Nordic ski season gets underway with race at Ski Butternut

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Video | Ian Culnane and his Mount Greylock teammates took to the snow in the first Nordic ski race of 2016.

Video | Mount Greylock's Grace Smith talks after the opening nordic ski race of the season

GREAT BARRINGTON — It's been a pretty long wait for Berkshire County's Nordic skiers to get on the snow. The wait for Mount Greylock's Ian Culnane was almost interminable.

The Greylock senior missed all of last season after breaking a foot during soccer season. He took care of his business in the first Nordic race of the season, unofficially cruising to victory on a makeshift course at Ski Butternut.

Official results were not available at press time, but unofficially, Culnane covered the 4-kilometer course — 3 loops around the bottom of the ski area — in 15 minutes, 36 seconds. Matt Wiseman was second at 16:10, while Mohawk's Guy Rice-Lesure unofficially took third in 16:46.

Official times and team results were not available at press time, and unofficial results could change.

"After breaking my foot last year, it was nice to get back out on snow and back in racing territory," said Culnane.

So while Culnane and his compadres from the Berkshire County League scrambled to find snow to practice on this year, all he could do 12 months ago was sit and watch as the rest of the league raced in what were stellar snow conditions.

"Last year, there was so much snow and I missed out," he said. "Everybody on the team had a great season. The boys won states. You can't ask for much more.

"A lot of the team trained with me at the pool. It was still a good season."

Last year was a good season for Culnane's teammate Grace Smith, and she picked it up right where she left off in 2015.

Smith was the girls unofficial winner in 18:13. Her sister Margo was second at 20:01, while Lenox's Alice Huth was third at 20:30.

"I've done two other Eastern Cup races, and I've been on snow probably five other times," Grace Smith said. "We've just been trying to find wherever there's snow and make the best of it."

Usually, Nordic skiers head north when Berkshire County doesn't have a lot of snow cover. Thursday, it was a trip south for the majority of teams in the league. The mood among the athletes on at least one of the many buses in the parking lot was one of it's about time.

"It was a little bit surreal," Grace Smith said of the ride from Williamstown. "Everyone kind of wasn't thinking that we were actually racing today. Once we got here, it set in and we got really excited."

As far as the competition was concerned, it wasn't your normal Nordic race. Racers covered a 1.5-kilometer loop that started right at the foot of Ski Butternut's main alpine trails.

"It's definitely easier to keep track of people on the course and know where you stand," said Culnane. "Coaches can go from one side of the course to the other to give splits."

The regular season started two weeks late because of a lack of snow cover from Prospect Mountain, Vermont, to Great Barrington. While Greylock had been out a few times, other teams — like Wahconah — had hardly been out at all.

"We've trained once on snow," Wahconah coach Kiersten Touponce said. "We had a week that we could get on a golf course on some ice. We had one good training day in Lake Placid (N.Y.) for about five hours."

The good news for Wahconah is that the boys team is made up of primarily veterans while the girls team has a mixture of veterans and newcomers. Touponce was watching her charges closely, especially the more inexperienced ones who were skiing at night for perhaps the first time.

"We were happy to race. It's a late night, but we were together and that's what matters," she said. "I think they looked like its a great start. I think they looked like a great start. I think we know what we can use for goals and where we need to work."

Contact Howard Herman at 413-496-6253.


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