WATERVILLE — Bundling up in coats, scarves and mittens to keep warm in frigid temperatures, athletes hit the trails Tuesday in Waterville for the Maine Special Olympics’ Winter Games.

The Special Olympics’ Summer Games in Maine in 2020 were canceled because of the pandemic, and in 2021 they were held remotely. Traditionally the winter games are held at Sugarloaf over the course of three days.

This year, however, a portion of the games were held in Waterville, at Quarry Road Trails, with the focus on cross-country/nordic skiing. About 40 athletes and 30 coaches participated.

Future events include speed skating Feb. 28 at Falmouth Family Ice Arena; snowshoeing on March 4 at the University of Maine; another round of snowshoeing on March 8 at Lost Valley Ski Area in Auburn; and alpine skiing on March 11, also at Lost Valley.

The Maine Special Olympics is not requiring athletes and coaches to be vaccinated, but is heavily encouraging it, according to Lisa Bird, the director of public relations.

“The great thing is this event is completely outdoors,” Bird said.


Further safeguards were taken by not allowing spectators and by decreasing the number of participants.

The Maine Special Olympics has roughly 75 events year-round.

As with most things in the age of COVID-19, Bird said policies are constantly reevaluated to ensure the safety of athletes comes first.

“The motivating factor in all of this is that our athletes are so ready to get back in the games,” she said. “We are just so thrilled to be offering that again. It’s so exciting for us, and for them.”

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