Schenectady County

PRIME TIME: Cross-country skiers meet for exercise, social interaction

Fred Adriance likes to think of the Capital Area Ski Touring Association (CASTA) as a social club th

Fred Adriance likes to think of the Capital Area Ski Touring Association (CASTA) as a social club that just so happens to have members who like to cross-country ski. “We really put a premium on people liking each other,” he said.

Organized in 1975, CASTA is all about good times in the great outdoors. The group hosts cross-country skiing day trips, out-of-state and international skiing adventures, as well as snowshoeing excursions, walks and bike rides.

Adriance, 66, of Waterford, is the club’s president and has been a member since the early ‘90s. He said club members come from all across the region, and are of all ages and athletic abilities. The majority of members are active older adults, he noted.

During the 17 years that Lil Julian of Watervliet has been a club member, she’s skied in Switzerland, Austria and Italy with the club, as well as in Lake Tahoe, Nev.; Steamboat Springs, Colo.; Yellowstone National Park in Wyo. and Sun Valley, Idaho.

“Yellowstone was one of the highlights,” she said. “You’re there in the winter and the animals are out when you’re skiing and the animals are walking right along beside you.”

An avid cross-country skier, Julian’s favorite local spot to ski is Garnet Hill in North River. “I’ve always liked the hills. I don’t like flat skiing,” the 76-year-old said.

Plenty of help

Even novice skiers or those who prefer to steer clear of steep slopes will enjoy skiing with CASTA, Julian assured. “You meet lots of friends and everybody’s more than willing to help you and to teach you and give you pointers on how to maneuver and things,” she said.

Club members Chuck and Ellen Alsdorf of Charlton are certified Nordic ski instructors who are always willing to help new members learn the basics. Just about anyone can cross-country ski, Chuck said.

“People don’t realize the talents and abilities they do have. They often sell themselves short,” the 77-year-old said. “The weather’s nice. It’s enjoyable even though it may be cold and there may be snow on the ground. The air is clear, it’s clean and there’s a lot to be seen out there. There’s a lot to be enjoyed in life besides what you find on the television.”

Virginia Colby, 88, of East Greenbush, has been enjoying club excursions in the great outdoors since CASTA was founded. A cross-country skier with over 50 years’ experience, she likes the social aspect of the club. “It just sort of gives you a chance to ski with people,” she said. “It’s a good club, with very nice, helpful people in it and it inspires you to get out and ski.”

CASTA sponsors four Saturday ski buses per year, which go to different cross-country ski areas. “We wouldn’t go to anyplace that you could do in your car within an hour,” said Adriance.

Past destinations have included the Olympic ski area at Mt. Van Hoevenberg in Lake Placid, Grafton Ponds Nordic Center in Grafton, Vt., and Viking Nordic Center in Londonderry, Vt.

Once a year, Adriance plans a longer trip for the group. In January, 29 club members will take their skis to Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy, for eight days. In past years the group has journeyed to Austria, Germany, Switzerland, France and Italy.

“Many of the trips that we plan involve doing a little touring as well as skiing,” noted Alsdorf, who has joined the group on multiple trips to Germany and Austria. “It’s really amazing that we have had the opportunity to do so many wonderful trips at such a very reasonable price.”

Although the majority of club members who take the trips are cross-country skiers, downhill skiers are always welcome too, Adriance said. “Two years ago, we went to Innsbruck, Austria. If you do downhilling at all, even though you may be a cross-countrier primarily, why would you pass up an opportunity to go downhilling in one of the most fantastic venues in the world?” he said.

No matter what sort of skis they strap on, club members all agree that the camaraderie is the best part about the club.

“It’s a nice cross-section of people from different venues of life and different educational and domestic backgrounds, and socially we’re very compatible. We enjoy each other’s company and are supportive of each other,” said Alsdorf.

Adriance encourages everybody to get off the couch and join CASTA. “It’s not beyond anybody’s capability, and you can start at whatever level you want. [Even] if it’s snowshoeing, at least you’re out there with a group that’s like-minded, that can provide you with a level of support that you’re not going to get sitting there watching ‘Dancing with the Stars,’ ” he said.

CASTA meetings are held monthly, October through March, at the West Crescent Fire District Hall in Halfmoon. More information can be found at

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