Spruce Mountain’s Julia Pomeroy competes in the giant slalom on her way to a Class B state title at Black Mountain in Rumford in February. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal

Athletic directors Chad Brackett and Marc Keller can breathe a little easier over the holiday season and give thanks that they have hired ski coaches.

Some schools have had to look long and hard recently to hire Alpine and Nordic ski coaches. That, combined with declining athlete participation have made keeping Maine high school skiing programs alive and well difficult.

“We are very excited to have Emmy Held as our new (Nordic) head coach and Shelley Joyce as an assistant coach,” Brackett said. “These two wonderful women bring an awesome blend of experience at different levels that will help our Nordic skiers both as competitive athletes and as young adults.”

But you don’t have to explain to Brackett that high school sports is a numbers game.

“I know that vital factors can change rapidly in interscholastic athletics, such as diminished participation and resources, but I can’t imagine this school or community without our youth ski programs,” Brackett said. “It is a testament to the incredible passion and hard work that this area devotes to youth skiing. 

“I really think it distinguishes greater Farmington and is part of what defines us as a community. Titcomb mountain and the F.A.S.T. (Farmington Area Ski Team) program help ensure the future of the sport here at MBHS. The program is lead by Tony Ramsey, with huge support from parent volunteers. Titcomb is a ski club of mostly volunteers. It’s absolutely amazing what they do over there.”

Earlier this month, only a few weeks before the season, Keller found a replacement for longtime Alpine coach Bill Acritelli, whose shoes will be filled by Darien Paradis.

“He has long been a ski coach with the Spruce Mountain Youth Ski Team and volunteer assistant with the SMHS Alpine team,” Keller said.

Regional School Unit 10 directors voted to suspend Mountain Valley High School’s Nordic ski program due to waning interest as well as the coach being unable to attend Saturday competitions, and no one applying for the coach’s position, according to the Rumford Falls Times.

High school assistant principal and athletic director Tom Danylik pointed out that there has been no Nordic ski program at the middle school for the past three years, and only five students are interested in the high school program.

“Nordic skiing, cross country skiing, is something that has a very rich tradition in history here with the Chisholm Ski Club, with the Broomhall family,” Danylik told the Rumford Falls Times. “I’m very aware of that. But, unfortunately, our numbers are dwindling drastically in this sport.”

Danylik said another factor that was considered was the cost, which was $3,194 per Nordic skier last year.

Mt. Abram athletic director Kristina Stevens is still on the hunt to hire a new Alpine ski coach.

“We are still looking for an Alpine coach,” Stevens said. “May piece it together with our middle school coach/team and our high school Nordic team and coaches. We are meeting next week to try and figure some things out.”

For the moment, Telstar athletic director Gail Wight says she is not sure of the numbers for turnout, but she said the Nordic ski team program is still a go.

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