DAYTON – With several colorful trail passes hanging off her wind breaker, Mary Markowski couldn’t get on the cros-country trails at Harris Farm fast enough last weekend.

Then when she did, she was gone.

“You don’t want to pass it up. If you live in Maine, you’ve got to love the snow,” said Markowski, a Scarborough High School health teacher — and an all-out fan of Nordic skiing.

The foot of snow that fell March 1 in parts of Maine may have caused those anticipating spring to groan. But in York County at Harris Farm, where the ground had been bare for six weeks, car after car unloaded cross-country skiers wearing smiles last Sunday.

“We’ve been totally without snow since the middle of January, through all of February. In 23 years, we’ve never had a year like this,” said Dixie Harris of her family’s dairy farm and cross-country ski center.

Out on the trails, not long after Markowski’s early start, Joe Castorina of Arundel was zipping around on skate skis in a bright neon windbreaker. Like Markowski, he came to get his fill of fun, happy to be alone in the company of snow fields.

“I’m one of the few people I know who was excited with the snowstorm. I was doing flips and twists,” said Castorina, who was getting ready to go back-country skiing in British Columbia.

The first big snowstorm of the year also drew out those new to skiing, and even a few new to snow.

Brenda and Matt Ciardiello of Portland moved to Maine from Texas last year. Having never played in snow, Brenda Ciardiello wanted to learn to ski, snowshoe and skate, and teach her 2-year-old son, Roman.

“You want to get the full experience. When we had the first giant snowfall (in October), we were ready,” Ciardiello said.

But after most of January and all of February went by without snow, the native of Mexico said she began to despair not knowing if winter would arrive.

“People keep saying they don’t want the snow. I’m like, ‘Are you crazy?’ I just want more winter,” Ciardiello said.

Barbara Burgess and Christine Alesch were celebrating after the snowstorm as well. They came to Harris Farm to teach Cindy French to cross-country ski.

Burgess, of Saco, and Alesch, of Old Orchard Beach, are regulars on the Nordic trails at the state parks. They were planning to drive to Sunday River last weekend to introduce their friend to the sport on groomed trails. But when the March 1 snowstorm brought enough for Harris Farm to open 25 miles of groomed trails, the three instead just drove across town to the rolling beginner tracks nearby.

“You have to seize the moment and enjoy this snow. Get it before it’s gone,” Burgess said.

March skiing is indeed a get-it-while-you-can proposition.

After a night of freezing temperatures harden the snow, the tracks begin to thaw in the morning in southern Maine — weather conditions that translate into buckets of maple syrup magic but also sloppy skiing trails.

But the past two years, spring skiing at Harris Farm went into April. And Dixie Harris knows, when it comes to winter in Maine, anything is possible.

“The skiers were here on Thursday (during the storm). We had over 100 on Friday. The saying here is: Ski now, work later,” she said.

Staff Writer Deirdre Fleming can be contacted at 791-6452 or at:

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