Last year, the Mt. Blue Alpine team had all of the snow it needed to get ready for the start of what turned out to be a championship season.

“We had one day of dry land training,” coach Mark Cyr said.

On the second day of practice, Cyr was towing his skiers up an otherwise empty Titcomb Mountain with a snowmobile on freshly-fallen snow. The start of the boys team’s Class A championship run couldn’t have been better.

Titcomb is empty again this mid-December, except it’s covered in green and brown instead of white. The Cougars start their fourth week of dry land training on Monday. While Cyr is delighted with how his team is attacking the grueling mix of plyometrics and weight work, he is wondering when the Cougars’ season will start going uphill.

“It hasn’t been this bad in quite awhile,” he said.

The Cougars aren’t scheduled to race until Jan. 7 at Mt. Abram. A handful of Alpine teams in the Mountain Valley and Kennebec Valley Athletic conferences are slated to kick off the regular season at Black Mountain in Rumford on Dec. 30.

The Nordic schedule has already been disrupted by the warm temperatures. The Dec. 19 Billy Chenard Memorial Scholarship Race, a traditional season-opener for many local teams and hosted by Mt. Abram High School, has been postponed due to lack of snow. Mt. Abram’s Buzz Bean said organizers are hoping to reschedule it for a later date.

Bean said it is just the second time in the 30-year history of the event, also known as the MTA Opener, that it has been postponed. He said organizers were hopeful temperatures would be sufficiently low in the weeks leading up to the race to make enough snow for a loop at the Sugarloaf Outdoor Center, but it’s only gotten warmer in December.

“They have half-a-loop man-made but they can’t make snow to finish it off if it’s not cold enough at night,” Bean said.

Cyr said Titcomb’s operators are waiting for a good 24-to-48-hour cold snap before turning on the snow guns.

“It’s a bare-bones operation. They can’t just throw money up onto the hill and have it melt and come back down the hill,” Cyr said.

Sugarloaf has had enough “money” stay on the hill for Maranacook’s Alpine team to make a couple of weekend trips north, and Kents Hill has enough man-made snow for skiers from the two Readfield schools to do some flat-ground drills.

“The skiing is what it is,” Maranacook coach Ronn Gifford said. “It’s not bad considering the weather we’ve had.”

Led by returning state slalom champions Nate Delmar and Erin Guilmet, the Black Bears are still doing an unusual amount of dry land training this year, even with their relative riches in snow. But Gifford and many other coaches worry about the regimen becoming monotonous if skiers don’t start taking regular chair lift rides.

“The kids do great with it. We’re trying to mix as much fun and games in with our work to keep them interested,” Gifford said.

“They’re definitely getting very restless. It’s hard to mix things up enough. But we’ve got a good group of kids,” Monmouth Nordic coach Chris Bryant said. “The warmth made some of the dry land a little easier, but that’s just putting off more important matters.”

Bryant has a small team — five girls and two boys — two of whom never skied competitively. Getting them experience and getting top skiers Becki Bryant and Madi Bumann ready for competition may take some extraordinary measures. Coach Bryant already has a four-day trip to Fort Kent and Madawaska planned for Christmas break.

“I’m hoping that’s not our first time on snow,” he said.

The next big Nordic race on the schedule is the Telstar Relays in Bethel on Jan. 2.

If skiers and coaches don’t find the forecast encouraging, they can log on to mainehighschoolskiing.com, which has a three-word announcement at the top of its home page:

“Keep the faith!”

Randy Whitehouse — 621-5638

[email protected]

Twitter: @RAWmaterial33