Happy trails to you

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As frustrating as this season has been for Alpine ski areas, imagine how it’s been for the folks running cross country centers. I receive e-mail reports from a few centers, and I’m always surprised at their optimism when they have little or no terrain open.

One of the best comes from Thom Perkins, who manages the Jackson Ski Touring Foundation trails in Jackson, N.H. Early in the season, the reports talked about limited skiing on the golf course. Every little storm brought a report about what trails were open and advising the use of old skis. The reports are always honest, but “Hey, we’re open.”

One recent report suggested skiers watch out for “subsurface snowsnakes.”

This week’s snow changed things, quickly demonstrating that it doesn’t take a lot of snow to open cross country trails. Sugarloaf was reporting activity for some time, and this week expanded the number of kilometers open. Also open earlier this week were A Fierce Chase in Monson, the Bethel Inn, Carter’s in Bethel, Rangeley Lakes and Sunday River. More may be open now, but at least we know cross country skiers finally have some trails. Cover may still be thin, preventing track setting, but trails are being groomed smooth.

One center that made a lot out of a little was Black Mountain in Rumford. The Chisolm Ski Club prepared a 1.7-kilometer loop for last weekend’s TD Banknorth Tour de Rumford. The event brought together more than 400 skiers from New England.

The event was capped by the inaugural Chummy Broomhall Cup – the Maine’s first Collegiate Nordic Championship. Named for Rumford’s two-time Olympian, the championship, contested over two days, was won by Bates College.

Hosting events when there is no snow elsewhere is nothing new for the Chisolm Ski Club. They have hosted every kind of cross country competition from regional to World Championships. It’s all made possible by a club that can turn out a team of volunteers to prepare the course and provide knowledgeable officials.

The lack of snow is worse in Europe. Seth Wescott, the Farmington snowboarder who has won both the World and Olympic gold medals in snowboardcross, didn’t get a chance to race before the World Championships, where he finished second.

The lack of snow hurt Wescott another way, because there wasn’t enough snow to build the kind of technical course that he prefers.

Weather watchers

As we watched the weather change this week, it was fun to see the various reactions. The “Weather Weenies” – the folks who bring us the forecasts, went from talking about the record warmth to donning their sweaters as the storm approached. When the storm turned ordinary at best, they jumped on the expected drop in temperatures and wind chills.

Forecasts were for temperatures near zero overnight, with daytime highs in the teens. As January goes, single numbers and teens are no big deal, and we were only expecting a day of it.

Apparently, forecasters have not bothered to check the updated wind chill chart, which clearly indicates that there are no dangerous wind chills until actual temperatures drop below zero. And the real danger doesn’t occur at temperatures above minus-20. This is not to say that we should ignore the effects of cold and wind, but if we dress properly, we are not at risk while skiing where we are never more than a few minutes from getting in the lodge.

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An open book

For skiers fascinated by New England ski history, I have another book to recommend. It’s also a good read for sailors. I first watched Dorothy Crossley in action with her cameras in 1984 at Lake Louise in the Canadian Rockies. Since then, I have seen her capture highlights at numerous ski events. I didn’t know she was a gifted writer, who has lived a fascinating life. Her new book, “Take My Picture,” is a collection of “memoirs and photographs of skiing and sailing.”

The book contains her insights into the history of Mont Tremblant, Squaw Valley and Mittersill. She also worked in the Mount Washington Valley. Crossley still spends her winters taking ski photos in New Hampshire and summers in Newport shooting sailing. The book is a wonderful look at the history of skiing, with superb photos of the skiers who made that history. It’s a great story made better by Dorothy Crossley’s skill at telling a tale. It is available at www.DurandPress.com.

Dave Irons is a freelance writer who lives in Westbrook.

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