Mark Walters has been forced to find creative and productive ways to keep his Bemidji High School Nordic skiers busy and in shape while they and all outdoor enthusiasts in the Bemidji area await the season's first extensive snowfall.
"This is the season that just won't get going," Walters, who coaches the Lumberjacks boys and girls teams, said. "I've had slow starts before when we couldn't compete until January but we've always been able to practice on snow at least once or twice a week.
"This season we had snow when we started practice but it soon went away and from Thanksgiving to now is the longest stretch I can remember without snow," Walters said.
On Dec. 10 the Jacks did compete at a meet hosted by Mount Itasca near Coleraine. The two-kilometer course featured man-made snow and gave Bemidji's athletes the opportunity to practice their craft.
The Lumberjacks also have made a few trips to Buena Vista Ski Area to cross country ski on the downhill slopes but the majority of their workouts have not involved snow.
"We are working hard at trying to stay working hard," Walters said. "We try not to just run. We do strength workouts which involve plyometric training with resistance cords and other different things that simulate the motion of skiing."
Among the other workouts the skiers have employed are using the school's weight room, scaling the climbing wall at the Bemidji State University Rec Center and participating in a one-hour beginner's kettlebell class taught by Paul Voss at the rec center.
"We will do whatever we can do to bring something different to our workouts," the coach said. "And kettlebells is viable for strength and flexibility which are two essentials of skiing."
Voss worked with a class of 34 skiers this week and split the athletes into three groups. While one group was pedaling the workout bikes another was doing abdominal and cardio exercises. The third actually performed a kettlebell routine such as squats, presses, bicep curls, lunges and high pulls.
The athletes worked their routines for one minute and then switched stations.
"I wanted to concentrate the exercises on the legs, the core and cardio work," Voss said. "The goal was to burn calories and work on conditioning as well as we could in three-minute bursts."
Until the snow arrives Walters will continue his search for quality alternative workout options. And the Jacks may return to the rec center for another session with the kettlebells.
"My long-range plan is to have snow," Walters said. "But until we do I'll try to look for alternatives."