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Ski notebook

US races back at Black Mountain

By Marty Basch and T.D. Thornton
Globe Correspondents / December 30, 2010

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The US Cross Country Championships return to Rumford, Maine, next week for the first time since 2004.

Expect US Ski Team members such as returning champion Simi Hamilton, Noah Hoffman, Vermont’s Liz Stephen, and Morgan Arritola to compete in the championships — hosted by the Chisholm Ski Club and running from Jan. 2-8 — at Black Mountain of Maine.

“We got about 12 to 14 inches of new snow that came at a very opportune time,’’ said organizing committee chairman Roger Arsenault. Man-made snow had been stockpiled just in case.

The trails have been widened since 2004, the stadium facility expanded, snowmaking increased, and more buildings built. There is no cost to spectators to view the two sprint and two distance races.

“Other than the Nordic world, we’re a well-kept secret,’’ said Arsenault. “We’ve got the Nordic facility which is world class, trails open for touring, and competitions for middle school, high school, as well as international athletes.’’

Hamilton, Hoffman, Stephen, and Arritola are all World Cup athletes, but missing from Maine will be Kris Freeman (two top-10s this season), Andy Newell, and Kikkan Randall (two podiums this season).

“[They] are all extremely competitive for podium positions at the World Cup level,’’ US Ski Team spokesman Tom Kelly said in an e-mail. “It makes more sense for them to compete in that arena right now. Naturally, we would love to have every skier at the US Championships.’’

USSA SuperTour leaders Holly Brooks and Lars Flora are also skiers to watch.

The championships are also the official trials for the Junior and U-23 Cross Country World Ski Championship teams.

Miller leads US trio Bode Miller’s eighth-place finish anchored an American trio that cracked the top 20 in yesterday’s World Cup downhill in Bormio, Italy. Austria’s Michael Walchhofer snatched the win, with US skiers Steven Nyman placing 11th and Travis Ganong 20th.

Up next is a parallel slalom race on Sunday in Munich with World Cup giant slalom leader Ted Ligety representing the US.

Need a lift? Take the bus Take the bus from Boston to the slopes with New England Snow Bus. The same owners and operators that ran Ski Market’s bus operation are transporting skiers from Commonwealth Avenue, Hingham, Andover, and other pickup spots to the trails.

“The locations are the same, we’re still picking up in Boston and we have convenient park and rides, too,’’ said NESB’s Mike Specian.

Ski areas include Killington, Sugarbush, Waterville Valley, Loon, and Sunday River. Ride and tickets start at $69, with just bus at $40. For a schedule, visit www.newenglandsnowbus.com.

Saturday bus service from metro Boston to Pats Peak in Henniker, N.H., resumes Jan. 15, with separate pickups for both day and night skiing. The $59 package includes a lift ticket, and the three departure areas are from Commonwealth Avenue, the Ruggles MBTA stop, and in Braintree.

Tricks are in the bag The Big Air Bag is coming to Gunstock next month.

Originating in Europe, the 15-by-11-meter stunt-like cushion allows skiers and riders a chance to try tricks they use in terrain parks.

Plans calls for the bag, the first in New England, to be used on weekends and during vacation weeks. It also will be used in non-snow months.

Look for it by the Gilford, N.H., ski area’s tubing park.

Skiers and snowboarders will need to have a lift ticket and will also pay an additional fee.

$100 mark reached Lift tickets finally have crossed the $100 mark. Colorado’s Vail Mountain and Beaver Creek have single-day holiday lift tickets for $108 through tomorrow. The price will decrease in the first two weeks of January to $102, according to the Associated Press. Stowe’s $89 peak single-day ticket, Killington’s peak $86, and Stratton’s $84 holiday ticket now seem like bargains.

Upcoming deals Starting Monday, Waterville Valley offers 2-for-1 ticketing on Mondays and Fridays while bringing back its popular “wheel of deals’’ on weekdays . . . Mount Sunapee has an online-only deal during January aimed at families. Adults who bring the printed coupon to the ticket window and purchase a full-price daily ticket get a same-day junior or young adult ticket for free (Saturdays and holiday weekends excluded) . . . Cranmore has a $9 “rollback’’ ticket deal scheduled for Jan. 7, with online advance purchase available . . . At Mount Snow, this year’s “youth pay their age day’’ is Jan. 9. Lift tickets cost a buck for every birthday you’ve celebrated, and kids up to 18 can participate . . . McIntyre Ski Area in Manchester, N.H., offers a $32 Saturday ticket good for skiing, snowboarding, and tubing between 3:30 and 9:30 p.m., and includes all equipment rentals . . . Burke Mountain rewards “silver streakers’’ on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Guests age 55 and over are entitled to $25 lift tickets and complimentary coffee . . . At Black Mountain, the breakfast club deal on Thursdays for skiers 55 and over includes a hot meal, coffee in a souvenir travel mug, and all-day skiing for $20.

Snow in Florida A snowshoe race in Florida? Sure. The 4-mile Massachusetts State Championship Snowshoe Race is scheduled for Sunday in Savoy Mountain State Forest in the Berkshires town of Florida. The 5-mile Turner Trail race is Jan. 8 in Pittsfield and the 3.9–mile Greylock Glen race is Jan. 15 in Adams. See the Western Massachusetts Athletic Club calendar (www.runwmac.com) for the full schedule . . . Old-school Nordic skiers might want to plan in advance for the Jan. 17 Geschmossel, a 15-kilometer classical-style race (no skating allowed) on the Ammonoosuc trail network at Bretton Woods Cross Country Ski Area. It’s one of the oldest citizens’ races in New England, and the entry fee ($25 before Jan. 14, $35 after) includes a trails pass for the day.