The Methow Valley is a remote, little known valley in the North Cascades of Washington State. In the summer it is a popular RV stop on the scenic loop drive from Seattle over the North Cascades Highway. It’s also a great place for mountain biking, hiking and running. In the winter, the North Cascades Highway closes and we are at the end of the road. We are fortunate enough to have an incredible Nordic trail system, run by the Methow Valley Sports Trails Association. There are over 175 kilometers of groomed trails and some great backcountry skiing too. The unique thing about the Methow is that there is no alpine area that sponsors the Nordic. The system is set up for cross country skiers alone. The valley towns are small-about 3000 people live full time in the Methow Valley and the vacation population is growing.
The Methow Valley Junior Nordic Team(www.mvnordic.com) first started in 1988 as a way to get kids involved in a fun and healthy lifetime sport. Linda Kimbrell started the team and there were about 8 skiers on the team. In 1995 Laura McCabe moved to the Methow Valley and took over as head coach of the team. Laura’s spirit and enthusiasm brought the team to a new level. The numbers grew from about ten to over thirty skiers between the ages of 13 and 18. And several of the skiers began to train for skiing year round. In 1999 the team decided to open up to skiers from ages 6-12 too. That year the numbers doubled. Currently, there are about seventy-five skiers that are members of the Methow Valley Junior Nordic Team, aged 6-18.
Laura has a one year old daughter so for the 2002/2003 season she decided to step down from her head coach position. This led to a total restructuring of the team. Now we are led by Program Director Steve Devin, who is a former alpine coach from CU, with Chris “Flash” Clark and Scott Johnston as co-head coaches. With seventy five blue-coated skiers hitting the trails 2-5 days a week, there is a strong line up of assistant coaches, including me (Leslie Hall), Everest climber and former marathon team skier Midge Cross, Laura McCabe, former biathlete Brian Sweet, world renowned physical therapist Pete Dickinson and many parent/coaches.
The Team is mostly supported by fund raising events and the donations of a few strong local businesses including Sun Mountain Lodge, the Freestone Inn, the local sports shop, Winthrop Mountain Sports and Winthrop Physical Therapy. The cost to join the Team remains small to allow more skiers to participate. This means that many people involved receive no pay and others receive only a little. The coaches try and maintain a high level team that will be competitive at the regional PNSA events and hopefully at Junior Olympics. This is an ongoing struggle, as with kids everywhere, there are so many competing opportunities. Many skiers want to play soccer in the Fall and they are busy in the summer with family obligations, jobs and other sports interests like swimming, biking and soccer. With such a small population base it is a challenge, but there have been several notable skiers emerging from the Methow Valley including former World Junior team skier Heidi Rhinehart, current Western State College skier Brian Gregg, and Dartmouth college skiers Emily Chenel and Sam Naney. The coaches provide many training opportunities through the summer and fall and there is regularly scheduled training five days a week in the winter.
The Methow Valley Sports Trails Association (www.MVSTA.com) hosts several fun races throughout the winter including the popular Methow Valley Pursuit, with a 30km town to town race on the second day, and the tough Rendezvous Mountain Marathon, a hilly 30km point to point event. At each race there is a junior component mainly for skiers 13 and younger as the older skiers are often at JO qualifiers. With the large number of young skiers learning the sport and becoming involved in races early, we look forward to having some top skiers in the years to come.