How to Watch a Nordic Ski Race

Greetings, Off the Maine Road readers!

I realized it has been over two years since this blog has been updated. Surprisingly, not many Maine-related things have happened in my life. If you follow our Facebook page, you may have been able to ascertain that I traveled to Maine last October. Now, I am back for another quick trip, and have decided to write this post about one of my experiences today.

This morning, I left the town of Lewiston for Norway (the town in Maine, not the country). As I drove north, the temperature dropped to a balmy 5 degrees Fahrenheit. My friend was racing in a Nordic ski race just outside of Norway, so I decided to attend.

My relationship to nordic skiing dates back to the beginning of January (yes, a month ago). After taking four Nordic skiing lessons, I can confidently say that I do not possess enough Nordic skiing knowledge to know anything about racing, never mind just moving on skis. Nevertheless, I decided to go and support my friend.

Lesson #1: Drink hot beverages and eat chili.

I arrived at the farm/ski trail and parked a solid half mile from the race, and that’s when it hit me: it’s really cold outside. The parking lot next to the starting line was filled with yellow school buses, their engines running to keep competitors warm. (Did I mention it was cold outside?) As I walked onto the snow, racers rushed in front of and behind me, practicing their starts with their ski poles. Spectators hooted, hollered and rang bells as races went off. There was an indoor space, but that seemed to be reserved only for officials — no warming up in there. The highlight of the parking lot was the chili/baked goods/hot drinks stand, which contained a wide variety of culinary options. While the vegan chili looked tasty, I decided to down a cup of tea every hour to keep my hands warm. In the sun, I was able to warm up a little, but once I stepped into the race area, all my feelings of warmth disappeared. That’s when it hit me: I was stupid.

Lesson #2: Wear warm clothes.

You see, coming from Vermont, you would think I would have brought better and warmer winter clothes. While the warmest things I had were my ski gloves, they were no match to the cold outside. The boots, while lined and warm, also failed to protect me from the cold. My jacket was the Achilles heel of all my gear. And the jeans were no match to all of the other spectators’ snow pants. Snow pants for spectating? Yes. One person looked like a snowman with all the gear she was wearing.

The skiing was, of course, the highlight of my two-hour extravehicular activity. Heats of ski racers would line up for an official to yell “go!,” after which they would ski into the trails and magically reappear 4-5 minutes later. This concluded the race. And then it’s back to the bus for them to warm up, until an hour later, when they do it all over again. If you’re good, you keep doing that a few times. The finals, while probably competitive, were too late for my frozen body to bear.

Lesson 3: Wear warmer clothes (and accessories).

I was at the starting line of the race when a woman, obviously dressed for the weather, asked me, “Where’s your hat?” Nordic skiing, since it does not require a helmet, is the opportunity for Mainers to show off their impressive winter hat collection. Since I did not bring a hat, I missed this opportunity, and told her I didn’t have one. She opened a big to reveal a large number of hand and foot warmers, and offered those to me. I politely declined, which was a mistake. In order to stay warm, I took a victory lap around the parking lot to keep moving my fingers and toes.

After two hours, my friend finished racing and I proceeded back into the car. Cranking the seat warmer and heating up to high, I drove to nearby Pennesseewasee Lake, where I witnessed four tobacco-smoking men crawl out of their eskimo tent and checked their traps for their ice fishing. After talking to them (and walking on the lake!), I decided that I should head to a warmer place.

Tonight I’m in Bath, Maine and will be leaving the state tomorrow. It’s a quick trip, but hopefully I’ll be back soon. Follow our Facebook page for more updates!

And remember:

Dress warmly.

Check out some pictures from the day below!

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1 Comment

  1. Patti Renton

    Can’t wait to see you in NY, which will feel like a heat wave to you!