Roy Varney learned the importance of hard work at an early age while working on his family’s farm in Turner.

Often up before dawn, he milked cows, fed animals and collected eggs before heading off to school or a weekend competition.

“It’s not a lot of fun,” he said of morning chores that start at 5:30 in the morning, “when you have to get to a ski race at 7 o’clock.”

Varney’s work ethic propelled him to the pinnacle of Maine’s high school Nordic skiing world. The Leavitt High senior twice won the Class A classical state championship and this winter added the pursuit title as well.

He is our choice as Varsity Maine Boys’ Skier of the Year.

Tragically, Varney died July 2 from injuries sustained in an accident while operating a skid-steer loader at Nezinscot Farm. He was 19.

“This is a monumental loss,” said Dustin Williamson, a teacher at Leavitt High as well as the Nordic head coach. “Roy was one of the most successful and greatest Nordic skiers that I have had the pleasure to coach. His energy, his passion for the sport and his extreme hardcore work ethic were unmatched.”

As a Nordic skier, Varney preferred gliding across snow-covered trails on skate skis. But he was better at classical technique, because its kick-and-glide motion demands more pure effort.

In late January, Varney won the prestigious Sassi Memorial classical race at Black Mountain in Rumford over a field of 153 from all classes. In early March, he was Maine’s top qualifier for the Eastern High School Championship meet in Fort Kent, where he went on to finish 22nd overall in mid-March among a field of 95 of the top schoolboy skiers from Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine.

“I have never met someone who possessed such passion and energy for Nordic skiing, a sport that he truly loved with all of his heart,” Williamson said.

“He made everyone around him better. When he came to my classroom to talk about the sport and upcoming competitions, the utter glee and downright joy that beamed off him during our conversations was priceless.”

Nezinscot Farm is the state’s first organic dairy operation and includes a gourmet food shop, cafe and bakery, fromagerie, charcuterie and fiber studio. Varney, his younger brother and three older sisters all pitched in to help their parents, Gloria and Gregg, run the operation.

His sisters – “really good skiers, probably better than me,” Roy said – have helped Williamson coach the team at Leavitt High.

An uncle has experience as a biathlon coach with the National Guard. Varney himself didn’t start skiing until seventh grade and played football his first two years in high school – center on offense and linebacker on defense. A partial dislocation of his sternum from getting hit in the chest by a helmet changed his outlook.
“I decided to do a lot more skiing,” Varney said, “and I started liking it more.”

After the EHSC meet, he competed once more in early spring, placing 13th in the youth men’s division at the U.S. biathlon national championships in Jericho, Vermont.
“I did it off the radar a little bit, with family,” Varney said of his experience with biathlon, “and just this year started competing.”

Back in March Varney said he hoped to continue skiing in college, either at the University of New Hampshire or the University of Maine at Presque Isle. He had planned to concentrate on environmental studies and business, and with his siblings keep the family farm running smoothly.

“The ski trails just got a little bit quieter,” Williamson said, “but the moments with Roy with echo forever.”