BETHEL — Nordic athletes, coaches and volunteers and girls ages 9 to 19 participated Saturday in the second annual Fast and Female XC skiing program at Gould Academy.

The New England Nordic Ski Association event was hosted by the Bethel Outing Club.

There was no snow on which to ski, but the more than 70 participants learned team-building skills through group activities with 40 of the top female Nordic athletes in the country.

Then it was Zumba time, with Bethel instructor Patti Truman inside the Gould Academy Fieldhouse on Church Street.

That was followed by inspirational talks in the cafeteria dining room from female Nordic athletes who are competing in the nationals this week at Black Mountain of Maine ski resort in Rumford.

Event organizer Abby Wiseman, the Youth and Intro Program director for the New England Nordic Ski Association, said Fast and Female’s goal is to promote empowerment through sport to girls across the country via a wide range of athletics.

“The idea is that the girls can come and meet athletes and coaches and people involved with the sport, make friends and receive information from the mentors,” Wiseman said.

Participants also learn about healthy lifestyles and the different paths used to stay involved in sports, whether it’s competitive skiing, coaching or teaching children’s programs.

“Today our program is a little shortened because it’s the U.S. Nationals at Rumford, so a lot of those athletes are participating and we wanted to keep it very low-key for them today,” she said. “Our main goal is to promote community.”

For Meg Runyon of Lake Placid, N.Y., a senior at Gould, it was a chance to help get younger children excited about skiing, even if they might not want to take on the competitive aspects.

“I don’t do it very seriously,” Runyon said. “I just like it as something that I do for fun and I hope that the kids here that are doing it will do it for the rest of their life like I want to do it.”

She said the athletes, who are called ambassadors, bring a lot of insight into the training regimen of female competitive cross-country skiers, but with a strong emphasis on fun.

For 11-year-old Marta Opie of Bethel, it was a chance to learn more than she did at last year’s debut. Opie competes on the Telstar Middle School Nordic ski team.

“This is really fun,” she said. “You get to meet other girls who also like at least being active (when) not skiing, and I love Zumba, because it’s really fun to dance.”

Opie said it was fun last year, which is why she decided to return.

She said she enjoys Nordic skiing “because it’s really fun to be out when it’s cold and you’re, like, alone in the woods and I really like that.”

Ambassador Alice Hotopp of Bethel, a freshman at Colby College, said she is participating in Fast and Female “to encourage young girls to get outside and have fun doing whatever they want to do, like skiing, running or just playing outside.”

“It’s really fun,” Hotopp said. “I get to meet kids in the community who like to ski who will be the skiers of the future in high school and college.”

Participants also listened to Nordic skiing World Cup medalist Sadie Bjornsen and National Team member Jessie Diggins share stories about the competitive side of the sport and training.

Ambassador Caitlin Patterson of Anchorage, Alaska, spoke about what it’s like to train with other ski team members on a glacier in Alaska.

“Find what you’re passionate about, pursue it to your fullest and have a bunch of fun doing it,” she said.

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