Look out ski world! A record number of capital city cross-country skiers are ready to skate or classic ski the backcountry.
Juneau’ 4-H Nordic Devo Team has been hard at work preparing for their third successful season of races, relays and time trials and assistant coach Merry Ellefson could not be happier.
“We have maxed out our roster at 25,” Ellefson said. “We have 15 middle school and 10 high school skiers and a mixture of abilities. It is really exciting because we are developing a real Nordic skills and racing program. It is a commitment and it is different from running. You don’t just put on shoes and get into shape. The skills training part is really important.”
The Devo Team will be heading to Whitehorse Nov. 29-Dec. 2 for a two-day ski clinic with a mixture of Alaska area and Canadian coaches. Beginners on the team will be attending two days of skill classes while other team members are involved in time trials.
The team will be collaborating with coaches Dominic Bradford and Brynn Knight (former Canadian team members).
Bradford was essential in developing Juneau’s Montessori ski program and has taught ski clinics at Eaglecrest. The Devo’s will be in clinics at Mount McIntyre Ski Center with their Canadian teen counterparts, as well as participating in waxing clinics and a time trial. Coaching staff will attend sessions with Whitehorse coaches as well , learning more technique and game skills training.
On Sunday, Dec. 15, the team will hold their first Devo Time Trial at Eaglecrest. The event will be a 2 or 4K skate and, like last season, will invite public racers and have a party at the end. Races will run through March and include Eaglecrest (Dec. 29), Campground Lake (Jan. 12), the Headlamp race (Jan. 20), SAGA Team event (Jan. 24-26), Groundhog Relay (Feb. 2), Sweathearts Race (Feb. 8), Presidential Skate Race (Feb. 17), Tour of Anchorage (Mar. 1), Classic (Mar. 9), and the Buckwheat (Mar. 22).
Head coaches are Abby Lowell, Tristan Knutson Lombardo and Oden Brudie and will be supported by nine other adults.
Sponsored by the 4-H Club, Nordic Devo local collaborators also include Eaglecrest, Juneau Ski Club and Foggy Mountain.
Financial support has come from Valley Medical Center, The City and Borough of Juneau Youth Activities Fund, and the JCF’s Blue Heron Fund.
Nordic Devo team members include Aaron Blust, Arne Ellefson-Carnes, Johnny Elliott, Kenny Fox, Maddie Hall, Lilly Otsea, Grace Newman, Connor Norman, Duncan Smith, Clem Taylor-Roth, Erin Wallace, William Wallace, Jayden West, Naomi Welling, Jack White, Mariana Bell, Reed Gardinier, Ambrose Bucy, Sammy Haight, Noah Machakos, Melialu Trousil, Iris Light, Anna Rivest, Estie Dawson and Obidiah Dawson.
Team members practice Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 4:30-6 p.m. and Sunday from 10-11 a.m. Competitions and races are held on Saturday, Sunday and a few weeknight evenings. The team has been dry land training since Nov. 9.
Since ski equipment upkeep is important in cross-country skiing, different families are offering their homes for ski waxing throughout the season
“Now kids will be working on their skis with different families,” Ellefson said. “So we can work one-on-one with the kids throughout the season. Kids will take more responsibility.”