WATERVILLE — Ski season is here.

Quarry Road Trails, a city-owned outdoor recreation area in Waterville, heralded in the season with its annual cross-country opener race Sunday.

From 8:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., skiers of all ages raced in heats, completing laps of a varied-terrain course that participants described as both challenging and fun. While the trail system has been open for skiing since November, Sunday’s event was the first race since temperatures dropped this fall.

Skiers compete Sunday as trail systems coordinator Justin Fereshetian, center, keeps watch during the season-opening ski races at the Quarry Road Trails in Waterville. Competitors raced in middle school, high school and adult divisions. Morning Sentinel photo by Rich Abrahamson

“I’m really pleased with the turnout today,” said Justin Fereshetian, the trail system’s first-ever program director, who was hired after the city accepted a $70,000 grant for the position in August. “We have right around 100 people who signed up.”

Racers skied laps of a 1.8-kilometer loop that heads up into the trees, winds down around to the stadium and reaches over to the snowmaking area, according to Fereshetian. Adults completed five laps, high school students completed three laps, middle school kids two laps and “lollipop” racers (fourth grade or younger) traveled around a special course on the loop’s flat areas. Registration fees ranged from $5 to $20, depending on the category.

Leska Whitmarsh, 15, a student at Cheverus High School in Portland, said she traveled up to Waterville for Sunday’s event to prepare for the Eastern Cup, a Nordic skiing race series that starts in Sugarloaf later this month. Her friend Julia Werner, 15, who attends Wayneflete High School, also in Portland, said the Quarry Road loop was good practice.

Hazel Wiggins, 2, of Orono, skis Sunday during the season-opening races at the Quarry Road Trails in Waterville. Hazel’s parents said it was her second season skiing. Competitors raced in middle school, high school and adult divisions. Morning Sentinel photo by Rich Abrahamson

“It’s hilly and hard, but it’s fun,” Werner said. “It’s fast.”

She appreciated the trip to central Maine, noting that conditions in Waterville are better than they are in the southern part of the state right now.

“It’s nice to get out on the snow,” Werner said. “It’s really icy and thin in Portland.”

Tait Harvey, 12, who visited Quarry Road Trails from the Cumberland area for the race said he is a fan of the Waterville recreation space.

“I like this course because when there’s a hill, you always get a downhill and get some rest,” said Harvey, who said he has been cross-country skiing since he was about 3 years old.

Fereshetian said that racers skied on around a foot of man-made snow Sunday, though the cover was supplemented with some natural snow from recent storms. He said he hopes to soon extend the 1.8-kilometer course to 2.5-kilometers in the coming weeks by making more snow, which would add trail space above the higher parts of the course that participants raced Sunday.

“You need a combination of the right temperature and humidity,” Fereshetian said of the snowmaking process.

With Sunday being Fereshetian’s first ski race as the Quarry Road Trails director, he said he “just tried to make it go smoothly” and did not introduce many changes from how the event has been historically run. He, however, did alter the number of laps racers traversed to “get a little closer to the standard race distance for the age groups.”

Fereshetian’s first event as Quarry Road Trails director was the fall festival, which took place in November.

Next weekend, Quarry Road Trails will host the first of three annual “community ski free” days. On Dec. 14, there will be free ski clinics at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. for those who are new to the sport. Ski and snowshoe equipment rentals and day passes will also be available free of charge Saturday and Mathieu’s Cycle & Fitness of Oakland will provide fat tire bikes for people to try out. The trails will open at 10 a.m. and will be lighted until 9 p.m.

There will be additional community free ski days in January and February, including the annual Winter Fun Day.


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