Robin-Zefers-ClarkBy Alicia Dziak

Robin Zefers Clark, a local watercolor artist, is a recent candidate for the Allegany Nordic Ski Patrol, a group that keeps park-goers safe throughout the winter, but focusing on the cross-country ski trails within the Art Roscoe Ski Area of Allegany State Park (ASP).

A former art teacher in the Cattaraugus-Little Valley School, Clark retired in 2012, and with the extra free time quickly realized she didn’t enjoy Western New York winters as much as she wanted.

Clark’s good friend, Mary MacQueen, who started Allegany Nordic Ski Patrol in 2002, suggested to Clark that she participate in a public training course for ski patrollers that was offered last winter. Clark took the course and liked it so much that she took a follow-up course, which entailed an overnight stay in a tent during the winter. According to Clark, having the right gear for such an endeavor made a huge difference, and soon she was well on her way to enjoying the winter a bit more.

Clark’s interest in ski patrolling continued to grow, and last month she decided to apply to become a ski patroller for Allegany Nordic.

“To become a candidate for ski patrol, you first need to come to the park and let a ski patroller know that you’re interested,” explained MacQueen. The ski patroller can then help you through the application process.

“Once your application is approved, you are considered a candidate,” MacQueen said. “Currently, Robin is a candidate elect, which means that she still has to take her first-aid course.”

The regional first-aid course is only offered once a year in the fall and is required for all ski patrollers, whether they are working in ASP or other local ski areas.

The number of new candidates for Allegany Nordic Ski Patrol each year fluctuates. This year, there are two, which will add to the current force of approximately 20 patrollers.

“We are like Allegany State Park’s own first-aid crew,” said MacQueen. “When we get to the park, we call park police to let them know we’re there. We not only serve the Art Roscoe ski area, but we also help throughout the park with things like accidents on the sledding hills.”

Since Allegany Nordic Ski Patrol is on-site, they are able to get to people quickly, as ambulances can take some time to get to the park and to various park locations.

“This time of year, we have one or two patrollers at the park every day, with more on weekends,” said MacQueen. “We really try to mirror the ski traffic.”

In addition to being present all winter long to monitor the skiers and help with other winter sports enthusiasts, Allegany Nordic Ski Patrol is stationed in the park during other warm weather events, such as the annual Raccoon Rally and the Adventure Run.

The dedicated Allegany Nordic Ski Patrol not only works hard to keep people safe in the park, but they also do it on a volunteer basis. All supplies are made possible by donations. Those wishing to donations to this worthy cause can send them to Allegany Nordic Ski Patrol, c/o John Fitzpatrick, 2050 Maple Hill Rd., Hinsdale, NY 14173.

For Clark, becoming an official ski patroller in time for next year’s ski season will definitely make her winters more exciting. In the meantime, she’s spending the rest of this winter developing her skiing skills so she’s ready.

“I look forward to becoming a full-fledged member of this valued organization, and hope that I can live up to their high standards!” said Clark.

Next time you’re in the park and spot an Allegany Nordic Ski Patroller, smile and shout a “thank you” for their hard work and service to make our favorite state park safer!