Team of the Week: Marblehead skiers weathering lack of snow
Fifth in a series in which the Globe profiles a varsity high school team from Eastern Massachusetts.
For most New Englanders, snow and freezing temperatures are a hassle.
The Marblehead Alpine ski team, meanwhile, is hoping for more wintry weather.
The Magician boys have won back-to-back state titles, and the girls finished second to Hingham in last year’s state meet at Berkshire East.
Snow has been hard to find locally, but Marblehead was back on the slopes in Thursday’s Mass Bay Ski League East meet at Ski Ward in Shrewsbury.
“The weather’s been challenging,” said John Thompson, in his seventh season as head coach.
Behind senior captains Sam Thompson (the coach’s son) and Maddie McKay, as well as returning All-Scholastic Courtney Pingree, the Magicians look primed to continue their success.
This year’s state meet is Feb. 27 at Wachusett Mountain in Princeton.
Here’s five things to know about Marblehead:
The Magicians are the only team in Eastern Mass. with multiple returning Globe All-Scholastics — even after the graduation of honoree Tucker Braun. Thompson returns to lead the boys’ team after a seventh-place finish at states, including fourth in the giant slalom.
Pingree is a two-time All-Scholastic. She was the top skier in the Mass Bay Ski League East last season, and placed 11th at states.
“What really separates all of our top five kids is they normally train on the weekends,” said John Thompson of his skiers, who train at mountains such as Attitash, Wildcat, Cranmore, and Sugarloaf.
In addition to Sam, there are two other Thompsons — sophomore twins Matthew and Christopher. Freshman Charlie Pingree is Courtney’s younger brother. Senior Mason Poisson is guiding his freshman brother, Remy. McKay’s younger sister, Samantha, a sophomore, is also a member of the team.
Skiing runs deep in each of these families, and the sibling competition helps everyone.
“It’s definitely funny because all of us seniors will do anything to make sure our siblings don’t beat us,” said the elder McKay.
John Thompson says his group is tight-knit, especially because the junior varsity and varsity practice together — 36 skiers in all. Off the slopes, there are fund-raisers and pasta dinners. There are also plenty of chances to bond on the bus, where the Magicians spend a lot of time.
Ski Bradford in Haverhill is 45 minutes from Marblehead High. Ski Ward is nearly 90 minutes by car. “The camaraderie and being on a bus for two-plus hours, multiple nights a week, makes them really jell,” said Thompson.
Dry land workouts
A lack of snow has resulted in subpar skiing conditions, forcing teams to cancel practices and meets. Because time on the slopes is limited, Marblehead has put an emphasis on its dry land workouts. About three times a week, the skiers hit the gym.
“Skiing is basically a sprint and you need strength as well as cardio,” said John Thompson. The Magicians split their time between Crossfit classes — to build strength in the core and legs — and spinning classes — for endurance and stamina.
“It’s pretty much an all-body workout,” Sam Thompson said.
New timing system
When they do hit the slopes, the skiers have a new toy to help sharpen their skills. In the offseason, the Magicians fund-raise in various ways, including a yard sale in which town residents donate old equipment and other items for the team to sell.
This year, the funds went toward a new Brower wireless timing system. In previous years, skiers couldn’t see their times for practice runs. Now, McKay says her teammates feel more comfortable trying new strategies because they can see immediately how they affect results.
“It definitely helps tactically,” McKay said.