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Nordic North Shore Storm Skiers Shine Through Snow Setbacks

The lack of snow has been disappointing for the 33 Nordic skiers of the North Shore Storm and their coaches, but the 7-12 grade student-athletes from Two Harbors High School have still persevered. Meets around the state in the early part of the season have been canceled due to the strange December weather, but the team built up their strength and spirits while dry land running, maintaining their aerobic capacity, and keeping in shape. It’s something that the most passionate of the skiers dedicate themselves to all year long.

“Good skiers are made in the summer,” Coach Baylee Johnson told me. In her five years involved with the ski team, the last two as head coach, she has witnessed how the time the skiers put in on the off-season, using roller skis in the snowless months, really pays off. “It’s definitely aligning to how they do on snow,” she said.

Coach Johnson has been a long-time rec­reational skier and loves coaching. “Working with the kids is the best thing,” she said. “Their personalities just mold together. It’s very cool to be able to see the kids on a personal level, and not just the sport. It’s a really, really fun thing to see.”

The Nordic Ski Team at last year’s Korkki meet. (Photo credit: NS Storm Assistant Coach, Gordon Hommes)

The group recently went on a ski trip to Bessemer, Michigan, and found snow at the Powderhorn Mountain Ski Hill. The team en­joyed “dipping their toes in it,” Coach Johnson said of the snow. The annual trip is a great bonding opportunity at the start of each season.

“They’re a very kind group,” she boasted. “I really push that being nice to each other, being helpful, learning to be helpful, learning to be supportive.”

They are also smart. The athletes are top of their class and hold a GPA of 3.0 and higher.

The group continues to grow. The program averages 25 skiers a year as a base, and the base keeps rising. This year there are 4 new 7th grade skiers who are showing a lot of en­thusiasm. “These kids are ripping to ski,” the coach laughed.

Coach Johnson attributes part of the growth is due to the program’s effort to provide equipment and they are always on the look­out for high-end gear to loan to students who may soon outgrow them. “As the team grows it is imperative, we maintain a fleet of skis, as it allows for cost-effective participation and affordability long term,” she said. (For those who may have donations or used race skis with NNN bindings for purchase, please contact bayjjohnson@gmail.com).

Another attribute to the growth of the pro­gram is its inclusivity. “It’s open to anybody,” Coach Johnson urged others to give it a try. “A lot of people that come in have never been on skis before. They don’t have to race their first year. Just get on a pair of skis and learn a lifetime sport.” The invitation also extends to students in Silver Bay who have an interest, who are encouraged to contact the coach.

With the snow machines on at Spirit Moun­tain, the team was able to compete at a meet last week at Grand Avenue. Before this article is printed, the team will have made the trip to Mt. Itaska in Coleraine, MN to compete against Grand Rapids.

Coming up on Thursday, January 11th, the team will compete at a Vintage Meet at the Korkki Nordic Ski Center at 11 AM. “Every­one should come check it out,” said Coach Johnson, adding that the skiers often find ret­ro gear and clothing to use for the event. “It’s a fun one to see!”

Wishing the North Shore Storm Nordic Skiers best of luck this season and for some snow to come your way!

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