READFIELD — Mt. Blue senior Josh Smith got in his car at 8 a.m. to meet up with his Nordic skiing teammates for the trip to the Maranacook Wave Race, and caught a glimpse of the temperature.

Seven degrees below zero.

“I was like ‘What am I getting myself into?'” he said.

Smith and his Mt. Blue teammates weren’t the only ones braving the cold Saturday morning to compete in the race, the annual competition that sees skiers take off in groups (or waves), providing a unique twist to the Nordic format. Numbers swelled this season as 230 skiers competed in the event, which Maranacook coach Steve DeAngelis said was the largest turnout the race has seen in five years.

“I was encouraged, actually, because there are a lot of young kids. There are a ton of freshmen, both boys and girls,” he said. “This is a sport that you can do closer to normal outside, so maybe that was part of it. I know for sure, one of the things is people are starving to race, because we’ve had such lousy snow. People haven’t been able to ski and race very much.”

And the scene, with skiers and spectators lining the start and finish area of the Maranacook trail, was reminiscent of the pre-pandemic Nordic atmosphere.


“It’s really fun, it’s really great to see,” Maranacook senior Max Olmstead said. “I think everyone was sort of blown away by the amount of people. … I pulled into the parking lot today and I wasn’t sure I was going to have a place to park, which is just amazing.”

The skiers journeyed to Maranacook despite temperatures that sank into the negatives the previous night and remained there well after the sun came up. It was 5 below at 8:45 a.m., and by the time the girls race began at 11 the temperature was only up to 6 degrees, with a Real Feel of minus-5.

The girls skiers preparing to head out took measures to make sure they’d be ready for the cold. Edward Little senior Caelan McGuigan constantly flicked her hands downward to keep her circulation going.

Mt. Blue’s Emma Charles zooms down a hill during the Maranacook Wave Nordic ski race Saturday in Readfield. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

“It was freezing,” she said. “It was difficult for sure. … During (warmup) it felt a lot warmer, but then we sat on the bus for a minute and came back out and it was so much colder. It’s mostly just hard to breathe, and my fingers were burning because I couldn’t feel them.”

Maranacook senior Jenna Badeau covered her face with vasoline to help with the wind against it. Mt. Blue senior Emma Charles, who skied alongside Badeau in the first wave of the day, used chap stick.

“When you ski, it’s not cold. I wasn’t cold at all,” said Charles, the girls race winner at 16:36. “I tend to run warm, I’m usually racing in T-shirts, but it wasn’t too bad.”


Charles did worry what was in store when she saw the early morning temperatures.

“I was dreading it a little bit,” she said. “I don’t know how to layer very well for cold days. It was hard to get out of bed too, but I put a bunch of warm water in my water belt. That helps me deal with the cold.”

When Maranacook senior Emily Lucas saw the early readings, she knew she had to get ready.

“So many clothes. So many changes of clothes and blankets, and just preparing to be cold,” she said. “At least it was sunny. There was no wind. The wind just sucks so bad, because then you’re cold and you can’t move. But the temperature wasn’t that bad today for our course. It made it really icy, though, on the downhills. All of the corners are just pure ice now because everyone’s skied off the powder.”

DeAngelis pointed out that the lack of wind and cloud cover made for nice conditions, especially when compared to the 15-below temperatures he said he was dealing with while setting up the course.

“This was like a day at the beach,” he said. “The sun came out and there was no wind, and it was very nice skiing. In a way, we were lucky, because the cold really helped the limited snow we had stay pretty well. If it had been warm, we’d have had a hard time.”


Charles said the trail conditions were ideal.

“It was so fast today,” she said. “I don’t think the conditions for racing could be any better.”

It was 11 degrees by the time the boys race started at 12:30, and weather was even less of a factor.

“I really like cold temperatures for skiing. The snow is fast, it’s hard when it’s warm. It’s super slushy and soft, and difficult to push off,” Olmstead said. “This is just ideal for me.”

“Today did not feel as cold as it sounded (like),” Smith said. “I’ve had races (feel) much colder, but it would be warmer out. It felt warm, it was a nice, fast course, you were constantly moving. It was not too bad.”

Made it all the more easier to focus on the race atmosphere instead.

“There’s been a huge turnout. People are starting to take more interest in Nordic and have it be their first sport, and only sport in some cases,” Smith said. “The community of Nordic skiing is growing. It’s pretty cool.”

Related Headlines

Comments are not available on this story.