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Not That Kind of Cross Country: Local H.S. Nordic Teams Are Among Elite 

My winter sport of choice as a senior at Whitefish High was basketball. I worked incredibly hard in and out of season, but found myself

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My winter sport of choice as a senior at Whitefish High was basketball. I worked incredibly hard in and out of season, but found myself on the end of the bench come game time. My gluteus maximus was the only fatigued muscle on my body after the game due to the prolonged time 'riding the pine.' Maybe I wasn't strong enough or tall enough or physically mature enough - or maybe I wasn't the coach's favorite - but in the end I wasn't even given much of a chance to compete. If I could travel back in time and reshuffle the cards, I would choose to be a high school Nordic racer in an area like Central Oregon. Home to some of the most outstanding volunteer Nordic coaches anywhere, Central Oregon is a mecca for young cross-country skiing enthusiasts.

The high school Nordic program is going into its eighth season and the roster gets larger every year. The total number of skiers has increased 38% from last year alone, with Redmond High School more than doubling its roster. Mountain View and Summit have 70 and 48 skiers, respectively. The beauty of the program is that every skier gets to compete in all the races, including the State Championships held in late February. Most of the teams will compete this year in the first annual State/NW High School Championships that will include teams form Oregon, Washington, Northern California and Idaho.

Head out skiing on any of the Central Oregon nordic trails weekday evenings or weekends, and you will see the massive community of high school nordic participants and their leaders waxing up and hitting the trails. Year after year, the same amazing crew of volunteer coaches lead the way. Rich Gross, Muffy Roy, and Luke Smith lead the charge for Summit; Greg Strome and Gene Fitzsimmons for Bend High; Eric Martin for Mountain View; Ken Roadman, Tim Gibbons, Dave Smullin, Roger Gildersleeve, and Katie Kelly for Redmond; and Lea Fisher for Sisters amongst numerous other volunteers and supporters.

A tremendous amount of work takes place before the starting gun is fired. First, the coaches are tasked with coming up with equipment for all the participants. Nordic skiing is an equipment intensive sport, requiring gear for both classic and skating techniques. Not all the kids entering the program have the means to purchase all the necessary equipment and the coaches rely on generous donations and hand-me-downs from the Nordic community. Fitness is also an important aspect of the sport and is built up over time with off-season dry land training and weight training. When the snow flies, the fitness training is coupled with learning classic and skating techniques.

The coaches also spend time creating a host of very cool events throughout the season. New to the line-up this year are the Elk Lake Ski Weekend Festival (Jan. 11 and 12) and downtown sprint races during the Bend WinterFest. J.D. Downing kicked off the downtown sprint races last year by ordering truckloads of snow delivered to town and then packed down for a short sprint course. Competitors went head to head in solo and team events with spectators lining the course. This year the event will expand to include official high school events.

At the end of the day, the league's skiers improve their skiing technique, enhance their physical fitness, increase their appreciation for the outdoors, and are able to put on a racing bib and compete. They all get a chance to go head-to-head against the clock, themselves, and their peers. Students also become hooked on a sport and a fitness mentality that can last a lifetime. I would have loved to put all of my hours of sweat and effort preparing to "ride the pine" toward racing with Central Oregon's finest athletes and coaches.

With increasing numbers of high school Nordic skiers every year, a growing demand exists for coaching and race day volunteers as well as equipment donations. If you have time or equipment to spare, contact Ken Roadman at


Steep and Deep

It's a big weekend to get out in the snow, and fer cryin' out loud there's enough. Here's a quick rundown of what's cookin' around the mountains and hills of Central Oregon:

TeleFest: For all the pinheads out there, it's time again for Hoodoo's annual celebration of telemark skiing - an all day event on Saturday that includes demos, races, and all sorts of awards. And it only costs you the price of a lift ticket.

Free Learn to Ski Day: While this isn't the free lift ticket and downhill lesson some of you might want, this annual event provides both classic and skate-style cross-country techniques at absolutely no cost. But hey, it's a great opportunity to keep your New Year's get-fit resolution. Sunday at Meissner Sno Park. Visit Sunnyside Sports at 930 NW Newport Ave. to get started.

The Great Nordeen: One of Central Oregon's most widely participated cross-country races. Check out Around and Beyond on page 15 for more details. Saturday, January 12. Check out to register.

Mountain Dew Slope Style and Super Pipe Competition: This all-ages, all-weekend, all-are-welcome competition is the first of four for the winter. Check out Around and Beyond on page 15 for more details to get shreddin'.


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