When we hit the first of February, it’s hard to believe how much of the season is behind us. In terms of days, it’s a bunch.

But in terms of top ski days, not only are the best ahead, but we can enjoy another two-and-a-half months. As we head into February, we have had day after day of temperatures near perfect for snowmaking and every trip to the slopes we see the guns going on arrival somewhere on the mountain. The areas have taken advantage of the conditions and a high percentage of trails are now open. Cover is still thin in some of the glades, but normal February snowfall should take care of that.

The month ahead is full of special events. The high school ski championships always take place during vacation week, and ski areas add plenty of other attractions to bring out skiers for a few extra days.

The biggest event on the world stage will take place in Aroostook County when the Nordic Heritage Center in Presque Isle hosts a World Cup Biathlon. The International Biathlon Union event, which runs from Feb. 11-14, will attract some 300 athletes from 32 countries, along with a European media contingent. The schedule calls for men’s 10k sprint and women’s 7.5k sprint on the 11th, men’s 12k pursuit and women’s 10k pursuit on the 12th, and men’s 4 x 7.5k relay and women’s 6k relay on the 13th. Of course, as with any winter event of this kind, the schedule is subject to change due to weather.

When I asked Chief of Media and Promotion Jason Parent how long it took to prepare for such an event, he answered, “Twelve years.”

He went on to explain, “That’s how long we have been working on the Nordic Centers here and in Fort Kent. This is our fourth World Cup, 2004 and 2007 in Fort Kent and 2011 here. During that time we have made improvement to both centers and developed a team of volunteers to make it all happen.”

Planning the specifics for this World Cup took about 18 months, including site visits by IBU officials and more upgrades to the center. Five- to six-hundred volunteers will take part, including those working at the center and more in the community. From arrivals at the airport to lodging and cultural exchanges, everything has to be coordinated and everyone is involved, from the chamber of commerce to the local citizens and businesses. All the local lodging is fully booked not only in Presque Isle, but in Caribou, Mars Hill and as far away as Houlton.

Most of us have only seen Biathlon on TV during Olympic years, but anyone who has ever hunted deer can get an idea of what it must be like. We can remember spotting a buck while climbing a hill side, trying to control our breathing to squeeze off an accurate shot. Now imagine sprinting 1.8 miles, unslinging a rifle and getting your breath under control to fire five accurate shots. Every miss incurs a penalty, either in extra laps or time so being fast on skis isn’t enough.

Biathlon is among the most popular ski events in Europe and will be broadcast in prime time with the time difference of five or six hours. The competitors will be arriving from the seventh event of the season in Calgary and looking for results in the eighth here as they prepare for the finale in Oslo, Norway, to wrap up the season.

For complete details of the Biathlon World Cup check out www.biathlonmaine.com.

Closer to home, the big week, as always, will be school vacation, Feb. 13-21. That’s when the state ski championships will take place.

Class A alpine teams will race at Mt. Abram in Greenwood on Feb. 16-17. The Class B alpine teams will race the same days at Black Mountain in Rumford.

The Nordic teams will hit the snow Feb. 18-19. Class A will run at Titcomb in Farmington, Class B will race at Sugarloaf, and Class C will kick up the snow at Black Mountain.

Vacation week is also a week when areas like Mt. Abram and Black Mountain will be open every day. Check their web sites for vacation hours.

Other events at Mt. Abram include the Ski Club spaghetti dinner 2/13, Ski Club Auction 2/20 and Full Moon hike and crime scene 2/27. They host the USCSA Eastern Regional Championships 2/27-28.

Shawnee Peak has a busy schedule with NE Ski Day $29 lift tickets on 2/5, Mountain Dew Vertical Challenge on 2/6, NEPSAC Class A Alpine Championships 2/10, FIS Women’s slalom 2/11-12, Family Fun Day on 2/18, Chairlift Challenge 2/19, and Dynafit Demo and Parlor Ski Demo, USASA Slope Style on 2/27.

At Sugarloaf you have mountain bikers competing in the snow during the Fat Tire festival on Feb. 8. The 5th Annual New England Blind Ski and Visually Impaired Festival takes place 2/7-11.

You can find me at the Loaf on Saturday the 13th for the 9th Annual Ski Heritage Classic. This is a major fundraiser for the Ski Museum of Maine located in Kingfield. There will be display from the museum along with historic ski films in the Base Lodge, a photo shoot of those who show up wearing vintage ski wear and equipment, and the wrap up, a reception at the Sugarloaf Inn with a silent and live auction at 4 p.m. 

At Sunday River, treat your special someone to Valentine’s dinner at Peak Lodge to kick off President’s week.

Titcomb has a full schedule of racing, both cross country and alpine, for the KVAC/MVC, and for UMF. There are a lot more events during the month and for the vacation. Check www.skimaine.com for more and details.

See you on the slopes.

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