AUBURN — The Maine Ski Hall of Fame is inducting eight new members for their contributions to skiing in Maine.

A sold-out induction ceremony and banquet is being held Friday at Lost Valley ski area.

The Class of 2013 includes three US Ski Team members —  one Nordic, one alpine and one disabled — an outstanding high school ski coach, a freestyle pioneer, a leader in Maine’s ski patrol and MARA founder, a Sugarloaf founder, and an outstanding Nordic coach. Their stories give an important insight into Maine skiing and the skiers produced in this state.

Through the 1970s , Pleasant Mountain (Now Shawnee Peak) was a hotbed of the new discipline (if the word can be applied to freestyle) of freestyle skiing. It started with final forms and progressed into ballet, moguls and aerials. The program that produced Greg Stump and five other national champions was coached by Bruce Cole, a skilled freestyler in his own right, who competed on the early professional circuit when not coaching his charges at Pleasant Mountain.

The World Cup came to Sugarloaf in 1971, and Gail Blackburn, a hot junior racer out of Brunswick was scheduled to forerun the women’s downhill. When the coaches realized that as host team they had extra slots, Blackburn was moved from forerunner to full competitor. At 16 she skied to a 22nd-place finish against the finest female downhillers in the world. That performance earned her an invitation to train with the U.S. team, and a year later Gail Blackburn became the first female alpine skier from Maine named to the U.S. Ski Team.

Greg Poirier carried on the tradition of his home town of Rumford by competing in all four events and eventually settling into the nordic side. His competitive career included the Junior Nationals, high finishes in collegiate events and the Olympic trials in 1980. Shortly after he became jumping and cross country coach at Winter Park and went on coach the U.S. ski jumping team and the nordic combined team in World Championships and Olympics.

In the early years at Sugarloaf, Rand Stowell was a constant presence, helping to lay out trails, furnishing equipment and crews to cut trails and lift lines, and working side-by-side with King Cummings to negotiate the purchase of the mountain from Scott Paper. Sugarloaf regulars remember Stowell as always being a supporter of racing on the mountain and he could be counted on to always be at the finish line at big races. This part of his legacy is recognized each year with the running of the Rand Stowell Downhill.

Disabled skiers often fly under the radar. The Paralympics may take place at the same venues as the regular Olympics, but they don’t get the same coverage. That’s why many Maine skiers have never heard of Craig Gray. His paralyzing accident in 1979 didn’t stop him from pursuing athletics and he represented his country in the Paralympics in Nagano, Japan in 1998 as a cross country sit skier. Along with his competition, Gray has volunteered with Maine Handicapped skiing to train other disabled athletes.

Howard Paradis started skiing on wood skis made by his uncle and in high school competed in cross country and jumping, excelling in cross country. In the sixties he began coaching at Madawaska High School and his girls’ski teams captured a long list of titles through the seventies and beyond. To offer a better experience, Paradis developed a cross country center close to school by convincing land owners that he would keep cutting to a minimum if he could use their land. It is now known as Four Season Trail in Madawaska, and at age 80 Howard Paradis is still skiing 60 days a year.

Randy Kerr was a top cross country skier for Edward Little and went on to race at New England College, establishing himself as one of the country’s top cross country racers. He continued in competition and earned a spot on the U.S. Cross Country Team in 1973 and moved to the ‘A’ team in 1975, but missed out on an Olympic spot with a case of the flu during the Olympic trials. He remained on the team and in 1978, while a member of the ‘B’ team, he was the top American finisher in the American Birkebeiner. Kerr finished eighth behind seven Scandanavian, Swiss and Finish skiers, all consistent winners in world XC competition.

Will Farnham is one of those avid skiers who gives back by using his organizational skills to benefit Maine skiers. As a ski patrolman he served as patrol director at Titcomb and Hermon Mountains and organized patrols at Squaw, Lee and Eaton. He served as section chief for the Ski Patrol and for eight years served as regional Director for the Maine Region overseeing all of Maine’s ski patrols. Along with Larry Mahaney and Peter Spaulding, Farnham organized the Maine Alpine Racing Association which remains the governing body of alpine ski racing in the state.

The Ski Museum of Maine in Kingfield is the home to the hall of fame.

Dave Irons contributed to this report.


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