Step Outdoors, a collaborative effort from agencies in Tioga County, is giving people an opportunity to "get out," enjoy the winter weather and stay healthy.
The organizations - the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, Bureau of Forestry and State Parks, Tioga County Partnership for Community Health, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Wellsboro Parks and Recreation and the former Laurel Health System - all are working together and have a created a winter recreation program lasting to the end of February.
A full, downloadable schedule is available at www.stepoutdoors.org.
Participants can ice skate, cross-country ski, snowshoe, hike and fish - and all of the activities are free. They are held on local, state and federal lands.
"I don't think a lot of people know you can use these facilities in the winter time," said Dina Henninger, natural resource specialist with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers at Tioga-Hammond and Cowanesque lakes. "We have these areas that are not just for spring, summer and fall."
The first snowshoe event on Jan. 5 drew 17 participants, and more are scheduled.
Equipment such as snowshoes are provided by DCNR. Cross-country skis and skates are provided by Wellsboro Parks and Recreation Department.
"They can just come and if they (the equipment items) are available, (people) can use them for the day," Henninger said.
Last Wednesday was supposed to be the first in the Skate Night series, but because of the weather, the ice wasn't safe to skate on.
"We are very weather dependent on these activities. Last year, it wasn't so good," Henninger said, but the group is hopeful for this year.
Some events will happen regardless of weather, but may be altered to fit. For instance, if a snowshoe hike is scheduled but snow is absent, a regular hike will be held.
"There is a social aspect to it, as well. You are not going to be out there by yourself. You will be with other folks participating, and most of these events have a leader," said Brian Kennedy, program coordinator for the Tioga County Partnership for Community Health.
A few new things were added to the schedule this year. An Introduction to Snowshoe Lacing class is planned for Jan. 30, along with a paid workshop on snowshoes and how to make them. A gear clinic on staying warm in the outdoors is set for this Friday.
All ages and experience levels are welcome.
"You don't have to know the terrain, you just have to show up. They have snowshoes, skis or skates and you have the support from other folks and the leadership to guide you wherever you are going," Kennedy said.
Some equipment is in limited supply, but Henninger said it is free to use. Hopefully, people will develop an interest in the activity and decide to "continue to ski or snowshoe."
Step Outdoors has a Facebook page that lists the events. Participants are encouraged to post their comments.
For updates on snow, ice and trail conditions, visit www.wellsbororecreation.org. Facebook users can "like" the "Step Outdoors ... Where Health Meets Adventure" page.
Winter conditions for area parks and forests are available through DCNR's website.