Growing up in Western New York, I always looked forward to my family’s annual fall trip to Allegany State Park. Late every October we would pack a picnic lunch, put the dogs in the car, and head down to Allegany for a day of leaf peeping, hiking, rock climbing, and wilderness peace.
Some years it was sunny and 65 degrees, while others were a rain/snow mix in the 40s. Whatever the weather, it was always fun, always an adventure, and always absolutely beautiful.
Almost 15 years later, when I took the job as Becoming an Outdoors-Woman (BOW) Coordinator for New York’s Department of Environmental Conservation, one of my goals was to help New Yorkers learn to love our long winters. That is when I knew exactly where I wanted to host a new annual winter workshop.
BOW workshops are designed to teach women a variety of outdoor skills over a three-day weekend. These programs provide information, encouragement, and hands-on instruction in outdoor activities including fishing, shooting, archery, hunting, trapping, outdoor photography, map and compass, survival, camping, canoeing, and outdoor cooking.
These workshops are designed primarily for women who have little or no experience with outdoor recreation.
For 26 years, BOW programs have offered women a unique learning experience, putting everyone on an even playing field to learn new skills from a dedicated group of qualified volunteer instructors.
Since then, close to 4,500 women from all over the state, aged 18-80+ have attended BOW workshops in New York, have embraced outdoor activities, met like-minded women, and challenged themselves. Participants leave our workshops feeling empowered, accomplished, and often with a new group of lifelong friends to join in outdoor adventures.
The first annual ‘BOW in the SNOW Winter Workshop’, was held February 7-9, 2020 at Allegany State Park. The workshop was a success, hosting 55 participants from 23 counties in New York State, as well as three other states.
Participants ranged in age from 18 to 69 years old. Over the course of three days, these women learned a variety of outdoor skills including snowshoeing, Nordic skiing, fat tire biking, trapping, firearms safety, Dutch oven cooking, winter camping & survival, K-9 first aid, tree stand safety, ice fishing, and much more!
Allegany State Park was an ideal and beautiful location that delivered on snow just in time. Leading up to the workshop weekend, the normally snowy Southern Tier had seen little accumulation, and even less ice-up on its lakes. While I was getting a bit nervous, I had faith that the lake effect storms of Lake Erie would come through.
Sure enough, the week of the workshop, all of New York experienced an intense winter storm that delivered the perfect amount of snow for our weekend. While we ended up seeing some participants drop out due to travel restrictions and safety concerns, we had many who braved the storm and made it just in time to enjoy the weekend in an idyllic setting.
The Art Roscoe Nordic ski trails, the snowshoe trail at Stone Tower, and the fat tire bike trails hosted our classes with near perfect conditions. Although we didn’t have enough solid ice for the ice fishing class to go out on Red House Lake, our instructors adapted and offered fishing instruction on land followed by a delicious tutorial on cleaning and frying our winter catch!
BOW offers a three-day workshop every fall and now a three-day workshop every winter. If you’re interested in joining us or learning more about BOW, please visit dec.ny.gov and search ‘becoming an outdoors woman’ to find out about all of our upcoming events.
(Editors note: Check back on the DEC page for future updates as to scheduling.)
Post by Katrina Talbot, Wildlife Biologist & Becoming an Outdoors-Woman Coordinator
Interested in taking part in a future workshop? Here are just a few comments from last winter’s workshop evaluations, underscoring the popularity and benefits of the program:
“Working together with women in a group has been amazing. I learned to snowshoe and ski, and this weekend has made me so grateful.“
“This experience has taught me skills to allow me to enjoy winter in NY! I enjoyed sharing the weekend with strong, capable, empowered women!“
“This weekend was so much more to me than being curious and wanting to learn a new skill. Although both of those were true (I learned to ice fish and obtained my trapping certificate, neither of which I had previous experience with), this was more of a personal goal. Every single person I met at BOW, including the instructors, were amazing, patient, kind, friendly, warm, knowledgeable, fun… just good people. I commend the DEC for offering this program and from the bottom of my heart thank the volunteers and Katrina for her time, warm welcome, and dedication to this program. The spirit and energy of the instructors was contagious. “