WATERVILLE — Thomas Klepach learned to cross country ski as a child, but got back into the sport three years ago when he took his young children to learn at Quarry Road Trails.

Stretched along the Messalonskee River, the town-owned Nordic center that offers night skiing and man-made snow has become the Klepach family’s outdoor retreat.

But this year for the first time the Klepach clan will explore other cross country ski centers because they can with Maine’s first reciprocal Nordic pass.

“Oh my gosh, I can’t wait to ski at Titcomb Mountain in Farmington,” Klepach said. “We have friends up there. As soon as they get revved up there with snow, we’re going.”

For several years Vermont and New Hampshire have offered a season pass that allows skiers to ski at other Nordic centers for half price or for free.

Now for the first time, if Maine skiers purchase a season pass at one of seven Nordic centers, they can ski at any of the other six participating areas for half the price of a day ticket.

The idea came from Sarah Weafer at Bethel Village Trails, one of the participating Nordic centers, but Weafer said she just looked at how popular the program was in New Hampshire.

“I was looking at the Jackson (Ski Touring Foundation’s) website and saw the program and thought, ‘Why can’t we do that in Maine?’ ” Weafer said. “It definitely helps the sport. It helps the Nordic centers. Even if they’re not getting a full-priced ticket, they’re still getting skiers. It’s a win-win.”

In New Hampshire a season-pass holder at one of the 10 ski areas can get a half-priced ticket at any other participating center. In Vermont a season-pass holder at one of the 17 Nordic centers can ski one day for free at any other area.

Ellen Chandler, executive director at the Jackson Ski Touring Foundation in Jackson, New Hampshire, said the reciprocal pass has become invaluable after a storm when one part of the state gets blanketed with snow when another part gets very little.

“The overall impression is that it’s a good thing. It adds value to our season pass and it gets exposure for the community of Nordic ski centers,” said Chandler, whose Nordic center has 1,000 season-pass holders.

Jim Nupp, who works at Nordic Skier Sports in Wolfeboro, New Hampshire, said in 2012, the first year the collaborative pass was offered in New Hampshire, there were seven participating ski areas that offered lots of blackout dates (when the half-priced ticket could not be used). Now there are 10 participating ski areas and no blackout dates.

And Adam White at the Vermont Ski Areas Association said the 17 participating Nordic centers there report seeing many skiers using the free ski day.

At Maine’s Quarry Road Trails in Waterville, Matt Skehan, the town’s parks and recreation director, said the 10-year-old facility expanded in the past three years, adding new grooming and snowmaking equipment, but still remains little known outside central Maine.

Skehan thinks the reciprocal pass will change that.

“It will expose our area, that’s why we signed up for it,” Skehan said. “We have a state-of-the-art competitive facility where we can stage Olympic-style events. But people are still finding out about us.”

Caroline Mathes, one of the original volunteers at Quarry Road, is excited to see more skiers from southern Maine on their trails, but is also looking forward to trying new trails with her Quarry Road pass.

“I’m excited this year to ski in Rangeley because of the pass,” Mathews said. “I haven’t skied in Rangeley for years.”

Ole Amundsen, another Quarry Road volunteer, said having such a pass makes sense in a sport grounded in exploration.

“A part of the adventure of Nordic skiing is being able to explore new trails. It’s part of the fun of the sport,” Amundsen said.

Deirdre Fleming can be reached at 791-6452 or:

[email protected]

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