Where in Maine?
In the wintertime this Olympics-friendly Maine town is a blur of activity.
The Winter Olympics may be taking place a world away in Torino, Italy, but thanks to the facility you see here, the Games are not quite as far from the Pine Tree State as they may once have been. Since 1999 this state-of-the-art center for Nordic skiing has brought some of the finest athletes in the world to Maine and helped reestablish skiing as a lifestyle Down East. Skiing in this part of the country goes all the way back to 1870, when twenty-one families from Stockholm, Sweden, were lured across the Atlantic to settle the area's frosty farmland.Governor Joshua Chamberlain thought they would be hardy enough to endure the deep cold and snow the region is known for, and he was right. The Swedes brought with them the skis they used for transport back home, and they quickly established a ski culture in the Maine communities they founded. The contemporary planners behind this facility — which now owns or is affiliated with three Nordic areas and three downhill ski areas across the state — are trying to restore the traditions of those nineteenth-century times. They're also stressing a community-oriented approach, making downhill skiing affordable and fun for everyone, not just the affluent. And they're bringing investment and tourism to local economies to boot. The model seems to be working. This center landed the TD Banknorth Junior Biathlon Championships, which happen this month, and if the competition is anything like the Biathlon World Cup held at its sister facility in 2004 it will surely be big. That event was seen by a worldwide audience of more than 27 million people, making it the most-watched televised sporting event in Maine history, and its 18,000 spectators spent millions in the town during their stay. Five area athletes have won a combined eleven medals, including five golds, in national championships, and the U.S. Biathlon Association has relocated its headquarters from Vermont to Portland, making biathlon the first Olympic sport to have its home base in Maine. It won't be long before local youngsters will be representing their country in the Olympics. Have you ever skied here yourself or watched skiers race? If so, drop us a line.