Blazing a Nordic Trail

 

By Stephen Collins '74
 

Property across Messalonskee Stream that operated as the Colby College Ski Area from the 1940s into the 1970s will see skiers again this winter—the Nordic variety. John Koons ’72, a Waterville dentist, is spearheading a proposal to build trails there for four-season use, including cross-country skiing complete with snowmaking.

Colby sold the 100-plus acre property to the City of Waterville this year, and the City Council approved an initial expenditure to support development of the area on Waterville’s Quarry Road.

Phase one of the project includes design and construction of an initial three- to five-kilometer loop trail on the former Colby property and east toward Interstate 95. That trail will be cleared and groomed for skiing this winter. But, said Koons, “For it to be successful in this climate, in this area, you have to have snowmaking.” That will allow school teams and other skiers to reliably schedule practices, competitions, and other events.

Start-up funds are in hand to rough out the trail and buy grooming equipment, but broad-based fundraising will be necessary to collect the three-quarters of a million dollars needed to reach what he called “critical mass,” to pay for snowmaking, lighting, and grooming. A second phase would include a competition loop that would also use adjacent land.

According to Koons, the professional trail planner engaged with the project said the terrain has the potential for a better competition course than Dartmouth’s or Middlebury’s, since it has the right formula of sequential climbs, descents, and flats.

Nordic Ski Coach Tracey Cote is psyched. “It’s really community based, which is awesome,” she said. She’s trying to manage her expectations, but said, “If it’s done to completion, it would literally put us on the best facility in the nation.”

Michael Roy ’74, Waterville’s city administrator, is enthusiastic. “The recreational piece is just a continuation of improvements happening in the city,” he said, listing the Hathaway mill redevelopment by Paul Boghossian ’76, efforts downtown by the Waterville Main Street organization, and plans for revitalizing Head of Falls along the Kennebec River.

 
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