BENNINGTON >> Thanks to a rare break in his tight schedule, three-time Olympic Nordic skier Andy Newell led a training session on Tuesday with local skiers from Mount Anthony Union High School and the Bill Koch Youth Ski League at the MAU middle school.
He introduced roller-skiing to the nearly two dozen athletes in attendance and worked on technique, agility and balance that will help make a difference when the snow comes.
"I do clinics like this all over the country and I got an e-mail from [Mary Drew, the president of the Koch league] to do one here before the World Cup season," said Newell after answering questions from the athletes. "Usually, they're much more planned out and structured. I did one [recently] in [Park City], Utah. We can work on things in a parking lot, all we need is a little area."
Newell was taught in the youth program as well by longtime coach Bucky Broomhall and the Shaftsbury native said he's happy to see that Vermont is becoming more of a 'community ski club.'
"We have four Olympians with the Stratton Mountain School T2 team now," Newell said. "Southern Vermont is a great development pipeline for kids. My goal is to bring everyone together to see what cross-country skiing is all about. Cross-country is in the Europeans' blood, all the kids are doing this. The more I can help facilitate skiing in the area, I'm happy to help out."
For MAU skier Brianna Zipprich, having Newell come back to the area is a major coup.
"It's really cool that he comes and helps us, he helps with the technique that other schools don't have [like that]," said Zipprich, a junior. "It helps us with [the] little things, that we don't learn on our own, like certain ways to step."
Newell said that southern Vermont has one of the best cross-country resources around in Prospect Mountain in Woodford.
"It's so close by, it's amazing skiing and last winter was incredible," Newell said. "Bennington should realize that we have this great resource nearby. I love spreading the cross-country ski lifestyle and love for the sport."
Later this week, Newell will head to Finland for the first World Cup event over Thanksgiving weekend, starting a season that will end in Montreal and Quebec, Canada in early March.
"This came at the perfect time of year, it's an easy afternoon of training, I might as well come and ski with the kids," Newell said. "I can learn who they are and we can cheer for each other. I'm glad to see that ski culture is growing in the area."
During the question and answer period, Zipprich asked a question about the mindset a skier has to have before a race. Newell said it's as much about getting in the right frame beforehand — getting to the course, getting a good warmup — as it is about thinking about what position you want to finish.
"That made an impact in my mind, it's a big inspiration to see someone from Vermont go that far," Zipprich said.