Cold temperatures but no snow combined with sun but no warmth weren’t quite the weather
conditions that the Coopers Rock Foundation (CRF) hoped for at the 8th-Annual Coopers Rock
WinterFest, but festival goers showed up regardless to celebrate Old Man Winter’s absence on February 9 an Coopers Rock State Forest.
Just one Saturday before WinterFest, eight inches of fresh, powdery snow covered Coopers Rock, providing
cross-country skiers the best conditions of the year so fa and creating postcard-worthy images at the
annual Chestnut Ridge County Park Toboggan Festival. But during the intervening week, unseasonably
warm temperatures and rain took it all away. Then exactly 24 hours after WinterFest, snow once again
began to fall at Coopers Rock. We just missed it! Still, six out of eight Winterfests have had snow, even
though this one did not. But “snow or no,” we always hold the festival on its scheduled day, with a
selection of activities and events that aren’t snow-dependent when snow decides not to show.
Our fun and games for this festival included the Slingshot Paintball Biathlon (on foot, not skis) and our
Snowball Target Range (hacky sacks and beanbags instead of snowballs). There were some Disc Golf
baskets set up courtesy of the Morgantown Mountain Goats Disc Golf Club, and for the first time at a WinterFest but not the last, the WVU Climbing Club set up a slackline between two trees for folks to practice or show off their balance. Amy Metheny led two Winter Tree ID Hikes occurred—one throughout the festival site, and the other to a rocky maze near the Day Use Parking Lot.
The Mountaineer Area Rescue Group truck—a mobile mission control rig—was on display. The WinterFest Café’ and Warming Fire were cooking as usual. After all, any winter day is better if it involves a hot cup of coffee around a fire. While the Mass-Start Downhill Dash—a race for up to 40 cross-country skiers—could not be held in 2019, thus coveted Golden Ski could not be awarded. Even though they didn’t receive any use, the WVU Outdoor Rec Center and Fairmont State Outdoors Program graciously provided snowshoes and XC skis.
However, two other contests that are immune to the vagaries of weather proceeded as planned. For the first time ever, the Men’s Snowball Throwdown was held, and commenced at high noon. Hackysacks and beanbags substituted for snowballs, and contestants threw at the Snowball Target Range, not at each other. A series of rounds winnowed down the crowd, and at the end, Ryan Cook took home the Target Tree Trophy as the first-ever victor of this recently added WinterFest contest.
Our signature event, The Women’s Frying Pan Toss—an event we copied from the Saranac Lake, NY Winter Festival—was held as always at 3:00 p.m. We’ve standardized the competition by using the same pan year after year, and we have a recorded Course Record. Last year, Melissa Adkins established a record of 60’ 6”, but that distance was eclipsed this year, when Tiffany Williams set the new record of 65’ 8”, taking home a one-of-a-kind hand-painted frying pan trophy for her 2019 WinterFest victory. Will her new Course Record stand up in 2020 or be toppled by next year’s field of contestants? Reserve your calendar for the WinterFest 2020 held on Saturday, February 8 in 2020 to find out. And be sure to start practicing your snow dance!
Adam Polinski is a regular contributor to Highland Outdoors and the unofficial face of the Coopers Rock Foundation. Go find him in the woods and volunteer on one the foundation’s many trail work days.