FARMINGTON — Early in the ski season, before the lifts at Titcomb Mountain are running, Mark Cyr will tow his Mt. Blue High School alpine skiers up the hill via snowmobile. On one trip, Cyr looked over his shoulder. There was Sam Smith, happily being towed up the hill, and trying to line himself up to jump the warming shack off to the side of the trail.

Or, there was the time Cyr saw Smith riding the chairlift, the safety bar raised. Smith leaned forward to adjust his boot, barely sitting in the moving chair at all. Every alpine ski racer needs to have very little fear, Cyr said.

“I’d say Sam Smith has no fear,” Cyr said. “There’s nothing he holds back on at all.”

In an age of sports specialization, Smith is sort of a throwback. One of the top alpine skiers in the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference, A junior, Smith also competes for Mt. Blue’s Nordic ski team.

“When I think of ski season, I don’t think of one or the other. I think of both. I think it’s very hard to choose between both of them,” Smith said after his second run in a slalom race last Wednesday at Titcomb.

While the Maine Principals’ Association no longer recognizes a Skiemeister — an athlete who compiles the most points in alpine and Nordic events combined — the award is still presented at the KVAC/Mountain Valley Conference championships. Smith will be a contender for the honor when the conference championship races begin Feb. 7 at Black Mountain.

“When he skies, (Smith) puts it all out there,” Claire Polfus, Mt. Blue’s Nordic ski coach, said. “He’s really good at pushing himself. Technically, he’s quite good. He’s very athletic and strong.”

Smith has excelled in the alpine races this year. Last Friday, he earned a fourth-place finish in a giant slalom race at Mt. Abram. This was two days after winning the slalom at Titcomb, despite a hiccup as he neared the final gates on his first run. Smith nearly lost his balance as he neared the end of his run, but recovered to finish with a time of 39.6 seconds. With a second-run time of 41.7 seconds, Smith’s won the race in 1:21.3, almost a second ahead of Edward Little’s Kyle Mooney.

“I had a lot of speed going in there toward the end. A little more than I should’ve. I should’ve tried to round out my turns a little more, but I skied a little too straight and got late,” Smith said of the end of his first run.

The second run was smoother, although two seconds slower, in part due to snow Smith described as “grippy.” Cyr said the slower run is an example of Smith skiing smartly. Looking at first-run times, Smith knew he had at least second place locked up if he finished his second run. Smith trailed Maxx Bell of Edward Little by just over a second, but led every other competitor by at least a second.

“There are certain times you’ve got to back off a little bit,” Cyr said.

Smith said he’s skied both alpine and Nordic for years, hitting the trails at Titcomb almost every day after school. Smith hesitated when asked to pick a favorite, although added if there’s an alpine race and a Nordic race scheduled for the same time, he’d likely choose alpine.

“Alpine racing, you get a lot of adrenaline. I just like it. If I have to choose between them day of, I guess I’ll choose alpine, but Nordic is still pretty fun,” Smith said. “It’s hard to do both. You only have so much hours of sunlight after you get out of school. That’s the only time I get to practice. I try to split it up the best I can.”

Smith did well in both disciplines at the Class A state championships last season. He earned fourth place in the slalom. In the Nordic events, Smith placed 14th in the classical final and 15th in the freestyle race. Last Saturday, Smith took part in his first classical race of the season, placing 24th in the Sassi Memorial 5K at Black Mountain. Competitive alpine and Nordic skiing rely on different skill sets, but Smith thinks those skills combine to make him a better overall skier.

“Nordic is a lot slower and there’s more endurance and there’s a lot more thinking. Whereas alpine, it’s so quick. You can’t think or it will cost you,” Smith said. “I find longer courses for alpine, that require a lot more endurance, I’m able to ski a lot better because I do Nordic. For Nordic, being able to go down hills, because I do alpine, is a lot easier.”

Added Polfus: “He can take the risks on (Nordic) downhills a lot of kids won’t take.”

Ironically, Smith’s aggressive skiing on Nordic downhills cost him in a Jan. 20 race at Maranacook. Earlier in the day, Smith won a slalom race at nearby Kents Hill. In his freestyle Nordic race, Smith fell going down a hill, went off course into the woods, and was disqualified.

Smith will race both disciplines on the same day during the conference championships. The Class A alpine championships are set for Feb. 20-21 at Mt. Abram. Nordic championships are Feb. 22-23 at Black Mountain. Smith said he’d like to earn top-10 finishes in everything.

“It’s a crazy busy week,” Smith said of state championship week. “A normal week, though. Last week, I had a race Thursday, Friday and two Saturday.”

Cyr expects Smith to have success in both alpine and Nordic this season, and continue that success as a senior next season.

“Sam’s one of those kids who can go for it,” Cyr said. “He’s skiing really well right now. He’s going to be right there.”

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

[email protected]

Twitter: @TLazarczykMTM

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