Skiing With the Big Fish
Would you believe me if I told you that this past week, some of the best skiers in the country were gathered right here, in Western Maine? It’s pretty unbelievable, I know, but it’s true. You may be unaware, but 1/2 hour away, in Rumford, is Black Mountain of Maine, one of the oldest and most venerable Nordic ski racing venues in the country. For the past two years, Black Mountain has hosted the US Nationals, which means that people come from as far as Alaska to race here, right in our corner of Maine. Sure, Black Mountain has a reputation for its homely smell due to the paper mill down the road, and its rustic access roads, which this year featured a one-lane bridge dating back to Hurricane Irene. But, it has a distinctly Western Maine charm that even the most high-profile skier can’t deny.
This year, the experience had a new flavor, the flavor of no snow. Strangely enough, this is the second year in a row that such a thing has happened. Last year there was also a depressing lack of snow for Nationals, and this may lead the occasional visitor from the West to believe that, in fact, we NEVER get snow in January here in Western Maine. In case anyone was led astray by this rumor, let me clarify that it is FALSE. It is EXTREMELY rare that the ground is completely bare this time of year, although it seems to be more frequent in the past few years.
Luckily, Black Mountain of Maine is well-equipped to deal with such tragedies. Only a few specks of snow can be seen on the ground, but the fantastic Chisholm Ski Club at Black Mtn. managed to make snow on a full 3-point-something kilometer loop as well as two shorter sprint courses. And it was pretty downright great skiing, especially compared with what most people in the East have been skiing on all winter, which is nothing.
Most of the past week and a half for me has been spent at Black, training and racing. Some time during the last week of vacation I started going there to train, and I have gone up nearly every day since then, training and racing. It makes for long, but satisfying days, when one can be completely immersed in the world of skiing.
The first race was on Tuesday, after being postponed from Monday because of rain. I didn’t race that day, but my teammate Kyle and I raced for the first time on Thursday, after going over to train on Wednesday. Just being there is exciting, you can feel the enthusiasm in the air, surrounded by people who love skiing and are totally into the sport. Since anyone can sign up for the races, you don’t have to be super fast to participate. That makes it great for people like me who aren’t good enough to achieve any real results, but can stillhave the experience of racing with the big guys (and gals). It is a great opportunity to participate in a high level of competition and observe how the pros do it. Some of the top skiers in the country were there, including some US Ski Team members. In addition to watching them race, we would see them just walking around like normal people, doing the same things we were doing.
Here’s a video I took of the Men’s 30km mass start–pretty crazy to watch.
I hope everyone has a good week, until next time–