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Despite Challenges, ‘Minnesota Nordic Ski Opener’ Debuts Dec. 9

Blowing snow at the Elm Creek Park Reserve in Maple Grove, Minnesota, in advance of the first annual Minnesota Nordic Ski Opener on Saturday, Dec. 9.

By Andrea Potyondy-Smith

Mother Nature has not been kind to cross country skiers of the Midwest so far this year. ABR (Active Backwoods Retreat) in Ironwood, Michigan, looked to be off to a good start, but rain over the Thanksgiving weekend shut down operations indefinitely. There has been no measurable snow that’s lasted anywhere near the American Birkebeiner trail, much less the Minneapolis metro area. Yet despite the snow drought, Three Rivers Park District of Minneapolis will be forging on with its first-ever Minnesota Nordic Ski Opener.

This event was the brainchild of Paul Erikson, who works for the district as development manager, and Karl Huemiller, the district’s volunteer and donor relations supervisor. The idea was to bring to nordic skiing something activities like hunting and fishing currently have: an “official” opener. Three Rivers already offers Rennet Activities at Hyland Park in Bloomington, Minnesota, in January, so the idea was, according to Bruce Bolduan, park operations supervisor, to “have an event prior in the season to kind of bring people out and explore the sport of cross-country skiing … both to celebrate the sport and introduce it to people.”

Though there will be snowboard and downhill lessons in progress during the Opener, the event is truly focused on nordic skiing, with free rentals and passes to participants. Activities will be held solely at Elm Creek Park. Though Hyland Park also has a snow-making loop for cross-country, Bolduan feels Elm Creek’s building and facilities offer benefits Hyland does not.

The park started snowmaking earlier this year, only to have a two-week stretch of warm weather in late November shut it down with a scant 1.2-kilometer loop for skiers to use. With rain pattering outside the building’s window and 50+ degree temps on Dec. 4, Bolduan spoke about holding the event on Dec. 9.

“We chose … a day where we felt fairly confident we would have the ski trails open by, and luckily, we have some cold temps coming this week so we can work on the trails,” he said. “[The weather] shouldn’t be an issue. I have 100 percent confidence we’re going to have ski trails open this weekend. I just don’t know what distance.”

Currently, the plan is to shut down the short loop that’s open to make snow essentially around the clock until the opener.

About 35 vendors and ski organizations will be at the opener, with seminars on the hour, every hour—from waxing and fitting skis, to what goes into the process of snowmaking. Major local shops like Pioneer Midwest, Finn Sisu and Gear West will be on hand, sharing their expertise and helping to promote enthusiasm for the sport.

The dearth of snow this season has made a lot of Minnesota’s skiers a little cranky; it is hard to get excited about the sport when one looks out the window only to see brown grass and rain-soaked asphalt. But, though the weather has not been very cooperative for the Midwest’s cross-country ski population over the past few years, it is clear that devotees are determined to keep its spirit alive by the creation of an official opener — weather be darned — and a lot of help from Three Rivers Park District.

More information: https://www.threeriversparks.org/page/minnesota-nordic-ski-opener

Deep Fields, Fast Competition Highlight NENSA Fall Rollerski Classic

UVM racers dominate men’s and women’s open races By Adam Terko This past Saturday, Oct. 7, nearly 100 racers from all over New England and New York converged on the rollerski track in Jericho, Vermont, for the NENSA Fall Rollerski Classic presented by Mansfield Nordic Club and Ethan Allen Biathlon Club. Another event in a string of area rollerski races that began with NENSA’s App Gap Challenge in July and the NYSEF Climb to the Castle in September, this race wound competitors through the twisting corners and steep hills of Vermont’s only paved rollerski trails. U16 racers competed in a 6 k individual start race, followed by open men’s and women’s races over 10 k. The U16 categories were won by local Mansfield Nordic Club skiers Aidan Burt and Magdalena Lelito, respectively. Both Burt and Lelito train and race with MNC and are more than familiar with the climbs, curves,…

Longtime BEA Executive Director Husaby Steps Down

(Press release) The Bend Endurance Academy (BEA) Board of Directors announced today that Ben Husaby, its founding Executive Director, has decided to step down from his position after eight years of leading the organization. BEA is a Bend-based non-profit organization that offers kids the opportunity to learn, play, compete, and explore the outdoors through their participation in endurance sports. Under Husaby’s direction, BEA has grown to serve nearly 1,000 participants annually in programs ranging from play-based pre-school groups to professional-level competition training in the disciplines of Nordic skiing, cycling and climbing. “It has been such an honor to have been a part of a truly remarkable organization.  I am immensely proud of what we have accomplished in a relatively short period time.”  Husaby goes on to say, “We have great coaches and families, van-fulls of kids and a new facility.  Now is the perfect time for me to step aside. …

Gregg Second at OPA Cup Finals; Halvorsen 10th in Mini Tour

Caitlin Gregg led a contingent of American cross-country skiers in Seefeld, Austria, last Friday through Sunday, starting OPA Cup Finals with a freestyle prologue win, then placing seventh in the 10-kilometer classic, and finally second in the 10 k freestyle pursuit. The Europa Cup, or OPA Cup for short, is Central Europe’s International Ski Federation (FIS) Continental Cup series, similar to the U.S. SuperTour and Canadian NorAm circuits. The overall male and female winners of the OPA Cup circuit earn World Cup starts for next season. This year’s OPA Cup Finals were held in Seefeld in the form of a three-day mini tour. It was Seefeld’s first test event leading up to the 2019 Nordic World Championships. The next test event will be the 2018 Cross-Country World Cup scheduled for next Jan. 26-28 in Seefeld. Athletes competing in OPA Cups are selected by their respective national teams, which creates a field of the best athletes not…

Kornfield, Kern, Norris, and Miller Win at Ishpeming SuperTour

Thanks to Leo J. Martin golf course, my home training grounds growing up, I was well prepared for a flat and fast sprint course! It feels good to be back at sea level and actually feel like I am sprinting again, especially with super speedy skis my coach prepped! Shoutout to @paddy_caldwell for also snagging 2nd at the SuperTour today! 💥💪🏼 #flatlander A post shared by Julia Kern (@juliakernski) on Feb 17, 2017 at 6:48pm PST Two days of SuperTour races and a Central Collegiate Ski Association (CCSA) race were held this past Friday, Saturday and Sunday at the Al Quaal Recreation Area in Ishpeming, Mich., with SuperTour freestyle sprints and 5/10-kilometer classic races on Friday and Sunday. It was the fourth stop on the circuit, including U.S. nationals, and the last one before the season-ending SuperTour Finals. Interestingly, the sprint finals included just four skiers (as opposed to the…

U.S. Nominates U23 World Championships Team

Ten athletes have been selected to represent the U.S. at the 2017 FIS Nordic U23 World Championships starting later this month at Soldier Hollow in Midway, Utah, according to an email from U.S. Ski Team Development Coach Bryan Fish. The team includes five men and five women, with Patrick Caldwell of the Stratton Mountain School (SMS), Dartmouth College and U.S. Ski Team D-team prequalifying to earn his spot. Also on the men’s team are John Hegman and Cole Morgan, both of the Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation (SVSEF), Callan DeLine (Dartmouth Ski Team), and Adam Martin (Northern Michigan University). Comprising the women’s team are Kelsey Phinney (SVSEF), Nichole Bathe (University of Alaska-Fairbanks), Jesse Knori (University of Colorado-Boulder), Alayna Sonnesyn (University of Vermont), and Corey Stock (Bridger Ski Foundation). Additionally, 12 athletes were named to the U.S. team for 2017 Junior World Championships, also held Jan. 30-Feb. 5 at Soldier Hollow….

USSA Names Cross-Country Junior Worlds Team

(Press release) PARK CITY, UT (Jan. 13, 2017) – Twelve cross country ski racers have been named to the team that will represent the USA at the International Ski Federation’s 2017 USANA Nordic Junior World Ski Championships Jan. 30-Feb. 5 at the Soldier Hollow Nordic Center. It’s the first time the global junior event has been held in the USA since 1986 in Lake Placid. The team of six men and six women was named by the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association following the completion of trials during the L.L.Bean U.S. Cross Country Championships at Soldier Hollow. Selection was based on results of USSA SuperTour competitions along with three trials events during the U.S. Championships. “It was a great opportunity to have our trials here at Soldier Hollow and to have the Junior World Championships coming back to the USA,” said Coach Bryan Fish. “We witnessed a full spectrum of weather conditions…

Cross Country Canada Announces U23/Junior Worlds Teams

On Wednesday, Cross Country Canada announced its teams for the International Ski Federation (FIS) Nordic Junior & U23 World Championships, which will be held Jan. 30-Feb. 5 at Soldier Hollow in Midway, Utah. Below is an excerpt from its team-nomination press release: “Selections were based on the results of the 3 races at the U.S. National Championships, a great opportunity to race at altitude on the Championship courses against deep fields of competition. The top Canadians were automatically selected to the team, and Dahria Beatty and Maya Macisaac-Jones were preselected based on scoring World Cup points, this season and last. The rest of the selections were a bit of a challenge, with a lot of competition for places on the team. The variable weather conditions also made ski preparation sometimes difficult. It is always good to have a challenge with selection with so many promising athletes. While some may not have made the…

U.S. Nationals Classic Sprint Videos

Thanks to The Utah Nordic Alliance’s (TUNA) Kirk Nichols for sharing the following race videos from the men’s and women’s classic sprints, held Sunday, Jan. 8, at 2017 U.S. Cross Country Championships at Soldier Hollow: Men’s and women’s finals:  Junior men’s and women’s finals: More heats: Junior men’s quarterfinals Junior women’s quarterfinals Senior men’s quarterfinals Senior women’s quarterfinals   Junior men’s and women’s semifinals Senior men’s and women’s semifinals  

The Pre-Race Scene at Senior Nationals

  SOLDIER HOLLOW, Utah.–Conditions on the ground at Soldier Hollow (SoHo)? Cold. Sipping an espresso in Deer Valley and checking weather temps in SoHo about 20 miles south, the temps on the phone read -12 degrees fahrenheit at 9:30 a.m. in Midway, Utah —  Midway is located only a few miles from the SoHo race venue. On his blog, Zach Caldwell said it was -18 degrees when he began testing. Cold.   Throughout the day, snow guns blasted creating a mix of man-made snow to go along with the recent natural snow. The course for tomorrow’s distance races, a women’s 10-kilometer freestyle and men’s 15 k skate, is stout; steep punchy climbs, a long grueling uphill, and little rest or recovery to balance the lactate loads. Although not the same 5 k loop to be raced during World Juniors contested from Jan. 28 – Feb 5, 2017 at SoHo, Saturday’s…