“At present, we do not have enough snow to host our race on the NMH campus.” This was the beginning of the e-mail from Nordic coach Stephen Alison of the Northfield Mount Hermon School. Alison ended his message with a plea, “Please contact me if you think you could provide the venue for this race.”
The word “think” was enough for me. While our Nordic ski trails at Dublin had a skiable amount of snow, running a major Lakes Region classical technique event with upwards of 160 skiers seemed to be a bit of a formidable reach.
After getting an approval from our (everything is possible) Head, Brad Bates, I replied the following to coach Alison, “We would like to make a bid to provide the venue for this race at Dublin…We are a building program and we would be grateful for any consideration to allow us to put on a quality race.” Soon, a response came, “Go for it.”
So began an epic snow farming effort that would have made our school’s founder Paul Lehmann and revered ski coach Norm Wight beam with pride and delight. On Saturday, a work gang was mobilized to shovel tons of fresh snow from the woods to the ski trails; sleds were hauled by the Nordic team to drop snow onto the starting area on Alumni Field and through a lot of outdoor winter-labor, many students and faculty became invested in our race. Additionally, our Buildings and Grounds staff built lane barriers, provided additional parking and they were the first people to make our guests feel welcome as they arrived on the Dublin campus.
After years, perhaps decades’ of absence of any Nordic ski racing on the Dublin campus, we finally were able to demonstrate that not only could we prepare a venue, but we could put on a quality race as well. On Wednesday, January 21st 152 Students from 10 schools arrived with their coaches and supporters to participate in a Classical technique, two-person relay that would use a combination of Alumni field, Caleb’s way and the Bates-King trail.
With temperatures barely making it out of the single digits, students needed to rely on each other as they draped clothing over their teammate’s shoulders and checked for frostbite during their waiting periods after the exchanges. Coaches were also busily waxing skis between these exchanges and a large roaring fire helped take the sting out of many numbed digits. It was so cold that the nozzles on three tanks of hot chocolate froze solid. Fortunately, Dublin’s Rich Connell was able to thaw them out with a blow torch.
In the end, we pulled it off. While every ski race always provides for exciting athletic performances and results of who won and who did well, most students and coaches that I spoke with were more impressed with the fact that we were able to throw our hearts into bringing this race to life and how everyone survived and even embraced racing in the cold conditions.