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Local skiers travel in search of snow

Faced with a scarcity of snow in Southern Oregon, local competitive skiers and snowboarders have traveled to Mount Hood, Mount Bachelor and Lake Tahoe to practice and compete, according to organizers of racing programs.

"As you can imagine, there's been a significant impact on our ability to train," said Troy McCrae, operations manager for the nonprofit Mt. Ashland Racing Association, which is separate from the ski area and the Mt. Ashland Association.

MARA works with youths ages 6 through 18 years old, McCrae said.

MARA athletes have traveled this winter to the Mt. Bachelor Ski Resort in Central Oregon and Lake Tahoe, which straddles the California and Nevada border, he said. Mt. Shasta Ski Park is also closed by lack of snow.

Other ski areas are working to accommodate the southern Oregon athletes, he said.

"The lack of snow has brought a lot of camaraderie out," McCrae said. "People are trying to share resources. It's good to see everyone working together."

Gary King, head coach for the Southern Oregon League of the Oregon Interscholastic Ski Racing Association, said league athletes have been training hard on land and traveling to other ski areas.

"Now some of the kids are saying, 'Are we a ski team or a dry land team?'" King said.

Some athletes who are new to racing had to be taught via chalkboard how to navigate courses, he said.

The athletes need to have a certain number of races under their belts to qualify for state championships in early March, so dozens of kids from different local schools traveled to Mt. Hood Meadows Ski Resort to race in late January, King said.

The kids' land training paid off, with boys and girls teams for Ashland and St. Mary's high schools qualifying for state, King said.

The Phoenix boys team also qualified, he said.

The Ashland girls won the team championship last winter, while Kailey Flockoi of Crater was state champion in the slalom.

Although the trip to Mt. Hood Meadows Ski Resort paid off in terms of athletes qualifying for state, the trip ate into the funds the teams would normally use for their state championship trip. Teams raise money through fundraising, King said.

Skiing and snowboarding is a club sport that is not funded by local schools, he said.

Many kids used their own money for a trip this past weekend to the Mt. Bachelor Ski Resort, which offered discounted tickets to help the southern Oregon athletes, he said.

"We're trying to be proactive instead of just giving up," King said.

Daily Tidings reporter Vickie Aldous can be reached at 541-479-8199 or vlaldous@yahoo.com. Follow her at www.twitter.com/VickieAldous.