Breezy Quimby of Rangeley Lakes Regional School races down the Grey Ghost ski trail Wednesday at Saddleback Mountain in Rangeley. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal

RANGELEY — Rangeley senior Breezy Quimby got to start her Alpine skiing season in what might as well be her backyard, and her smile gave away how she was feeling.

“It’s super exciting to be back at my favorite mountain,” Quimby said after finishing her second run at a season-opening meet at Saddleback Mountain, where she said she skis every day during the winter. “This is where I grew up skiing. I started skiing just about when I could start walking. … It’s good to be back.”

The season for at least eight teams started Wednesday at Saddleback, and for some of those teams, it will end there as well. Saddleback will host the Class B Alpine championships this year while Black Mountain in Rumford will host them in Class A, marking the return of state championships after a season without them due to the pandemic.

For the skiers tackling Saddleback’s Grey Ghost giant slalom trail Wednesday, the chance to compete again for the ultimate prize at the end of the season added more flavor to the season’s kick-off event.

“I am so excited to have them back,” said Mt. Blue sophomore Katie Yeaton, who was third in the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference slalom championship last season. “It really was (incomplete). I just felt like it was missing something last year.”

“It’s great. I’m definitely going to go harder than I did last year,” said Skowhegan sophomore Asa Stroman. “It’s very important. It helps me push myself.”

Ian Allen, a senior for Mt. Abram, said not having state championships last year made for an unfulfilling end to the season.

“It was tough,” said Allen, who was seventh in the Mountain Valley Conference championships last year in the giant slalom and eighth in the slalom. “It’s like you’re climbing a mountain, and it’s rainy and so foggy you don’t get to see the views. You do all the work for none of the reward. It’s definitely helpful to know that there’s an endgame, there’s something that you can leave on with your younger classmates, something you can actually look forward to to give them inspiration for years to come.”

Mt. Blue’s Sadie McDonough, back for her senior year after finishing fifth in both the KVAC slalom and giant slalom, said last year was special in that the season took place at all less than a year after the pandemic began, but added that more competitive opportunities make for a better season.

“I don’t think we were that disappointed. We had a good season, we won KVACs, so did the boys. That was enough for us to feel good,” she said. “But it’s going to be fun to have states, because we can just see different teams that we don’t normally see in our region. … I see these people all the time, and it’s really fun to race against them, but it’s also fun to see new faces.”

That social aspect is another difference this season compared to last. Last winter, races were smaller with fewer teams, and skiers were urged to go straight from the bus or car to the starting line. This year, races are bigger, which the skiers said adds more buzz to the events.

“Last year was kind of different,” Maranacook senior Meghan Mahoney said. “We didn’t have as many races, there weren’t as many people at the races. It kind of feels real again. … States are way more people there, there’s people I haven’t skied with there. It’s just bringing back that thrill from freshman and sophomore year when we had it. … It’s such a big motivation. It makes me want to work harder.”

Molly Kearing of Mt. Blue High School races down the Grey Ghost ski trail Wednesday at Saddleback Mountain in Rangeley. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal

“Last year it felt very cramped, like we were just trying to push everything into a race,” McDonough said. “Now I feel like it’s back to you do your run, and then you watch people, and then you get your jacket. There’s more of a routine to it than there was before.”

Stroman also said he’s looking forward to the big race atmosphere.

“I feel like I’m seeing more a lot more racers than I was able to last year, a lot more diversity from different schools,” he said. “I’m seeing more high-level skiers than I’m used to seeing. … It’s just a lot more fun to be back with those guys.”

The road to those championships started Wednesday, with many of the skiers admitting they have a ways to go before they’re in state meet form.

“I was really nervous at the start of this race,” Yeaton said. “We haven’t been in gates yet this year, this was my first time in gates so far. I was a little nervous at the beginning, I skied it conservatively, and then I felt better. I’m feeling really good for this year.”


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.