Over the weekend Bethel Village Trails hosted the annual U16 Eastern Championships. It was a wonderful weekend of skiing with excellent conditions and mostly sunny skies over the course of three days of racing. U16’s is a championship level event for 14 and 15 year old skiers from New Hampshire, Vermont, Maine, Massachusetts, New York, as well as Guest Class skiers from outside the region. This year we were lucky enough to host guest teams from the Midwest as well as Great Lakes Division from Michigan.
Friday kicked off with the 5km Individual Freestyle skate race on Gould Academy’s beautiful and hilly Pine Hill Trails. Bethel has seen no shortage of snow this year, and spectators were greeted with shoulder high snow banks as they pulled in to the parking area for the event. The race course was set up perfectly, with multiple places were parents and coaches could see their skiers coming in and out of the podium area. Skiers put in strong performances under bluebird skies, and it was a fantastic opener to the weekend.
Saturday morning dawned with more sun, and hardly a cloud to be seen. The first event of the day was the 5km Individual Classic race on the same course as the previous day’s freestyle race. Friday night was cold, and the snow stayed firm through most of the Boys race before warming for the start of the Girls race at 10:00am. Temperatures reached the mid 30s in the stadium area with full sunshine and announcer Craig Zurhorst compared the day to a beach day. It was an exciting morning of racing with many fast times throughout the field.
After the morning race was finished, we packed up the stadium area and migrated to the 1.5km sprint course across the street at Bethel Village Trails. This was a fantastic place to hold a sprint; the course held many quick turns and hills and skiers were visible for the majority of the race. The energy in the spectator and team areas were electric, with lots of cheering as skiers came through to the finish.
On Saturday evening the Bethel Inn hosted the traditional U16 Banquet and Awards Ceremony. After a hearty meal, awards for the three individual races were given out, and a fun random raffle was held with gifts from many local sponsors. (For full results, follow the link in the bottom of this post)
Sunday morning brought cloudy skies and the imminent threat of snow, but the weather was kind to our racers and the snow held off until after the final race was over. The main event on Sunday was the mixed gender 2.5km relay. This is an amazing event, where teams of 4 made up of 2 boys and 2 girls ski a mixed technique relay race over a fun but challenging course. The first two legs of the event are classic technique, and the final two legs are freestyle technique. The race brought out more spectators than both of the other days, with many parents making the trip to Bethel for the final event.
As the relay ended, big fluffy flakes started to fall from the gray skies over the relay course and skiers were quick to pack up their things and head over to the Bethel Inn Events Center for the final awards ceremony of the weekend, and for the presentation of the U16 cup to the state who scored the most points over the course of the 4 races. This year for the 3rd year in a row, and for the 19th time in the event’s 29 year history the trophy went to Vermont. The Green Mountain State’s skiers and coaches crowded the front of the event center for a photo with the trophy held high.
Overall, it was a great weekend of racing with strong showings from all of our New England states, as well as our guests from New York, the Midwest, and Great Lakes. NENSA would like to thank Bethel Village Trails, Gould Academy, and the Bethel Inn for hosting us, as well as all of our sponsors, race officials, and volunteers for helping to make the weekend a success. We would also like to thank all of the skiers, coaches, and parents who make the trip up to Bethel for a fun and exciting weekend of skiing!