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Fort Kent Outdoor Center to host ‘largest race ever’ in December

FORT KENT, Maine — The town of Fort Kent will receive an influx of talented junior cross country skiers and their families when the Fort Kent Outdoor Center hosts a New England Nordic Ski Association Eastern Cup Nordic Ski race during the weekend of Saturday and Sunday, Dec. 16-17.

“This would be the largest race we have hosted based on the number of entries — so hotels, restaurants and gas stations get ready,” FKOC President Carl Theriault said in a press release announcing the event.

The event is one of four such U.S. Ski & Snowboard Association sanctioned Eastern Cup cross country ski races NENSA will hold throughout New England this winter to determine which young athletes ages 14-23 will qualify to represent the region at the Junior Olympics.

“The field at past races has been as large as 400 skiers,” according to Theriault.

“Securing this event is in part a result of the strategy and hard work that has been put together at the FKOC over the past few years that will have us hosting more cross country events in addition to biathlon events in the future,” Theriault said. “The Fort Kent Outdoor Center has one of the best facilities in New England. Our lodge and wax building are world class.”

Rudy Martin embraces his daughter, Olivia Martin, a senior at Fort Kent Community High School, following the Aroostook League Championships Nordic skate event, Wednesday, Feb. 15, 2017, at the Fort Kent Outdoor Center. Olivia Martin, who also competes on the school’s alpine ski team, finished 17th Wednesday. (Don Eno)

A central factor to the success of the ability of the FKOC to draw skiers to the race is Fort Kent’s geographic location far north in New England which tends to accumulate much needed and desired seasonal snow, Theriault said.

“We have, first of all, the earliest snow in New England,” he said. “Early in the year these athletes are looking for places to ski. Cross country skiing is really an endurance sport, not something where you can turn on a switch and be ready to race in February, so early snow and early races are really important for cross country skiing.”

If Mother Nature proves unreliable, Theriault said the FKOC has a back-up plan to create fake snow, if need be.

“We all know how fickle mother nature can be in mid-December, so we are developing a snowmaking backup plan in conjunction with the Lonesome Pine Trails ski area to guarantee that we can host the event. Fort Kent has never had to cancel an event due to snow conditions, and we don’t want to this time,” he said.

Presque Isle’s Izzy Jackson finished second at the Aroostook League Championships Nordic skate event, Wednesday, Feb. 15, 2017, at the Fort Kent Outdoor Center. (Don Eno)

Greater Fort Kent Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Dona Saucier said the NENSA races will be good for business in the area, especially when the hundreds of skiers expected to attend and their families are looking for something to do during downtime between races. She cited the Century Theater, Too Far North Fitness Center, activities at the University of Maine at Fort Kent, and many local restaurants as places visitors could check out.

“Lonesome Pine has music during wintertime (as does) the Inn of Acadia … there are a lot of different musical opportunities here and there is so much other stuff going on as well,” she said. “We keep pretty busy here in the winter time; I don’t think they’ll have much of a problem with that.”

“So get ready St John Valley,” Theriault said. “We are about to get invaded by some of the best and nicest cross country skiers from throughout New England that are looking to the north for great snow, (and the best) food and hospitality that we can serve up. We know we will roll out the white carpet and keep them coming back for more great skiing.”

Theriault also is asking that members of the community step up and help make the event as successful as possible.

“We’re calling for volunteers in the community right now,” he said. “If anybody would like to help, please contact me.”

Those interested in helping out at the event should contact Theriault via email at theriaultcarl@hotmail.com.

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