A couple of Olympians are expected for the return of ski racing on Mount Washington next month following a six-year hiatus.
Justin Freeman, a 2006 Olympian, and Leslie Krichko (1988), have signed up for the March 9 Ski to the Clouds at Great Glen Trails in Pinkham Notch, N.H. The 10-kilometer race includes a tough 2,200-foot climb to the finish line by the 4-mile mark on the Mount Washington Auto Road.
Skiers, using either classic or skating technique, will first use 4 kilometers of the cross-country system at the base of the mountain before tackling the steep Auto Road.
"The mystique of Mount Washington means something to a lot of people," said spokesman Ryan Triffitt. "Whether it is a bike race, a foot race, or now a ski race, the fact that they can say they raced up Mount Washington is a feather in their cap."
The Ski to the Clouds was first held in 1996, and then dropped in 2002 before being replaced by a ski marathon that has since been discontinued.
The race, limited to a field of 100, is attracting other top-notch athletes such as US Mountain Running Team member Kevin Tilton and regional ski marathon winners David Herr and Eli Enman.
Big Green red hotAfter falling behind in Day 1 of the Eastern Ski Championships at Middlebury, Vt., last weekend, Dartmouth poured it on in the women's cross-country competition to seal the win. Dartmouth finished with 928 points, beating Middlebury (906) and Vermont (868.5). Dartmouth, the defending national champion, ends the Eastern part of its season with five carnival wins in six meets and now heads to the NCAA Championship at Bozeman, Mon., beginning Wednesday and ending March 8.
Big Green senior Susan Dunklee won the closing 10K classic race in 29 minutes 9.3 seconds, barely ahead of her team captain, senior Elsa Sargent (29:11.9), with Vermont's Jennie Bender (30:04.4) finishing third.
The Dartmouth men had four finishers in the top nine of the 15K classic - Nils Koons, third; Glenn Randall, fourth; Patrick O'Brien, seventh, and Max Hopkins, ninth. The event was won handily by Juergen Uhl from Vermont.
Homey accommodationsMaine's newest backcountry hut opened this month in Carrabassett Valley to cross-country skiers, snowshoers, and winter hikers.
The Poplar Stream Falls Hut is the first of about a dozen woodsy accommodations along the planned 180-mile long trail between the Mahoosucs and Moosehead Lake.
The Kingfield-based nonprofit Maine Huts and Trails (mainehuts.org) organization is overseeing the ambitious trail system that will also be open to hikers, as well as to paddlers and mountain bikers in select locations.
"This is the first step," said executive director Dave Herring. "We want to build several more of these to make places where people want to come back."
The Hut is a 2 1/2-mile trek from a trailhead off Route 27 south of Sugarloaf. The trail is groomed and tracked for skiers. At the Hut is a backcountry lodge with kitchen, great room, library, and rest rooms. Three cabins sleep more than 40 people, mostly in bunks.
Dakides on tap for StoweLook for Tara Dakides, who won several X Games medals, among the judges at Saturday's all-female Billabong Flaunt It tour at Stowe, Vt. The contest features slopestyle in the morning and an afternoon rail jam with the overall winner scoring a free ride to the finals at Tremblant in Quebec . . . The three-day Anti-Gravity Grail routinely draws thousands of spectators to Mount Snow in West Dover, Vt. The freestyle showcase starts tomorrow with a rail jam; Saturday's big air features athletes jumping over a live band; and Sunday's superpipe competition will be held in a 450-foot long halfpipe . . . Bragging rights are on the line Monday during Wildcat's ferocious 100K Day benefit for the Make-A-Wish Foundation, in which skiers try to tally 100,000 vertical feet on the Lynx trail in a day.
Along for the rideThe world's top riders will gather in Lake Placid, N.Y., this weekend for the fourth annual US Snowboarding Cup, featuring competitions in snowboardcross, parallel giant slalom, and an exhibition team SBX race. The event will have a host of international riders, while Olympic medalists Seth Wescott (Sugarloaf, Maine) and Lindsey Jacobellis (Stratton Mountain, Vt.) lead the US charge . . . Tyler Jewell (Sudbury), Chris Klug (Aspen, Colo.), Adam Smith (Bend, Ore.), and Graham Watanabe (Boise) are a few of the podium performers who will be riding at the only snowboardcross and parallel slalom World Cup event in this country this weekend.
Let Threedom ringAfter a nine-year run, Loon Mountain is out and Bretton Woods is in for the 2008-09 edition of New Hampshire's popular Threedom Pass. Waterville Valley and Cranmore Mountain will continue as anchor resorts in the multimountain discount plan. The change was spurred by the sale of Loon last year to Boyne USA. The pass ranges from $329 for kids up to $749 for an adult ticket with no blackout dates. Passes go on sale Monday, and those who purchase a pass in March or April get to use it for the remainder of the current ski season at no additional cost.
Globe correspondents Tony Chamberlain and T.D. Thornton contributed to this report.