The Pocono Mountains are the focal point for winter activities this week. The 16th annual Pocono Winter Carnival opened yesterday at the Shawnee Mountain Ski Area, Shawnee-on-Delaware, Pa., for nine days of synchronized skiing, snowboarding, mogul stunt skiing, tube racing, sloppy slaloms, snow volleyball and snowman triathlons and biathlons. There are also less strenuous events and fun and entertainment for the whole family. Winter Carnival takes place throughout the four-county Pocono Mountain area, and many of the Pocono resorts are offering midweek ski packages as well as winter weekend rate discounts.
The major participating ski areas are Camelback Ski Area in Tannersville, Pa.; Alpine Mountain Ski Area in Analomink, Pa.; Tanglewood Ski Area in Tafton, Pa.; Jack Frost Mountain in White Haven, Pa.; Big Boulder Ski Area in Lake Harmony, Pa.; and the Shawnee Mountain Ski Area.
Today's events include the Camelback Challenge Series in Tannersville and the Dansbury Depot Slalom Race at Alpine Mountain Ski Area. Both events are geared to skiers of all levels of abilities. NASTAR racing, sponsored by Budweiser at Shawnee Mountain Ski Area, is an opportunity for skiers to test their skills against those on the U.S. Ski Team. Medals will be awarded to skiers who match or beat standard times. For athletes with unlimited stamina, there is the Snowman Triathlon (ski, bike and run) and Biathlon (ski and bike), team and individual competitions in various age categories at Tanglewood Ski Area, as well as a synchronized skiing exhibition at Shawnee Mountain Hope Lodge. For a change of pace, you can attend the Snowy Mountain Fair at the Stroudsmoor Country Inn in Stroudsburg, Pa., where some 50 exhibitors will offer crafts and antiques for sale from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is free.
You don't have to be a skier to enjoy Winter Carnival. There are many alternative activities for non-skiers of all ages. Family outdoor skating (weather permitting) is available today, Saturday and next Sunday at the Village Pond at Colony Village in Analomink. A Pocono Family Fun Day is planned at the Pocono Ice-A-Rama in Analomink on Thursday. The rink is open from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m., offering reduced admissions and rentals. The 4th annual Canadensis Chili Cook-Off is set for Saturday at Daniels Top-O-The-Poconos Family Resort in Canadensis. Winners will be determined by judges and spectators. The Deer Path Stables in White Haven offer daily horse-drawn sleigh rides and horseback riding.
For entertainment you can choose among apres-ski parties, post-race parties, a comedy cabaret, a murder-mystery event and a beach party.
Or if you would like to get away from all the frantic activity, you can take a daytrip to Jim Thorpe, a preserved Victorian village settled by early coal barons and railroad magnates. There are restored homes and mansions, narrow streets, small shops, an opera house, Victorian library, the restored New Jersey Central Railroad Station and even a castle ruin. Mauch Chunk Lake, outside of town, is a good spot for winter activities with facilities for ice skating, ice fishing, and ice boating as well as miles of trails for winter hiking and cross-country skiing.
For information, call the Pocono Mountains Vacation Bureau at (800) POCONOS or (717) 424-6050.
In the tiny Swiss community of Helvetia, W.Va., the tradition of Fasnacht is continued each year on the last Saturday before Lent. Fasnacht precedes the austerity of the Lenten season with feasting and revelry, similar to the Mardi Gras celebration in New Orleans.
Helvetia was founded by Swiss immigrants who settled the land in north-central West Virginia in the 19th century. It is a town that has preserved its heritage and still retains the atmosphere of Switzerland in the 1800s.
This year's celebration will take place on Saturday. It begins in the early evening with feasting at Helvetia's community hall, where an effigy of Old Man Winter hangs to symbolize the end of winter. Later, members of the community don handmade costumes and masks and parade through the streets. After the procession everyone returns to the community hall for dancing and entertainment by the Swiss Folklore Club of Washington and more feasting. At midnight, festivities conclude as the effigy of Old Man Winter is cut down and burned on a bonfire outside. Admission is $3 for adults, $2 for ages 6 to 12, and free for children under 6.
Helvetia may be reached from Interstates 81 or 79 by way of U.S. Route 33 and state Route 20 or U.S. Routes 250 and 219. For information, call (304) 924-6435.
The 22nd annual Hunt Valley Antiques Show will be held at Marriott's Hunt Valley Inn next weekend, Friday through Sunday.
More than 50 dealers from up and down the East Coast will display antiques dating from the 18th century, including American and English furniture, folk art, Chinese porcelain, silver, paintings, quilts and garden furnishings.