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Discussion: HVO/WCOC Winter Series 2020

in: WCOC/HVO Winter Series 2020 (Dec 21 – Mar 29 - Mount Kisco, NY, US)

Dec 1, 2019 1:31 PM # 
Once again, HVO and WCOC are pleased to host a series of six barebones, time-yourself orienteering races during the winter. Each event offers a Brown, Green and Red course, and participants download the maps from a link posted on HVO’s website a day before each event starts. Control flags will be out in the woods for about four weeks and the events overlap some weekends so you can do two in one day/weekend. Run whenever you want while the flags are out. Feel free to time yourself and post the splits on Attackpoint.

A big thank you to our course designers who make the Winter Series possible: Lina, Tony, David, George, Lyn, Geof, and William!

Event schedule:
#1 Dec 21 - Jan 19 Blue Mountain – Lina Spokauskaite (course designer)
#2 Jan 11 - Feb 2 Huntington SP South – Tony Muffatti
#3 Jan 25 - Feb 16 Westmoreland – David Oxenstierna
#4 Feb 8 - Mar 1 Hurd SP – George & Lyn Walker
#5 Feb 22 - Mar 15 Muscoot Farm – Geof Connor
#6 Mar 8 – Mar 29 Ansonia Nature Center – William Hawkins

In case of major snow falls, revised dates may be considered and posted.
Dec 20, 2019 8:46 PM # 
Controls are now out in the (icy) woods WS 2020 at Blue Mountain and maps are now posted at

All maps are letter size.
Dec 21, 2019 1:02 AM # 
Friday 8 p.m. If you downloaded maps earlier note that corrcted red course has just been uploaded to web site (one control changed, deemed a bit dangerous in present conditions). Woods, however,should be clear of ice/snow by tomorrow p.m.
Dec 28, 2019 9:19 PM # 
Route Gadget for Winter Series 1 is at
Dec 29, 2019 1:46 AM # 
Thank you for doing this. My favorite place, great course, perfect weather. What a blessing. My time got saved wrongly. It suppose to be 127 min.
Dec 29, 2019 2:53 PM # 
Just confirming, standard flags in the woods at Blue Mountain? (versus just streamers or something similar)
Dec 29, 2019 3:33 PM # 
Yes, all control locations have standard flags with control codes!
Dec 31, 2019 9:04 PM # 
Exciting new training course at Blue Mountain available now!
Greg Ahlswede has been so kind to prepare a contours-only map exercise using Lina's existing WS#1 control flags. The map is posted with the other WS#1 maps. Check it out!

Happy New Orienteering Year from the Winter Series crew.
Jan 11, 2020 1:18 AM # 
The Winter Series event #2 at Huntington SP is now available. Maps are posted and control flags are out in the woods. In order to create a slightly different experience at Huntington, Tony utilized the south-eastern part of the map with access from Hopewell Road.

There is limited parking available on three small areas along Hopewell Road, as described on the information sheet posted along with the maps. Because of the limited parking, the three courses have no single start point. Depending on which parking spot you use (shown as purple crosses on the maps), you can use control #1, #2, or #3 as your first control and then come back to the such first control for the finish. If you start at control #1, then you finish at #1. If you start at control #3, then you finish at #3.

Currently, the running conditions are good with no snow or ice on the ground. The dark green vegetation generally represents old Mountain Laurel that for the most part is passable.

Thanks to Tony and Karen for organizing the event.
Jan 17, 2020 3:11 PM # 
Note that this is the last weekend with flags out at WS#1 at Blue Mountain.

The following weekend we move on to WS#3 at Westmoreland. David Oxenstierna has tapped into his Swedish orienteering experience to design a fun set of courses.
Jan 17, 2020 8:15 PM # 
Great that you are doing this. Thanks!

If anyone is having trouble uploading their route to RouteGadget, as I was, here is how Valerie told me to do it.
Jan 24, 2020 10:12 PM # 
The Winter Series event #3 at Westmoreland Sanctuary is on!
Control flags are out in the woods and maps are posted:

David Oxenstierna, the course designer, reports that there is 2-3 inches of snow in most parts of the terrain. Hopefully tomorrow's forecasted rain showers will improve running conditions..
Jan 28, 2020 10:58 PM # 
Ran Westmoreland on Sunday, saw Joe and da Finnish dude. Brought some newbies and had a blast! Thanks to organizers. My time on Red 74, Joe ran 70 and da Finnish dude said he did it in 76.
Jan 29, 2020 2:00 AM # 
I was there, too, Jeremy, had your shirt. Sorry I missed you.
Jan 29, 2020 10:24 PM # 
Planning on doing Westmoreland tomorrow. And maybe another stab at Huntington on the way home, this time running..
Jan 29, 2020 11:13 PM # 
Bare ground today over about 99.99(999)% of the terrain. Real nice conditions.
Feb 1, 2020 10:08 PM # 
Reminder. Tomorrow is the last day for the Huntington SP courses.
Feb 3, 2020 10:58 PM # 
We are on to Winter Series event #4 at Hurd State Park.
Control flags are out in the woods and maps are posted:

Please note that for this event at Hurd SP we are not using standard control flags. Instead, the control features are designated by permanent control markers, 6” x 6”, mounted about 5’ high on trees close to the features with the markers facing the feature. The intent is to leave the markers in place and publish permanent course maps after the Winter Series.

Thanks to George and Lyn for organizing this event.
Feb 3, 2020 11:05 PM # 
Are these new permanent markers or older existing ones?
Feb 3, 2020 11:15 PM # 
New permanent markers that George and Lyn prepared and placed during the last month or two.
Feb 3, 2020 11:52 PM # 
Feb 4, 2020 1:00 AM # 
I plan on going on the 15th. what side of the tree are the new markers hung? will that be in the clues?
Feb 4, 2020 1:24 AM # 
It says markers wlll be at about 5' high and facing the feature...
Feb 9, 2020 1:38 AM # 
Phil, Julia, and I went to Hurd today. All bare ground, no sign of any ice or snow.

The clues say nothing about what side of the feature the markers were on. I was wondering whether it would be a problem to spot them. The answer, generally, was no. Of 14 controls on the middle course, I saw two or three from maybe 20 or 30 yards away, the rest only when I was close to the feature. The markers were newly painted and bright.

What could be a problem for some is that, while sufficiently visible, they are less visible than normal controls. So it helps a lot if you are sure where you are. I had a couple of times where I was almost sure of where I was, but not quite 100% sure, and there was one tree that could possibly have the marker nailed to it, and I was getting a little anxious. But there it was, both times.

Actually, not really much different than when the control is on the back side of a feature. Which can cause a problem if you're not 100% sure.... :-)

We really enjoyed it.
Feb 9, 2020 6:27 PM # 
Just an FYI - I will be conducting an "Orienteering for Trail Runners" clinic using the Hurd short course on Sunday, February 23rd. Feel free to share this with any of your running friends who haven't given orienteering a shot yet...

I may very well repeat this at Ansonia in March and will also be doing a Trail Runner clinic in conjunction with a regular meet at Gay City on April 19th. The Gay City meet will also feature a longer advanced beginner course.
Feb 21, 2020 10:58 AM # 
The map files are up for Muscoot. Not sure why, but the .pdfs are quite large, around 10MB, which makes them slow to download and slow to print.
Feb 21, 2020 12:26 PM # 
I was not able to print out the new maps ...could print the Dir. but when I push print for the maps all I get is a blank sheet ??
Feb 21, 2020 12:39 PM # 
I was able to print the map ...but it took for ever .
Feb 21, 2020 1:28 PM # 
New Muscoot maps have been posted this morning. Flags are out in the woods. Take advantage of the nice weather forecast for this weekend.
Feb 21, 2020 1:31 PM # 
Note that the Start/Finish are not at the main Muscoot carpark on Rt 100 but at the Trailhead on Wood St. See directions posted with the maps. Maps/controls will stay up until March 15th.
Map scales are:
Red 10,000
Red/Green/Brown 7,500.
Feb 23, 2020 5:21 PM # 
RG is also up as is an alternate Brown (A)
Feb 24, 2020 7:50 PM # 
Also for a bigger challange, Red/Green are also posted with no stone walls. Files have NW in name.
Feb 29, 2020 1:21 AM # 
Thanks for the no wall version. I ran Green today. Great Fun!
It took my about 1/3 of the course to stop looking at my map ever time I approached a stone wall.

I think Green #10 (113) is misplaced. A tad SW of where it should be. I saw the flag on my way to #7 so easy to come back and get it later. It's pretty obvious no matter what.
Feb 29, 2020 9:58 PM # 
I went out and reset by triangulating on hill, wall and cliff but it still doesn't seem correct. I think the contour there is a bit off. However, as you say, it is obvious when you get 50m from it.
BTW, it was Niels idea to add the no-wall maps - glad you enjoyed them.
Mar 7, 2020 4:16 PM # 
Winter Series update:
1. We plan to post the Ansonia course maps on HVO's website this evening, and will alert you on Attackpoint accordingly. We want to make sure all control sites are vetted and all flags are in the woods before posting.

2. In light of the great running conditions right now, the Winter Series is offering an additional corridor orienteering training exercise. Greg Ahlswede has generously prepared two different corridors at the Ward Pound Ridge map, including a 3-4 km moderately difficult version and an 8 km more challenging version. Both maps will be posted later today on HVO's Winter Series website alongside an explanation of corridor orienteering and a copy of a compass training article.

Mar 8, 2020 1:37 AM # 
Niels will probably post something more formal soon, but for now: here are the courses for Ansonia.

Notes are included in the folder, but the key points are as follows:

- red (6.5km), green (4.8km), brown (3.2km) all start from the north lot on Rimmon Rd, NOT the nature center.
- watch out for the pothole entering that lot. The lot fits 5 cars.
- there's also a 'brown 2' (3.1km) that uses the southern controls starting from the nature center lot (the usual start location).
- read the notes for information about logging, which is active at the moment on weekdays.
- control flags have no numbers or punches; just the flags. (The numbers on the descriptions are just placeholders - Purple Pen won't let you create a course without control numbers.)
- the woods are just as gorgeous as usual at Ansonia (well, except for the logging), and hopefully people who don't normally visit the north end of the map will enjoy the different start location.
Mar 8, 2020 3:22 AM # 
Thank you to William Hawkins for organizing the Ansonia event. Flags are in the woods and maps are posted on the HVO website as well.

The Winter Series currently has three training events available:
1. Ansonia – Red/Green/Brown courses
2. Muscoot Farm - Red/Green/Brown courses (incl. no-stonewall maps)
3. Ward Pound Ridge – Corridor orienteering training courses
Mar 8, 2020 5:37 PM # 
FYI, Muscoot Farm and Ward Pound Ridge are both in Westchester County, where NY State is reporting 70 positive tests for COVID-19 as of 6 PM Saturday (out of 89 in the entire state), so pretty clearly there is community spread occurring somewhere in that vicinity.
Mar 8, 2020 6:06 PM # 
Let's not get too carried away. The new cases are virtually all connected to the one person in New Rochelle, in lower Westchester.
Personally I think the best and safest place to be getting exercise for mind and body at the moment is running or hiking out in the woods - and the number of people doing just that at Ward Pound Ridge this morning would seem to agree with me.
Mar 8, 2020 6:29 PM # 
Absolutely agree. Not suggesting to avoid the orienteering, just to take due precautions before/after. 70 from 1 is a lot of spread. Too many to keep it localized in a single community without a quarantine.

(And those are yesterday's numbers. Today's are already higher.)
Mar 8, 2020 8:23 PM # 
RG is up for Ansonia
Mar 8, 2020 8:26 PM # 
70 from 1 is a lot of spread.

zero testing to minimal testing of known high risk populations is also a lot more awareness. For all anyone really knows COVID-19 has been here a while and is more prevalent than we know. And that's really the crux of the issue - up until the past week or so there hasn't been any testing... period. So the numbers are in a high state of flux and uncertainty. We know its here, precautions & preparations are warranted. Beyond that we need to wait for more concrete information.
Mar 8, 2020 10:13 PM # 
I was thinking while putting out controls yesterday that this kind of orienteering was the kind for our times - not only is orienteering already a sport where you do your course between the start and the finish hardly seeing anyone, but the Winter Series ensures you can still compete without even seeing someone at the start or finish. Orienteering - social distancing before it was cool.
Mar 8, 2020 10:39 PM # 
I messed that social distancing thing up then. I saw J-J (drove down with him) as well as Charlie, Peter & Phil hanging around the parking area. But a most excellent group to hang around with regardless of the situation.
Mar 14, 2020 2:37 AM # 
What time on March 15 are the Muscoot streamers disappearing? Given the sudden lack of local events, we may have a carload driving up, and trying to snag both events in one day.

Looks like both parking areas are roadside-remote, so not in a closed-to-avoid-crowding main parking area?
Mar 14, 2020 11:01 AM # 
Yes, parking outside the park for Muscoot and Ansonia. Trailhead lots, maybe fit a few more cars than advertised, but say up to 10.
Mar 14, 2020 11:32 AM # 
At least in Connecticut all that is closed as regards state parks and forests are the buildings. The nature center at Ansonia is closed, for what it's worth (not a state facility, but nevertheless).
Mar 14, 2020 12:32 PM # 
And just an FYI - The regular season meet at Gay City scheduled for April 19th will most likely be transitioned to a Winter Series format event spanning March 28 - April 19th. Stay tuned..
Mar 14, 2020 12:46 PM # 
@Wyatt. We will keep the flags at Muscoot out in the woods for at least another week.

Both the Muscoot and the Ansonia courses have standard orange and white orienteering flags
Mar 14, 2020 4:37 PM # 
Red 18 at Ansonia has gone missing. Or maybe I’m just losing my mind.
Mar 14, 2020 4:40 PM # 
Oh, you were looking in the wrong place. It's not on the NE side of the boulder, it's actually on the E.
Mar 14, 2020 7:28 PM # 
It's there. Will post a photo later.
Mar 14, 2020 7:40 PM # 
"Will will post a photo later" sounds better.
Mar 14, 2020 9:02 PM # 
Me post photo. Ug.

Edited to add: here it is, viewed from between the cliff that encircles the control feature (the knoll) on the west and north sides and the boulder just to the north. It's not visible from the west side of the rock group.

In a major event it would have been put at the northern foot of the cliff, but there's nothing to hang it on there.
Mar 14, 2020 11:04 PM # 
my gps track confirms I was not there. too far west in a mess of rock. I may have given up too early as I met a young man at 17 inspecting the flag. curious what it was so I stopped to explain. thought maybe he had been up to no good.
Mar 15, 2020 11:24 AM # 
Pia W:
We are working on contingency plans for NEOCs local spring events and consider turning them into no or low interaction "winter series" events, but wonder how your winter series handle permits and insurance: Are participants/events covered by the OUSA insurance? If so, how do you work around the need for waivers? And would insurance be affected if we don't have permits and would have to keep a lower profile with less formal events and less public advertising of the events such as sending out information using an email list? We are working under the assumption that permit applications may not be processed or all denied. I noticed that there is a blanket sentence on your website stating that participants assume full responsibility for all injuries etc.
Mar 15, 2020 2:48 PM # 
@Pia When we were first considering a Winter Series several years ago, I checked with OUSA about whether a signed waiver was a requirement for insurance coverage. I was told signed waivers are desirable, but not actually a requirement.

We originally made it a point to print the waiver statement prominently on each Winter Series map. We’ve gotten lax about that this year, but we really should go back to doing that.

As I recall, the insurance does require that the event be a club-sponsored event. You just need to be sure the club’s Board signs off on the event. As for permits, etc., I think that would largely depend on the local situation, e.g., how touchy the state is about how state land is used.

Hope this helps.
Mar 15, 2020 3:17 PM # 
How do we handle permanent "trim" courses? Seems like that's the applicable model, we just take these down after a while. No insurance that I'm aware of, just presumably permission from the landowner to set it up.
Mar 15, 2020 4:13 PM # 
Also, thinking out loud, it seems to me that holding an event on a given day can be done with essentially no increased risk. Skip the punching completely, just tell people to go to the controls. Do timing with a sheet of paper and a clock, just write down start and finish times. No water stops. Concerned about collecting money, just don't do it, the club can afford to print
the maps, and you can offer people the option of sending a donation to the club via PayPal (NEOC doesn't charge members at meets anyway). All the registration workers need to do is hand out maps, and they could wear gloves to do that. And you're left with just waivers for non-members to sign, that can be deposited in a box and ignored forever, like they always are.

This would seem to present much less risk than a trip to the supermarket, which will be continuing. And people will keep filling their cars with gas and retrieving mail from their mailboxes. But it's all about the optics, because orienteering is nonessential, and therefore why not cancel? I can't see any significant difference between what I described above versus a Winter Series type of event, except for the fact that the former will elicit cries of "Why are you doing this?!?!". And that's not a fight worth fighting.
Mar 15, 2020 7:37 PM # 
Pia W:
@Rick Thanks!

@JJ We are considering two possible approaches (besides cancelling) to present to the NEOC Board for discussion later this week. One would be very similar to what you outlines for venues where we can obtain permits: bring your own map, possibly option to have map printed for people who can't print themselves, no e-punching, self timing, no money, no waivers for members, no refreshments. Would be covered by OUSA insurance, although I am not clear on whether the safety requirements for the insurance would require us to keep tabs on that everybody gets back (i.e. collect safety cards or sign-in sheet). Would minimize interactions from meet helpers.

The second approach would be for venues where we can't secure a permit (we worry that MA DCR will consider issuing permits non-essential and furlough staff). Here, we could potentially do Board approved informal trainings advertised through the NEOC weekly email assuming that we don't exceed the number of participants triggering a permit (25 for DCR venues) and have streamers out for a longer period. Not sure how this works with the OUSA insurance and if we would need insurance.
Mar 15, 2020 9:10 PM # 
Keeping track of the peple who go out and come back seems like a wise idea. It's not hard, give every start person/group a number, orally (their line number on the start sheet) and have them tell it to the finish person when they come in. You could even give them a slip of paper with the number on it so they won't forget. Self-timing is not really a necessary step, it's easy enough to time people with no interaction that would risk infection.
Mar 16, 2020 2:34 AM # 
The CDC now says that we should avoid gatherings of 50+ people, for the next 8 weeks.

Unless a venue manager totally ignores this guidance, I can't imagine any orienteering event getting approved during these 8 weeks -- regardless of how vigorously organizers promise to keep orienteers from touching anything or breathing near each other.

EDIT: Me thinks the Winter Series model is the best way to get our navigation fixes, with minimal risk -- and maximum possibility of venue approval.
Mar 16, 2020 2:31 PM # 
We're rapidly moving toward the situation of "if it involves people, and it's not essential, it's not going to happen".
Mar 16, 2020 2:40 PM # 
fwiw - DEEP approved our shifting to the winter series model for the Gay City event, including having some flags on/near trails for the duration.
Mar 17, 2020 1:41 AM # 
Epunching seems very low risk for transferring a virus.....I mean you never even touch the box. I say this because e punching makes it easy to start and finish competitors, no workers need be present.
I regularly train O without any markers, so anything is fine with me, but epunch boxes seem a low source for transmission.
Mar 17, 2020 1:55 AM # 
True, but when people are worried about touching a map that one other person has touched...
Mar 17, 2020 2:20 AM # 
Some other clubs are going to put epunching in the forest for low key events, but I think the value of epunching versus the potential for theft of the boxes if left in the woods for weeks at a time makes just using flags and "getting close" to be good enough for now..

Official OUSA Policy Statement (hot off the press)
Mar 21, 2020 12:20 AM # 
Sure, put eboxes out. Then what? Unless there is a Start, Clear and Finish box as well, which could be possible, the use of the boxes makes no sense unless a download capability is provided also. Will a download computer or splits printer be left in the finish arena?
Mar 21, 2020 8:31 PM # 
Control #51, the Go control for Brown and Red seems among the missing. Took several shots at it and then went back out with Lyn to the same rock had been searching. No evidence of a bag or activity on N side of Boulder.
Mar 21, 2020 10:48 PM # 
If anyone wants to go put out a flag, feel free, but there is no way I will be able to fix it any time soon.
Mar 22, 2020 12:49 AM # 
Ok. We didn’t have another bag or streamer tape so had to leave it.
Mar 22, 2020 11:29 AM # 
Serious question: in the event that non-essential travel (like driving to Ansonia) will be banned in CT some time this week, is someone able to go there on short notice when the ban is announced to pick up the controls? Or do we just leave them in the woods until the resumption of normal life?
Mar 22, 2020 1:04 PM # 
I'm going there now. Can pick those up if needed but I guess its too early at this point... Id say leave them until better days )

Also can you guys post the Hurd maps again - it was the one I had to miss but with the new situation it would be nice to re-visit ))

Thanks for doing WS - I guess the community needs it like never before
Mar 22, 2020 2:19 PM # 
I can't imagine any harm in leaving them out there for a while.
Mar 23, 2020 10:33 AM # 
At least in NJ, going out for exercise is among the activities specifically exempted in the "stay home" order.
Mar 23, 2020 10:57 AM # 
Same in NY. However the Governor is getting pretty upset about all the people gathering in non-distanced groups, especially in NYC. Expect to see further tightening of the rules soon if this doesn't stop voluntarily.
Mar 24, 2020 3:15 PM # 
With the current state of events in such a state of flux right now, I have decided to proactively cancel the winter series style (non)event at Gay City. Get outside, get exercise & stay healthy.
Mar 27, 2020 1:39 AM # 
After three years and 50 Winter Series courses, we have the first missing control flag. Control #41 on the Red, Green and Brown2 courses is gone.

Without the flag, the safest navigation to #41 is to run on a precise bearing to the cliff 30m north of the control. The cliff is very distinct and a much better attackpoint than any of the boulders along the way. When you are by the cliff you will be quite confident about where the #41 boulder is (the closest one to the SE) and should be able to see a branch leaning on the west side of the boulder without the flag.
Mar 27, 2020 7:44 PM # 
For those who want some social distancing in the woods there are a mixture of permanent controls and normal flags out on the Silvermine map at Harriman State Park. Parking and start/finish is at Tiorati Circle. 3 courses Red/Green/Brown
Maps and info at
The carpark can be busy at weekends but has been reasonably empty on weekdays so far.
Mar 28, 2020 6:13 PM # 
I think #35 may be missing also.
Mar 30, 2020 12:12 AM # 
The Ansonia courses have been picked up. By the end, 35, 41, and 45 were all missing. But not 51, which was still there...

With the benefit of hindsight, 41 was too close to an unmapped foot trail, and 45 too close to two mapped trails. 35 was just bad luck.

In future it might be a good idea to make laminated labels saying what date the flags will be picked up. That might stop trash removers from removing them.

Without access to the water authority and with continuing logging, it's getting harder to set courses at Ansonia. I don't know how long the 'stellar' reputation of this area will continue to be warranted for. Oh well; at least we still have Harriman...
Apr 10, 2020 3:41 PM # 
We had planned to convert our Huntington SP meet scheduled for May 2 to a Winter Series style event. But given the heavy use this park is getting, the CT DEEP has begun closing the park whenever it reaches a certain capacity. So unfortunately, even a WS style event is no longer a viable option for Huntington.

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