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Luge challenge, snocross in Malone

MALONE — As the North Country enters the tail end of winter, snow-sports enthusiasts came out over the weekend for one last hurrah at two events in Malone.

Titus Mountain hosted the USA Luge Challenge on Saturday with members of the USA Luge team visiting to tutor visitors in how to take on the one-man sled. Team members included Emily Sweeney, who participated in the 2018 Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea and Massena native Jonny Gustafson.

Gustafson and Sweeney took time throughout the day on Saturday to show interested trainees how to sit on a luge sled, how to steer and how to brake.

A separate fenced-off luge course was set up alongside the main slopes at Titus Mountain, with USA Luge coaches on duty to help with safety concerns.

Gustafson, who has been involved in luge for 10 years, said that this was the first outreach event he had been able to take part in as part of the team.

“Most of these events happen while we’re traveling,” said Gustafson, who has taken part in competitions in Austria, Germany, Canada, Latvia and Russia. He is currently training to take part in the 2022 Olympic Games in Beijing.

Each visit will usually take a week at a time, including travel time, that is mostly focused on practice and preparation. Occasionally, however, the team will get a chance to visit the location around the event and engage with local culture.

“It’s an added bonus of competing,” Gustafson said.

USA Luge members were glad to see a steady group of visitors show interest in luge, as well as appreciative of Titus Mountain for hosting the event.

Gustafson said that lugers can experience speeds of up to 90 miles per hour during their sets; shoulder strength and dexterity are usually vital to keep one’s luge under control, while abdominal control keeps the athlete lying flat and reduces wind resistance.

Back in the village, the Franklin County Fairgrounds hosted the East Coast Snocross competition. Audiences gathered at the track and in the grandstand to see racers of all ages navigate the packed-snow jumps on their snowmobiles throughout a comfortable Saturday and a snowy Sunday.