Card Nordic skiing: No snow puts damper on Alexandria skiing
By: Eric Morken, Alexandria Echo Press
The lack of snow across Minnesota has been a blessing for some, but a huge detriment for those who rely on it for their winter recreation.
The Alexandria Nordic ski is one of the victims of one of the more unusual winters in recent memory. The Cardinals have been forced to improvise from the get-go this winter, doing things like practicing on the ponds at Discovery Middle School when a dusting of snow has made for just enough accumulation to groom a trail.
“I think it’s had a ton of impact,” second-year Alexandria head coach Luke Erickson said. “For training purposes, me and [assistant coach] Jeremy [Rapp], we just have to be very creative on where to go and what to do. Then the meets, instead of holding them on a trail system, we’ll hold them at the base of a ski hill. It’s not as much fun. If it’s windy and cold, it can get kind of miserable for kids and spectators.”
The biggest challenge for Erickson has been finding ways to keep kids excited about coming to practice. The Cardinals get out to Andes Tower Hills as often as they can, but the travel time to and from the school cuts into their allotted practice time.
For much of the season, the Cardinals have been forced to settle for dry-land training. Rollerblading, roller skiing and going for runs have become an all-too-common form of training for this team.
“These kids didn’t join skiing to be distance runners,” Erickson said. “Maybe some of them are cross country runners, but in the winter, they like to go out and ski, and there’s such a difference between the movements in running and skiing. Some of the skiers aren’t passionate about running. They’re most passionate about skiing, so we don’t want to just say, ‘we’re going for another run today.’ We don’t want to turn it into cross country practice.”
It’s been especially tough on a young team like Alexandria. The Cardinal captains on the girls’ side are junior Melissa Gromatka and sophomore Julia Sieling. Junior Cody Call and sophomore Patrick Flynn are the captains of a boys’ team that features no seniors on the squad. Both the boys’ and girls’ rosters are filled with new skiers who are missing out on important practice time on snow.
“With new skiers, technique is such a big deal,” Erickson said. “And when you can’t get out and ski, it really affects that. When you get out on skis, you can get that experience.”
The lack of snow has also forced the Cardinals to cancel their home meet for the second year in a row. Last year’s meet was called off because of dangerously cold temperatures.
This year’s home meet at the Discovery Middle School trails was scheduled for this Saturday. The lack of snow forced them to call it off, and scheduling conflicts with other schools make it unlikely that Alexandria will be able to reschedule a home meet later this season. That is tough on a sport that it always trying to recruit new athletes.
“I’ve been trying to encourage kids to come out,” Erickson said. “If there was a meet where the kids can ski in front of their friends, we could use it as a tool to recruit some kids for next year. Instead, all the parents have to travel to the away meets. It would just be nice to get on our home course.”
It is one of the many sacrifices this team has had to make this winter. Like so many programs around the state, the Cardinals are now just trying to make the best of a bad situation.
“For the most part, ski coaches are laid back in the sense that it seems like we’re doing what we can to make the best of it,” Erickson said. “But it’s like being a hockey coach without a rink. You can rollerblade or roller ski, lift weights. We try to play some cardio games to keep it fun for the kids, but it’s not the same as being on snow.”