed powder to cross-country ski.
“I think that because of the way people have been stuck inside for almost a year, they wanna get out,” said Brian Davidson with Lake Metroparks.
Davidson said equipment rentals are up from seeing maybe 15 people total on a weekday in the past to seeing that many in an hour.
“We’re averaging about 200-some odd folks a day — not counting the people that have their own equipment," Davidson said.
Skis, poles and boots are sanitized between guests.
“I can get equipment in, clean it within 15 minutes and then have it all settled and out to rotate back in again,” Davidson said.
Guests are required to reserve equipment online, to ensure availability and plenty of social distancing.
All hiking trails at the park are groomed for skiers.
“We have approximately five and a half to six total miles of skiable area in the park,” Davidson said.
That’s lots of space for veteran skier Sandy Lieberman to practice her trick to the sport.
“Not falling,” she said.
Others just appreciated the time spent outside.
“So much fresh air,” said Rita Kutsikovich. “And it makes you feel really good.”
Meanwhile, the Johnsons took the experience in stride.
“It’s a little tricky,” said Johnson.
“I thought I’d fall by now,” said Collette Johnson.
The Chapin Forest Pine Lodge Ski Center is open when weather conditions permit.
It’s free to use the park, and equipment for cross-country skiing can be rented for $5 an hour for adults and $3 an hour for kids. Reservations can be made at lakemetroparks.com.