A thrilling ride: Skiing, snowboarding feed families’ desire for togetherness, speed

Skiing, snowboarding feed families' desire for togetherness, speed

THOMAS ASK/Sun-Gazette Correspondent The Dougherty family, of Williamsport, enjoys a day at Ski Sawmill.

ORRIS — Skiing and snowboarding is much more than flying down slick slopes — it is a connection with nature and family.

“Skiing gets you outside and is a good excuse to be with family,” said Jim Dougherty, of Williamsport.

His 12-year-old son, Ethan, pipes in: “It’s an excuse for spending time with people.”

Walt Thomas was loading his equipment and tired family into their SUV after a day at Ski Sawmill in Morris when he shared how he enjoyed the day teaching two of his kids to ski. Thomas and his family are from Bucks County and are in this area to visit family.

“I have skied in Colorado and Vermont, but this is a great place to ski,” he said.

The beauty of Pennsylvania’s snow-clad mountains is compelling. The views from the peaks let people enjoy wide vistas and calm sunlight-deprived eyes. Skiing and snowboarding can get you out of the house and into the frigid day.

“We need to maximize our opportunities to be out in this weather,” Shanin Dougherty said as she stood with her warmly dressed and helmet-clad family.

It’s s not just about being with friends or the beauty of the surroundings though.

“It keeps me young and in shape,” said Nick Riccio, with a smile under his winter beard. Riccio thought the process of learning to ski was fun and he loved being able to develop his abilities and claim this sport as his own.

Nathan Turner felt the same way. He was experimenting with snowboarding for the first time after skiing for many years. He was among many who are humbled when they first start skiing or snowboarding — falling and experimenting as they make their way through the snow.

Turner presents perhaps the deepest appeal of skiing and snowboarding.

“I like the feel when you slide across the snow,” he said.

The fast, thrilling and sometimes graceful ride is what always has drawn people to the sport.

The ski resorts in northcentral Pennsylvania are set up to provide safe, encouraging environments. They provide ski lessons, rental equipment, ski patrols and many safety features.

Technology also has seen improvements. Modern skis and snowboards have curved edges that let users make sharper turns than the older, straight-sided gear allowed. Bindings do a better job of ensuring the safe connection between skis and boots. Helmets are common.

Many are drawn to the sport by dreams. Mike Knefley, general manager of Ski Sawmill, notes the “Olympics have brought exposure to skiing and snowboarding and make it look fun.”

Knefley describes how the Olympics present new areas of interest such as slopestyle, which includes features such as jumps and rails. It mixes acrobatics with speed and visual drama.

Some pursue skiing and snowboarding for the thrill of jumps and high-speed runs. Others equally enjoy pleasant conversations with friends on the gently rising chairlifts after each run. On the lifts, they are surrounded by icy beauty, good conversation and a promise of a thrilling ride.