Both the girls and the boys Nordic ski teams for Montpelier High School concluded a weather-challenged season with strong, second-place finishes in Division 2 at the Vermont State Nordic Championship races in late February.
In the freestyle race held Feb. 24 at the Craftsbury Outdoor Center, junior Margaret Voisin led the MHS girls team to a second-place finish and followed up with another strong finish in the classical technique event at Rikert’s Ski Touring Center at Breadloaf on Feb. 27. Likewise, senior Sage Grassi proved a reliable team leader for the boys with a third-place finish overall in the freestyle event and a fifth place in the classical race.
Both Voisin and Grassi, along with sophomore Sara McGill, have qualified for the Vermont team that will compete in the New England Championships in March.
A Weather-Challenged Season
Although winter got off to a reasonably good start in December, January was, for the most part, an extended thaw with more rain than snow.
“Our training became more like cross-country running than skiing,” said MHS Coach Brian Carlson, who is in his fourth season of guiding the team. Participation on the team has grown from just two girls the first year Carlson coached, to 30 this year.
One of the freshman girls from that first year, Anja Rand, now a senior, emerged as a team leader when participation grew — despite the difficulties that the COVID-19 pandemic posed for all sports during the past two years. Carlson credits her for reviving a team-bonding tradition that had been a ski-team favorite for decades: potluck dinners, usually on Fridays before a Saturday race. After-dinner activities typically feature parlor games such as telephone, karaoke, or — this year — Rand said, a hot tub evening.
Because the 1-kilometer training loop at MHS is quite flat, the team has long traveled to hillier terrain for practice sessions. Carlson said that when snow was available, the team trained on the groomed trails at city-owned Country Club Road property (formerly, the Elks Club Golf Course), occasionally on U-32’s trails, but only once in Sherwood Forest where the trails between County Road and along North Street are maintained by the Onion River Nordic Club. Because of the lack of natural snow this year, many of the meets for racing were held at either the Craftsbury Outdoor Center or Sherman Hollow Center, both of which have snowmaking on some of their trails.
The freestyle ski meet hosted by MHS on Jan. 28 was held on the trails at the Country Club Road property. The event, coincidentally held the same morning as a public forum in the former clubhouse to discuss the future development of the property, illustrated the location’s recreational history — and potential from the perspective of Nordic skiing enthusiasts.
With more than 40 skiers in the Main Street Middle School cross-country ski program coached by Dan Voisin, Montpelier has been growing Nordic participation in recent years. Being part of a ski team is not exclusively about racing. Carlson noted that some skiers simply enjoy skiing and the social engagement of the team.
The area’s Bill Koch League, a national program founded by Vermont Olympian Bill Koch, has had a chapter in Montpelier since the mid-1980s. This year Montpelier’s league was run by Anna Milkowski, who coordinated Saturday skiing at the Country Club Road trails for 58 kids ages 4–11, and many of their parents, grandparents, or caregivers. As Milkowski described the program, “BKL is about kids learning to have fun on snow, not necessarily racing.”