Last winter’s experiment of stretching out the high school skiing state championships over a two-week period proved less than successful.

This winter, the operative word is compact.

Instead of two Alpine and two Nordic events held over a three-day period, the state championships will be two-day affairs, with Alpine in the morning and Nordic in the afternoon.

What’s more, the Class B and C schools will run their championships concurrently, with skiers sorted by classification after the competition.

Ted Hall, the Yarmouth principal who serves as chair of the Maine Principals’ Association skiing committee, said the reasons for the changes are two-fold.

“The feedback from schools is that they, for the most part, would rather do these during February break rather than getting (kids) pulled out of school,” Hall said.

February school vacation, of course, is when a lot of downhill ski areas enjoy a surge of popularity. Few are willing to hand over a lodge and a slope for racing during that week.

“We only had one mountain (in Western Maine) willing to host the Alpine (state meet) during February vacation week,” Hall said.

That’s why the MPA tried pushing the Alpine state meets back a week last February. This winter, Mt. Abram will host Class A Alpine on the Tuesday and Wednesday of vacation week, while the other two classes run gates at Big Rock in Mars Hill on Monday and Tuesday, Feb. 16-17.

Nordic competition in Class A is scheduled for Stark’s Hill in Fryeburg. Classes B and C will race at the Nordic Heritage Center in Presque Isle.

Athletes planning to compete in all four disciplines for the skimeister title will be busier than ever, particularly with an hour’s transport between Class A venues.

“But the longer these (meets) go on, the more expensive it is,” Hall said. “Given the small number of kids who do skimeister, the feeling is that we should pay attention to the bigger question of finances.”

Last winter, 16 boys and 17 girls entered all four events, with 10 girls in Class B the largest skimeister field and two boys in Class A the smallest.

“It’s a nice tradition we’ve had in Maine but it’s been hard to maintain,” Hall said. “Now you need separate skis for slalom and giant slalom, and of course separate skis for classic and freestyle. That’s a huge investment. It’s hard to be good in all four disciplines.”

As for safety concerns about a wobbly-legged skier running gates down a precipitous incline, Hall said ski coaches felt that holding Alpine before Nordic was the smart way to go.

“We think we’re going to be able to pull it off,” Hall said. “We’re putting the slalom and classic on the first day and the giant slalom and freestyle on the second day.”

In recent years, skimeisters only doubled up on the middle day of a three-day meet.

“Now it’ll be two busy days instead of one,” said Yarmouth Nordic Coach Bob Morse, in his 33rd winter of leading the program. “Having the Alpine in the morning reduces a tremendous amount of stress. Nordic is more relaxing.”

Longer daylight hours in February will help, and the Nordic Heritage Center has lights on some of its trails, should those Nordic races take longer given the combined classes.

“It’s going to be a long day,” Morse said. “But it’s going to be exciting.”

John Weston, the Fryeburg Nordic coach, said he believes 1984 was the last year Stark’s Hill hosted a state meet. Black Mountain in Rumford will concentrate on its downhill clientele during February vacation.

“We’re very excited to take that on,” Weston said before tipping his cap to the army of red-jacketed volunteers at Black Mountain. “They’ve supported us for so long. It’s good to mix it up.”

Another change being discussed is to follow the more spectator-friendly format in Nordic of making freestyle a pursuit race based on the finishing times in classical.

Two conferences – Kennebec Valley and Mountain Valley – already use the pursuit format. The Western Maine Conference will do so with a classic race Feb. 4 in at Libby Hill in Gray followed by a pursuit skate race at Stark’s Hill on Feb. 7.

“The MPA wanted us all to try it at our conference championships,” Weston said. “If all goes well, we’ll adopt it at the state level.”

Glenn Jordan can be contacted at 791-6425 or

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