Russell Currier’s Aroostook Skiing Guide

The Olympic biathlete comes home — and hits the trails.

Russell Currier's Aroostook County ski guide
By Will Grunewald
Photographs courtesy of Russell Currier
From our February 2020 issue

When Russell Currier wasn’t bouncing from race to race around the world for the better part of the past two decades, he was training, either at the Olympic center in Lake Placid, New York, or in Fort Kent, a half hour from where he grew up in Stockholm. At the 2014 Olympics, in Russia, he competed in individual, relay, and sprint biathlon — the sport that combines cross-country skiing with riflery. Currier earned a spot on the Olympic squad again in 2018, and he retired not long after the Games. Now 32, he’s been living and working in Presque Isle and trying to give back to the ski scene by coaching and donating gear to local clubs. “There are a lot of motivated volunteers up here grooming trails, getting events going, and really working hard to keep the ski community alive,” he says. And, of course, he’s been doing some skiing of his own too. “There’s a whole new element to it when you only have to go out when you absolutely want to,” he says. “Skiing got a fresh feeling when I retired, and after a year and a half, that feeling is still there.”

Where to Ski Like an Olympian

Currier still hits the informal neighborhood trails he grew up skiing in Stockholm, and he’s a fan of the many grassroots ski networks that abound throughout the County, but the Fort Kent Outdoor Center was his longtime training ground, and the Nordic Heritage Center, in Presque Isle, is now just a few minutes from his door. Both have hosted Biathlon World Cup events, and the Nordic Heritage Center recently hosted U.S. Ski & Snowboard’s SuperTour cross-country finals. Skiers of any ability will find plenty of varied terrain at either venue.

Nordic Heritage Center

450 Fort Fairfield Rd., Presque Isle.

Day-use fee: $8

Trail system: 20 kilometers

Lodge amenities: showers,
bathrooms, sauna

*Rentals: $10 adults, $7 children

Fort Kent Outdoor Center

33 Paradis Circle, Fort Kent.

Day-use fee: $15 adult, $10 ages 7 to 18, free ages 6 and under

Trail system: 25 kilometers

Lodge amenities: showers,
bathrooms, sauna

*Rentals: $15 adult, $10 ages 7 to 18, free ages 6 and under

*Call ahead or check online for rental hours.

Russell Currier's Aroostook County ski guide

How to Ski Like an Olympian

Start early

Stockholm is in the County’s Swedish Colony, an area populated in the 1870s by Swedish immigrants who brought with them their food, their traditions, and their cross-country skiing. Russell Currier isn’t of Swedish descent, but skiing was an entrenched part of the local lifestyle, and he grew up skiing with his mom. “We had equipment — wooden skis — that was ancient even 20 years ago,” he says. “It was all pretty primitive. We would just go out on weekends and thrash through completely ungroomed trails.”

Ski often

In middle school, Currier started skiing to class, along a route one of his neighbors groomed between his home and the school. It took Currier about 10 minutes on the downslope in the morning and an hour back up in the afternoon. The more he skied those years, the more he was hooked, and by eighth grade, skiing had developed into a fixation. “I got really interested in the nitty-gritty details and competition side of the sport,” he says. “At that point, I was pretty well convinced I was going to be an athlete.”

Find a guide

Currier’s burgeoning interest coincided with the 1999 opening of the Maine Winter Sports Center in Caribou (it’s now the Outdoor Sport Institute). The nonprofit rented out equipment on the cheap and attracted top-notch coaches — Currier loved to absorb their stories of professional racing while on van rides to practices. One of those coaches, Per Nilsson, from Sweden (the country, not the Maine town), wound up coaching Currier again when both of them were with the U.S. national team.