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Smitties shoot for world-class trails

Paul Smith’s ready to have new 5K trail network homologated for Nordic ski and biathlon competitions; goal is to be top US college for Nordic, biathlon

From left, student-athletes Garrett Beckrich, Lina Miner-Fara and Dolcie Tanguay take aim Sept. 16 as they fire the first shots at the new Paul Smith’s College biathlon range. (Enterprise photo — Lou Reuter)

PAUL SMITHS — Paul Smith’s College, working in concert with USA Nordic and US Biathlon, is now positioned to have its new 5-kilometer (3.1-mile) Nordic ski trail network homologated by the International Ski Federation (FIS) and the International Biathlon Union for elite-level racing.

FIS and IBU will send homologation officials to the site to inspect the trail profiles and biathlon range. They will also consider the site’s natural snow cover and review a college race last winter that tested the trails.

When completed, the “College of the Adirondacks” will be the only collegiate facility in the United States with sanctioned trails for Nordic skiing and a biathlon range, both on campus, en route to its goal of becoming the top Nordic and biathlon school in the United States.

The architect of the 5K network is John Morton of Vermont, a two-time Olympic biathlete, seven-time Olympic participant, biathlon head of course for the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City and designer of more than 100 trail systems, including for World University Games and biathlon World Cup sites.

“In the 28 years of designing recreational trails and competition venues, I have rarely seen a location with more potential for trail-based recreational activities than what currently exists at Paul Smith’s College,” Morton said in a press release. “After homologation, it would not be surprising to see international-level competitions held on this campus.”

“Having Nordic ski trails on campus is as unique as it is wonderful for the student-athletes, but it’s the quality of the terrain and the design of the trails that will make this snow pocket a must-ski course in the East,” stated Max Cobb, CEO of US Biathlon. “On top of that, having this network homologated will get the attention of the biathlon community everywhere. Thank you, Paul Smith’s College, for making this happen so quickly for our athletes and skiers everywhere.”

The milestone marks another achievement for the college’s burgeoning education and sport initiative. Born from the desire to enable athletes to pursue an education during their prime competitive years, PSC has entered into official relationships with US Biathlon and USA Nordic to bring rising, elite-level athletes to the Adirondacks to get post-secondary education while improving their athletic skills. The two national governing bodies have wholeheartedly supported the concept, and members of their respective teams are currently at PSC attending class and training for their rapidly approaching seasons.

“The new trails, along with homologation for both sports, brings us to the next level in attracting student-athletes,” said Matt Dougherty, PSC’s Nordic coach. “To see how far we’ve come and how fast we’ve moved is indicative of the commitments we have all made, from our school’s leadership to our professors and athletic department personnel.”

USA Nordic Executive Director Bill Demong, whose Olympic gold and silver medals in Nordic combined had their genesis in this region as a youth, is another who can’t wait for the snow to accumulate in his home area.

“Having a Nordic facility of this caliber at Paul Smith’s College is an incredible asset for athletes to train and compete while pursuing a world-class education,” stated Demong, who grew up in nearby Vermontville. “Hats off to the team who put together this incredible plan and executed it quickly and efficiently. Also, having the trails certified internationally definitely gives the complex an elevated presence in Nordic skiing. We can’t wait to show the world what a resource Paul Smith’s College has to offer.”

At the moment, athletes and recreational skiers alike are waiting for Mother Nature’s cooperation to allow the Nordic complex to open for the season.

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