Nordic in New England. With icicles hanging from their noses and their eyelashes covered in frost, Nordic skiers are known for going out in any weather and relishing steep climbs and gnarly downhills. With Head Coach Pat Casey leading the way, the Holderness School Nordic skiers are no different; with their special blend of competitive drive and playful energy, they are at the core of the growing Nordic community in the Plymouth area.
Throughout the decades the Holderness Nordic program has produced many national caliber athletes as well as a strong contingent of Olympians. Both the girls and boys teams are consistently among the strongest in the Lakes Region, and in fact, for the past two years, they have been New England Preparatory School Athlete Council (NEPSAC) champions; last year alone the program sent three skiers to New England Nordic Ski Association (NENSA) U16 Championships, six to Eastern High School Championships, and one to Nationals. This year is no exception with many top finishes and podium sweeps during the first half of the season.
The Nordic skiers enjoy all this winning, but there’s a passion for the sport and a joy for the training that fuels them far beyond results. As hard as these athletes train, Coach Casey makes sure that there is a serious dose of fun every week.
“Every week is a different adventure,” says Emerson Glusker ’22 who is from Park City, UT. “It’s been a great way to get to know my teammates.”
Many adventures take the team off-campus to explore New Hampshire’s backcountry. Two weeks ago the team headed over to the Ridgepole Trail in the Squam Range, summited Mount Morgan, and traversed the ridge to Burleigh Farm. Last week they headed to Tenney Mountain for some powder skiing (two hours up, and a half hour down!) when they couldn’t make it to a Lakes Region race because of a snowstorm and poor driving conditions. The list goes on—Rainbow Falls and the Walter-Newton Conservation Area, Green Woodlands, and our own backcountry ski hill.
“Over-distance days can be long,” says Amanda Vansant ’20, a local who grew up skiing on the Holderness trails, “but they are never boring because we are always exploring different places.”
Even at home on the school’s Nordic trails, Pat Casey keeps things light and fun. After a hard day in the weight room, he’s been known to finish practice by challenging all the skiers to jumping contests on the course he’s built on the Upper Fields.
The team is also part of a greater community of Nordic skiers. The Holderness Nordic Club is open to anyone in the greater Plymouth/Holderness community who wishes to use the Holderness trails. The small membership fee helps finance the grooming and maintenance of the trails as well as support the Bill Koch Ski League’s local program for pre-schoolers through middle school. The younger children ski with their parents a couple days a week, work their way up to lessons, and can eventually choose to race throughout New England. While run independently of Holderness School, there is often overlap; the Holderness School student-athletes act as mentors and often help out at the Bill Koch races held on campus.
More recently former NENSA Community Program Manager Amber Freeman and her husband, former Olympian Kris Freeman, have been organizing skate clinics for adults at Holderness. Designed to help adults perfect the art of skate skiing, the clinics also mean that every age group of skier in this region now has an opportunity to get outside and participate in the Nordic community. For the Holderness School students, it means being a part of something bigger, of seeing themselves not just as high school athletes but as members of a growing community of enthusiastic outdoor adventurers.
To find out more about the Holderness Nordic team, visit their blog and watch this video.
Holderness School has a rich tradition of training athletes for both excellence and lifelong fitness. Whether teams are regularly qualifying for -- and winning -- NEPSAC tournaments or athletes are developing healthy habits and a love of sport, Holderness School is committed to a multiple sport athletic philosophy that unlocks the potential of every student.
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