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Vermont’s Jackie Hernandez hoping for World Cup test

Like many riders barreling down the snowboardcross course in Sochi, Russia, southern Vermont’s Jackie Hernandez is hoping the World Cup competition really is a test run for her to return for the 2014 Olympics at the Black Sea resort city.

Last year was a breakout season for the 20-year-old, winning six of eight Nor-Ams before wrapping up with a victory at the final World Cup.

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“Last season was unexpected,” she said by phone from Sochi. “I had really good results. This year I expected to do well but it didn’t start out the way I expected. I’m coming back and coming along.”

She’s had a trio of top-25 World Cup finishes. Her confidence rose when she won a Nor-Am at Killington, Vt., this month, which is a step below World Cup racing.

“The mental side of my game is playing more of a part this season than last,” she said. “I’m trying to work on that.”

With a need for speed from a motorcycle riding family, Hernandez went to Stratton Mountain (Vt.) School, which has produced snowboarders Louie Vito, Danny Davis, and Lindsey Jacobellis. She started as a skier at Mount Snow in Vermont when she was 5, but switched to snowboarding three years later.

“I’m really excited about being here for the test event,” she said. “I get a chance to see the mountain and see the course. Next year I hope to make the Olympic team and we can go from there.”

The US Snowboard team member from Londonderry (N.H.) likes a course with lots of glide. She first has a World Cup qualifier in Sochi on Saturday, a day before the finals.

“I like a fast course,” she said. “I’m one of the bigger girls and use that to my advantage, to carry my speed. I’m 6 feet tall, a strong girl and carry my weight down the course.”

For now, Hernandez is taking it all in. “I want to be here and will work as hard as I can to get back,” she said.

Big Squaw gets help

Dormant for two ski seasons, northern Maine’s slumbering Big Squaw ski area reawakened thanks to Mother Nature and the dedication of the nonprofit Friends of Squaw Mountain.

Shut over finances at the end of the 2009-10 season, the group formed in 2012, leased the resort from the owner for a buck, launched fund-raising efforts, and reopened the mountain outside Greenville Junction Sunday with stunning views of Moosehead Lake with one triple servicing nine trails.

“We only have three trails open now,” said Friends of Squaw Mountain president Amy Lane. “We don’t have snowmaking so we’re relying on Mother Nature.’’

Lift tickets are $25 on weekends and holidays, while donations are accepted midweek. Lane says they sold 140 tickets opening day. They’ve raised about $25,000 for operating expenses so far.

Snow plow

Two-time off-road truck driving champ Ricky Johnson is taking on winter’s snowy playground at Mount Snow in West Dover, Vt., Friday in a 900-horsepower four-wheel drive truck with 1½-inch spikes in the specially designed tires. Part of the Red Bull Frozen Rush event, Johnson will tackle a figure-eight hillcross course with six jumps and a few berms on several trails — Yard Sale, Exhibition and Eagle Alley — visible from the base area.

“These are roller jumps, nothing with a lip,” said Mount Snow’s communications manager Dave Meeker. “He’ll be able to get his tires off the ground.”

Meeker says Johnson will get a feel for the snow, course, and how the truck is handling before “ripping it up and down the mountain.”

Deals one can love

If you’re looking for a last-minute sweetheart deal for your snow bunny on the slopes, consider two-for-one at Attitash and Wildcat, $14 at Sugarbush and $14 at Mad River Glen (you have to kiss for that one).

Still seeking a honey? Take the lift of love Saturday during Black Mountain’s Chairlift Speed Dating event. There’s no high-speed detachable quad at the Jackson, N.H., ski area so there’s time to get to know each other.

Sunday River is selling $5 night skiing tickets for 4-8 p.m. Feb. 17-22.

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