Nordic appeals to all ages, abilities
An early winter Wednesday afternoon at the Liberty Bell High School campus featured a low, gray, dismal looking sky, with a light drizzle augmenting the appropriate atmospheric conditions as the year 2020 closed.
But on that dreary day, the parking lot teamed with vehicles, and the flats west of the campus bustled with 100 young Nordic skiers charging through one of their twice-weekly workout sessions on the Sean McCabe Trail system.
While athletic competition and activities have been extremely limited for local youth thanks to the coronavirus, Methow Valley Junior Nordic Skiing is overflowing with young participants. Indeed, COVID-19 limitations on indoor winter sports programs in the school district and youth AAU basketball have resulted in a significant increase in the skiing program’s numbers this year, according to Leslie Hall, Methow Valley Nordic Team director and head coach for the youth program. The junior skiing program is a division of the Methow Valley Nordic Ski Educational Foundation (MVNSEF).
“We have 130 youth participating in the junior program, between third-grade and high school ages,” Hall said. “Some of those have come out because of not having indoor sports this winter.”
Ski to the Sun Marathon and Relay
The Methow Valley Ski Educational Foundation and Methow Trails are again partnering for the third iteration of the Methow Valley Ski to the Sun Marathon and Relay, beginning Friday (Jan. 29) and continuing through Feb. 7.
The format will be different this year. Instead of a single-day mass start event, racers can choose their own start times within the 10-day race period. The course will be maintained with grooming and signage throughout that time. Timing will be managed by each racer’s smart phone utilizing an app.
The usual banquet and post-race evening festivities will not be held. Racers will need to be self-sufficient with transport, food and hydration.
The 42K freestyle race starts in Mazama and finishes at Sun Mountain Lodge. The race is freestyle technique –racers are welcome to skate or classic ski.
Cost is $10 per discipline. The format allows racers multiple attempts within the race period for each registration. New this year are a classic category and an untimed category. For complete information, visit http://www.methowtrails.org/events-calendar.
The young skiers are broken into age groups and then into groups of those who are serious about competition and those who are more interested in recreational skiing. Additionally, there are another 20 kindergarten through second-grade skiers participating in a Cub Club skiing program sponsored by the Methow Valley School District. The Nordic program provides a coach who meets once a week with the young students.
Hall has a team of paid and volunteer staff working with her to instruct, coach and encourage “a love for skiing with Methow Valley youth,” per the Junior Program’s Mission Statement.
A blend of local parents and experienced skiers, they are able to break up the masses into smaller workable groups based on their abilities and interests in skiing. With the number of kids enrolled in the program, MVNSEF provides varied opportunities depending on the individual’s interests and desires. Hall also said that a number of Nordic Team alumni are also helping, including Sam Naney, Chadd Gregg and Casey Smith.
A program has been developed for the serious athlete who trains for competition at the national and international level. For the older youth, ages 14-19, the Wolverines group includes names that are familiar from their years of competitive skiing and running for the Liberty Bell cross country and track teams.
These senior skiers have gone to a full-year training program and are being coached by Hall, a three-time Olympian, and Laura McCabe, who has two Olympics to her credit. Joining the coaching staff as a volunteer this year is another two-time Olympian, Suzanne King, Hall’s sister-in-law.
The Wolverines and Snow Leopards can be seen “skiing” the roads of the Methow Valley regularly during the non-snow months. Groups of 10 to 15 skiers are a regular sight on the East Chewuch and Bear Creek roads near Pearrygin Lake, and on Twin Lakes Road between Liberty Bell and the Winthrop Rink from early spring until the snow returns in late November.
With a more recreational approach to Nordic skiing, the Lynx group caters to kids ages 12-18 who want to learn and improve their skills without the stress of competition. This group is coached, or instructed, by local all-season trails enthusiast Heide Andersen.
COVID-19 has restricted this year’s schedule of events. There will be no U.S. National Championships this year, but Junior World Championships in Finland are still scheduled and recent Liberty Bell graduate Novie McCabe will be representing the U.S. Walker Hall was also named to the team as an alternate (see story, this page). The World Championships are still scheduled for later in February in Germany, where the Methow Valley’s most recent Olympian, Sadie Maubet Bjornsen, will compete.
Currently, there are several meets planned in the Northwest Region, where they will be run in a time trial format. Since face-to-face competitions are not possible, meets like this weekend’s Race of the Methow can be staged if teams ski separately from each other. An example, Hall said, would be a meet where each team would compete in segregated heats, with individual times recorded to determine placings.
This Saturday and Sunday (Jan. 30-31) features the Race of the Methow on the McCabe Trail. Typically a regional competition that draws skiers from the northwest corner of the United States, this year’s event is open only to residents of Washington and out-of-state skiers who have completed the required 14 day COVID-19 quarantine. It will be staged with a time trial format. Spectators will not be permitted access to the event this year.
More information about MVNSEF and their youth program is available at their website: https://www.methowvalleynordic.com.
— to methowvalleynews.com