As it happens in Maine, the weather has varied this winter. Strong snow storms have been followed by periods of unseasonably warm weather, melting much of that snow.
For local high school ski teams, the results of the weather has brought mixed results. In terms of practicing, some teams have been able to get through the weather without a problem.
Mt. Blue has the luxury of practicing at Titcomb Mountain, but it’s had to close on occasion to conserve snow.
As a result, Nordic head coach David Nordstrom and his team are sometimes left searching for alternative options.
“There’s a rail trail that comes right by Titcomb and we can hop right on that, but there’s a lot of flat (ground),” Nordstrom said. “We often use that when there’s not much snow, because it doesn’t take much cover.”
Finding alternative options to strange weather patterns, Nordstrom says, is something you learn over time as a coach. For the Cougars, this means more “dryland” training, exercises off the course, which helps but doesn’t bring the same results as a normal practice.
“The last few years — and it all seems to be a product of global warming — the last few years, dryland training has gone on longer than it used to,” Nordstrom said. “In the past, I think us coaches have always known we’d have a week or two of dryland training. Really, it’s running around with poles pretending you’re skiing. I heard one coach say dryland training is like practicing basketball without the basketball for a while. It’s frustrating like that.”
The Maranacook Nordic team was forced to move Saturday’s Maranacook Waves Race from its home course to the Sugarloaf Outdoor Center in Carrabassett Valley. Even with Wednesday’s snow, Black Bears coach Steve DeAngelis said there was not enough for the volume of skiers participating in the race.
“We don’t like moving it, but we had to make the decision Monday or Tuesday for teams to rearrange the transportation,” DeAngelis said. “At that point we had almost now snow on the ground. With a race of almost 400 people, you have to have good cover, and (four to five inches of snow) isn’t enough, not after Monday’s record warmth.”
DeAngelis is still looking forward to Saturday’s race, however, and is happy to have it at Sugarloaf.
“They have a brand new, 2 1/2-foot sprint loop that’s wide, challenging, fun. It’s got a great stadium and mass start for each wave (of skiers). If we’ve got to go somewhere, I’m glad it’s there, it’s a great course.”
The race, a freestyle 5K, begins at noon for the boys and approximately 1:15 p.m. for the girls.
On the flip side, the Kents Hill slalom race, scheduled for 9:30 a.m. Saturday, will be held with no changes. Huskies head coach Steve Bell said there’s been no problem with the hill at Kents Hill, but snow may be added before Saturday’s race to make sure it’s ready to go.
“The weather hasn’t affected us too, too much,” Bell said. “We lost a little bit of snow during that warm stretch. We may make a little snow (Thursday night) just to pad us. Conditions were soft for a little while, but now they’re nice.”
Skowhegan, Mt. Blue, Maranacook and Winslow are a few of the teams participating in the Kents Hill race.
* * *
The Maranacook boys and girls Nordic teams are coming off a successful performances at the Hornet Classic in Turner on Jan. 12. Both squads took home team titles.
DeAngelis has been impressed with his team thus far, between the veterans who’ve progressed in their skiing, as well as the newcomers to the team.
“That was a very good, strong race for us,” DeAngelis said. “We’ve been looking really good in classic. This is only our second freestyle race on Saturday (at the Maranacook Waves Race). We haven’t been as strong in that, so I’m looking forward to some really good technical improvements. But we’ve had a really good start to our season. I’m happy with where we are so far.”
* * *
Mt. Blue junior Sarah Wade carried over her success from last season to this one.
Wade was named the Morning Sentinel Nordic Skier of the Year after a successful 2012 season, in which she finish second in both the classical and freestyle events at the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference championships. She also finished second in the freestyle and seventh in classical at the Class A state championship meet.
On Jan. 12, Wade won the classical 5K race at the Hornet Classic. While Nordstrom noted Wade prefers freestyle, he was happy to see her improve in the classical race.
“It just seems for her like things are clicking right now,” Nordstrom said. “I really want to see her get to like classic as much as she likes skate, but she really likes skate. It’s been nice that she’s had some classic results this year that have been better. I don’t know if that will get her to like classic more, but it certainly doesn’t hurt.”
Dave Dyer — 621-5639