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NORDIC SKI SPEED RECORD FALLS IN RUMFORD ME

Nordic Ski Record
Photo credit: Marie Gauvin

Contact:          

Carl Zurhorst
757 Hancock Street
Rumford, Me 04276
Cell: 207-418-8286
Home: 207-364-3918

BLACK MOUNTAIN OF MAINE-RUMFORD
On Sunday March 14, Mountain Valley High School senior and Mountain Valley Athletic Conference Skimeister, Carl Zurhorst, succeeded in breaking the previous world speed record for Nordic skis of 52 miles per hour held, 'unofficially', by US Olympic Nordic Ski Team member and Nordic World Cup competitor, Andy Newell.

The speed record attempt, held well-before Rumford's Black Mountain of Maine opened for the day, attracted a crowd of about a dozen hearty supporters and nearly the same number of safety and technical personnel as freezing rain changed to drizzle, then to more steady rain. Zurhorst turned-in a new record speed of 55 mph before the rain halted further attempts.

"Back in October I contacted Guinness about getting the record attempt certified and they said they were interested. The week before the attempt, I was e-mailed by the Guinness' regional representative who told me the decision had been made to not recognize an absolute speed record on Nordic skis, since they were not intended for high speed and Guinness did not want to differentiate between types of skis. That was a disappointment, but I'm going to appeal the decision on the grounds that they recognize absolute speed records for different types of cars. If the appeal is rejected, I'll look for another record-granting organization. Now I understand why Andy's record was never declared 'official'," said Zurhorst.

Zurhorst explained the difference in skis. “Downhill, or Alpine, skis are about 3½ inches average width and have metal edges and an hourglass shape to help control and turn the skis. Alpine boots are rigid with very firm ankle support and the bindings hold the boots to the skis to work as a unit. Nordic, or cross-country, racing skis are about 1½ inches wide, have all straight, plastic bases without metal edges. Nordic boots are flexible to help the skier propel themselves and Nordic bindings are designed without a heel clip so the foot can flex forward. This difference is what makes going fast downhill on Nordic skis such a challenge.”

The rain, which started 30 minutes before the first run was scheduled, caused concern that the attempt might not be possible. Zurhorst discussed the conditions with Black Mountain of Maine General Manager, Jim Carter. The main trail had just been groomed and Zurhorst felt the overall conditions were ideal. He and Carter agreed, and the decision was made to go ahead with the attempt. Zurhorst, wearing a bright orange and black Alpine racing suit, back protector and helmet, along with Nordic racing skate skis and Nordic racing boots, made a series of trial runs, then got down to business and bested Newell's record by 3 mph.

"When the speed gun locked on him, he was already doing 50, and quickly increased to 55. He was still accelerating, but I couldn't follow him without losing my footing," said Zurhorst's father, Craig, who operated the laser speed gun. With the rain coming down harder, and the record broken, the decision was made to stop any further attempts. "They got the speed gun's display showing 55 on video and that’s what we needed," said the new record-holder.

"It was a good smooth run. If the weather had cooperated I would have made at least one more, which I am fairly certain would have put me over 60," said Zurhorst. "Visibility wasn't great, but the bigger problem was that the snow started warming up and I was rutting-up the fastest line, but it was still very fast and it felt good."

Zurhorst said the cooperation and support he received for making this attempt was remarkable. "Black Mountain's General Manager, Jim Carter had to make sure the mountain wouldn't be liable if I got hurt, but he helped me work through what I needed to do to meet the requirements...this is just the way Black Mountain works and what makes it such a special place. I understand the mountain's Board of Directors was also very supportive, as was the Chisholm Ski Club. I want to thank Laurieann Milligan from MedCare Ambulance who agreed to sponsor this attempt in exchange for my working to promote information about Sudden Cardiac Arrest at the high school, and the MedCare personnel, Nicole Barnett and Kristine Tracy, who were stationed at the mountain for the event. I couldn't have done this without help from ski patrollers Mike Papsadora, who also ran the video camera and Chris Dixon, who got me to the top of the hill by snowmobile, both of these great guys donated their time. Dr. Tom DeLuca from River Valley Internal Medicine, his family, and Dr. Michael Gravatt from Swift River Family Medicine were there, as was Peter Chase from the Rumford Fire Department. I knew I was well-covered if I got in trouble. Finally, Jeff Knight and the Black Mountain operations crew had the run groomed perfectly."

Zurhorst continued, "The Fischer RCS skis I was on for the record have some cool history. They belonged to Justin Easter who raced for the Subaru Factory Nordic Race Team. His dad, Randy, who is  a member of the Chisholm Ski Club and a highly-regarded timing and scoring expert, was kind enough to offer them to me and they worked like a charm. I was looking for a longer, stiffer ski with low camber to help track better at higher speeds...I couldn't have asked for anything better. My back protector was loaned to me by another Justin, Justin Jacques, whose dad, Ronnie, is one of the owners of the Ski Depot and RaceSkis.com in Jay. Everyone at Ski Depot was rooting for me and offered some very valuable advice when I first mentioned I was going to make this attempt. Another ski shop that was there for me was Akers Ski in Andover. Tim Akers and his team have always taken great care of me and were ready to get me set up with skis if I had needed them. Corey Jacques, who is with the Lewiston Police Department, has been a friend of our family for a long time and his wife, Stephany, is my dance instructor. Corey was able to get permission to provide a laser speed gun for the attempt, which made proving I broke the record possible. Kevin Sarle who is graduating with me this year, provided me with a helmet-mounted video camera to record my point-of-view during the runs.  I also want to thank my Mom, Dad, and my brother, Erich for supporting this. Most parents would have told me I was out of my mind and wouldn't have allowed it. Instead, they told me I was out of my mind and to be careful. I want to thank everyone who showed up in the rain to see the attempt. I'm glad I was able to put on a good show for them! Finally, to everyone who supported me on Facebook, thanks, I wish you could have been there."

Then there is the question, 'why did he do it?' Zurhorst had a good answer. "I really wanted to generate good publicity for Black Mountain of Maine. But, because the mountain couldn't permit this attempt unless it was a private event, that wasn't possible in the media. In spite of that, I did attract a strong following for it on my Facebook page and I hope this speed record will help promote the mountain as news gets out about it. I have to say that I also did this because it was there to do. It was a fun challenge I could tackle. I also thought, 'hey, maybe this will get the attention of some college Nordic coaches.' Honestly, though, they're just as likely to think I'm crazy for trying this."

Zurhorst concluded with this about Black Mountain of Maine. "I'm really proud of what Black Mountain of Maine does for Rumford and the region. They are being true to their mission to re-establish skiing as a lifestyle here in the River Valley by providing really wonderful and affordable family skiing. This year's K-1-2 free season pass program , along with the after-school free skiing and the public free skiing sponsored by local businesses are all very important to creating a healthier region. The Nordic race events the mountain attracts are great for the economy and, because the Chisholm Ski Club is so good at managing these races, the reputation Black Mountain brings to the area is outstanding. With the National Cross Country Championships awarded to Black Mountain of Maine for the next two years, these events are going to give our area even more positive exposure. I hope everyone in the area is ready to make the most of it, it’s going to be a big deal."