By Barbara Tetreault
ANDROSCOGGIN VALLEY — Generations here have celebrated winter as a time to get outside and enjoy the snow, and that tradition carries on with two major events coming up next weekend.
Nansen Ski Club marks its 145th anniversary with its annual Nansen Milan Winter Festival, featuring such time honored events as Nordic skiing, skating, snowshoeing and sled dog rides. The three-day festival, running Jan. 20-22, marks its seventh year.
Fat tire biking racing is the newest twist on winter recreation and the Moose Brook Fat Bike Race on Sunday, Jan. 22, draws bikers from all over New England. In its fourth year, registration for the annual event, sponsored by the Coos Cycling Club, fills up with a day or two.
Nansen Club spokeswoman Phoebe Backler said the club has gained a new head of steam with its expanding trail system, new warming hut and growing pool of volunteers.
“The seventh annual Nansen Milan Winter Festival will be the best yet, with a great array of winter fun from ski races and broomball to bonfires and crafts,” she predicted.
Venture to Milan for a weekend of winter fun, kicking off at 6:30 p.m. on Friday with the Milan Village School PTO’s Burning of the Greens bonfire, ice skating and cocoa at the Milan ice rink.
On Saturday, the Milan Village School will host a mid-winter market with local crafts and delicious foods from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Kids will have a grand time at the bounce house, doing art projects, enjoying fun outdoor games with the Appalachian Mountain Club and hearing stories read by local authors. Local jazz musician Bruce Kimball will play music during the market. Craft and 50/50 raffles will be held to support the Nansen Ski Club.
At the Milan Ice Rink, the Winter Classic Broomball Tournament will run from 9 a.m. throughout the day. The public can watch the fast-paced action and cheer on their favorite team.
Also on Saturday, festival goers are invited to visit to the newly enclosed Nansen Ski Club Warming Hut from noon to 4 p.m. for cocoa and a free ski or snowshoe. At 2:30 p.m., the Androscoggin Valley Chamber of Commerce will join the club in an official ribbon-cutting ceremony.
The public will have an opportunity to “meet a musher” and learn about the sport of sled dog racing at the Mahoosuc Inn. Bailey Vitello of Northern Exposure Outfitters will be there with his dogs to explain the gear and tell stories about long-distance sled-dog racing at 10:30 a.m. Dog sled tours will be offered at $10 per person (kids under 3 are free) from 11 a.m. to noon and 1 to 2 p.m. Visitors can also peruse the mushing gear at Northern Exposure Outfitter’s Retail Shop inside the Mahoosuc Inn throughout the day.
On Sunday, Jan. 22, the focus shifts to Milan Hill State Park and cross-country ski racing. The Nansen Ski Club will host a variety of ski races for all ages, with registration running from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. at the warming hut. The 14-kilometer men’s and women’s classic ski race will have a mass start at 10 a.m. The 5K fun race will start at 11 a.m., followed at noon by a 1K kids race.
Race registration for adults (18 and older): $20 pre-registration or $25 at the race. Children (17 and younger): $10 pre-registration or $15 at the race.
For more Festival information and online race registration visit the Nansen Ski Club website www.skinansen.com.
Fat bike riding has been described as one of the fast growing winter sports, and residents will have an opportunity to see riders compete in the fourth annual Moose Brook Fat Bike Race at Moose Brook State Park in Gorham on Sunday, Jan. 22.
For the uninitiated, fat bike or fat tire bike riding is off-road biking using oversized tires designed to be used at low pressure to allow riding on snow, sand and mud. The fat bikes allow bikers to pursue their favorite sport year around.
Coos Cycling Club spokesman Jeremiah Macrae said his organization sets a 100 biker cap for the race, which it reached within two days. Held at Moose Brook State Park, Macrae said the local fat bike race was the first such race in New Hampshire. The 5-mile loop is buffed to perfection by local fat bike fiends and offers some of the best single track riding to be found anywhere.
“It’s very popular,” he said, noting that it attracts bikers from all New England.
This year, Macrae said the club made a major effort to get more female racers signed up and succeeded with 24 scheduled to compete.
There is a 20-mile race, which will kick off at 9:45 a.m., followed at 10 a.m. with the start of the 10-mile race. Winners in each category receive handmade trophies.
Macrae said the race is good for the local economy, noting that many of the participants stay overnight in local lodging places and eat in area restaurants.
All of the profits from the race go to build and maintain the bike trail system at the park and to educate youth to the sport. The club maintains 20 miles of mountain biking trails in the Gorham area. It also works to advocate for the sport. The club will be working with Gorham school officials on Friday, Jan. 20, and helping introduce a group of middle school students to the trails.
For information about the Moose Brook Fat Bike Race, visit the event’s Facebook page or go to cooscyclingclub.wordpress.com.