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Low participation in Winterfest ski races blamed on ice storm


SOUTH COLTON — Athletes braved the cold Sunday during Higley Hustle Ski Races, part of Winterfest’s final day of activities.

The 10k and 5k classic races were held in the morning and the 5k and 2.5k skate races started after 1 p.m.

Adam R. Terko, assistant ski coach for St. Lawrence University who said he’s been skiing for nearly 20 years, took home first place in the 10k classic.

“The trail was great. The new snow helped,” he said. “The really nice tracks and cold weather are nice to see.”

Even though Sunday’s skiers enjoyed the trails, overall participation in the races was down compared to recent years. Races organizer Judy A. Fuhr said December’s ice storm could be to blame.

“We expected the numbers to be down,” Mrs. Fuhr said. “People haven’t had the opportunities to train like they normally would because the park was closed.”

Mrs. Fuhr said the extreme cold hasn’t helped with the number of skiers, either.

Ronald R. Gotham, South Colton, assistant timer for the morning races, said 11 racers took part in the 10k and two in the 5k. Normally there are 40 skiers in total.

“They have the races every year and I try to volunteer in one way or another,” Mr. Gotham said. “They weren’t sure if we were going to be able to reopen, so it wasn’t publicized. This was just in the last week that things really came together with the snow and the state crews being able to clear trails.”

Mrs. Fuhr said about half of the trail network is open for skiing.

“The other half is still pretty buried,” she said. “The fact that we had 60 volunteers picking up branches last week helped considerably.”

Ellie B. Menz, Colton, said she’s one of those volunteers who also enjoys skiing the trails.

“This is a tremendous resource that’s used by a lot of people, but is basically maintained by Judy and her husband Ed and other people who help,” she said. “So it’s all volunteer.”

Ms. Menz said although it would have been nice to have the Higley Trails Lodge open at the start of a great season, she’s been noticing new families coming out to ski and enjoy the new building.

“They’re going out to ski, leaving their things here, coming in to have their lunch and going back out to ski some more,” she said. “It’s just what we always wanted it to be and what we envisioned.”

Mrs. Fuhr said this was really the first weekend that the lodge has been open.

It was built over the summer, but the ice storm prevented them from opening it on schedule.

“It’s definitely helping to bring families out because they can come in and let their kids warm up,” she said.

Overall, Mrs. Fuhr said the rest of the Winterfest weekend was steady with over 200 at the craft fair and multiple vendors for the quilt show.

Sunday’s activities also included recreational snowshoeing and cross-country skiing at Catamount Lodge.

“The concert last night was way up from previous attendance and it was just an excellent concert,” she said.

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