John Dixon ’14 (center) in the mass-start 20K freestyle race Jan. 27 at Quarry Road Recreation Area.

Colby Carnival in the News

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One of Colby’s favorite seasons—WINTER—just got even better. Waterville’s Quarry Road Recreation Area, on the site of the old Colby ski slope, now has an International Ski Federation-certified Nordic ski racing trail and a snowmaking system that produced its first flakes Jan. 19.

That was just in time to prepare Quarry Road’s trails for an Eastern Intercollegiate Ski Association race that brought about a dozen top NCAA ski teams to town Jan. 26-27 for the Nordic events of the Colby Ski Carnival.

The realization of a world-class Nordic ski facility was largely propelled by John Koons ’72, and it brings with it an avalanche of ancillary advantages: the chance for students and area residents to watch some of the nation’s best skiers compete about a mile from campus; an economic boost for Waterville; a true home course for Colby’s Nordic ski team; a place for area residents to get out and get active during the winter; and opportunities for new College traditions as future Colby carnivals take advantage of the facility.

The course was assessed as “awesome,” by University of Vermont’s Jane McClelland, who finished ninth among more than a hundred skiers in the women’s 10K Saturday and 13th in the 15K freestyle race Sunday. “And it’s awesome you have this so close to campus. With a little more snow this will be great.”

While the new snowmaking capabilities made it possible to hold the event in Waterville, race organizers found the weather immediately preceding the meet too cold for snowmaking. Patrick Cote, chief of competition for the races and one of the founders of the Central Maine Ski Club, said below-zero weather every night leading up to the race made it impossible to keep the pipes and hoses clear of ice long enough to generate all the man-made snow he would have liked. But a squad of committed volunteers moved snow and groomed trails before and during the carnival allowing racing to take place on the challenging course.

With more lead time for future races, snowmaking is seen as a key ingredient to the success of the Quarry Road facility, as climate changes have made natural snow less assured in recent years. This year, organizers couldn’t guarantee that the Quarry Road Recreation Area would be able to host the races until snowmaking was operational.

The Friends of Quarry Road received a $385,000 grant from the Harold Alfond Foundation for the system, and installation was still underway in mid-January. “So many things needed to come together late last week,” said Matt Skehan, Waterville’s director of parks and recreation. And they did. Snowmaking serves 3.3 kilometers of competition trail.

“Everything about the race course is world class. … Few if any courses in New England, and in the U.S. even, compare to this.”
Patrick Cote, Nordic ski racer, coach, and head of competition for the Colby carnival

“It’s the only time in my life I’m hoping for snow,” quipped Waterville Mayor Karen Heck ’74, before the snowmaking equipment was tested. Then she heaped praise on the volunteers, particularly Koons, who pursued their vision and in a very few years created a trail system that includes an International Ski Federation (FIS) approved race course and guaranteed snow. “It’s a key to our economic growth,” she said, listing other initiatives underway in the city, “and it’s a great opportunity for area people to use these outstanding facilities.”

Snowmaking
Snowmaking at the Quarry Road Recreation Area

Organizers encouraged students and spectators to take in the races, and particularly on Sunday, when there were mass-start races, cars filled parking lots and lined much of the access road.

Silas Gill ’09, interim head coach of Colby’s Nordic ski team, said the course was designed with spectators in mind, with vantage points to see various parts of the course from a single viewing spot, and skiers racing around the loop three to five times.

Dartmouth’s Emily Blackmer said, “I love the way half of it runs through hills and the other half is down there on the flats,” gesturing down the hill. “It really played to my strengths,” she said after finishing third out of 104 racers Saturday.

The course, designed by former Olympian and renowned trail designer John Morton, runs through the former Colby ski area and additional acreage acquired by Friends of Quarry Road. “It’s a really well designed course and it’s well executed,” said Cote, a racer and coach who’s competed all over North America and in Scandinavia. “Everything about the race course is world class. … Few if any courses in New England, and in the U.S. even, compare to this.”