The first week went by. Then the second and third. There was just one week left before the holiday break and there still was no snow. The fourth week sailed by without so much as a snowflake. Christmas came and went. Flakes were seen, but not enough for skiing. Then the storm Berkshire skiers had been yearning for descended upon the region and all the snowless-winter worries were buried.
With the season the nordic skiers were forced to endure last year, they're off on the right ski so far. Coincidentally, the two seasons were scheduled to start New Year's Eve. This year's will go off without a hitch, and the second race will likely be completed before the first was last season.
"Last year was horrible. I felt so bad for my seniors last year," Hoosac coach Alicia Gwozdz said. "[This year], they're really psyched. ... When you start getting into your third and fourth week of practice and there's still no snow, you start to get a little nervous. I could really kind of sense that, but we got snow and now everybody's just thrilled."
The lack of snow last year forced three of the league's four races to be held at Berkshire East -- a downhill facility. No one liked it, but it was a way to ski. This year's first race will be held today at Vermont's Prospect Mountain ski area, the site of last year's MIAA state nordic meet. And the biggest plus for the skiers: The race didn't have to be postponed.
"I hated Berkshire East races," Hoosac senior Danielle Beauchemin said. "That course was ridiculously hard just because of the downhill slopes, but Prospect's not much easier.
"It's definitely better because we're more accustomed to the Prospect trails. It's much nicer to actually ski at a cross country ski resort than it is to ski at a downhill ski resort."
The Hurricanes spent Friday at Prospect and Saturday at Notchview. For three Hoosac skiers, it was their first experience cross country skiing. Another had only used the touring or classical style.
Gwozdz spent Friday morning running them through ski-specific drills before a course walk-though in the afternoon where she explained different intricacies of the sport as they went, aspects that are difficult to duplicate during dry-land training.
"For a new kid who's never skied, the most valuable time is the first day or two you spend on the snow where they learn how it feels to have the skis on and how the ski glides over the snow. That's super important," Gwozdz said. "It took a while to get through it, we did a lot of stopping ... and talking about a lot of things.
"It's important for them to understand how to stop and go down a hill safely, that's key. So that's stuff I have to go over with them, but I think they should all be comfortable."
A team that rarely needs time to hit its midseason stride practices across the mountain in Williamstown. The Mount Greylock nordic teams are coming off state titles. The girls won their fifth straight title, while the boys won their fifth in six years.
They've spent time on roller skis and the Jiminy Peak bunny hill before the snow came. But that only goes so far. Even the state's best can have trouble staying focused and motivated when they're training on grass.
"It seems like the season is sort of completely different than last year was, which is it's kind of team-saving for us because last year was, I was just talking to my dad [boys' coach Hiram Greene], it was stressful," Greylock girls' coach Hillary Greene said. "Every day we tried to come up with special ways of how can we keep the kids motivated and focused and remembering that this is the ski team. This year, it's just totally different. We're skiing every day and having snowball fights and playing in the snow. So it's really great."
The season's second race is Saturday, Jan. 5 at Wahconah. Then it's off to Mohawk Jan. 12 before Mount Greylock's meet Jan. 19. The season finishes up with a Cherry Hill meet sandwiched by two at Notchview, the site of this year's state championship on Feb. 12.
With the forecast calling for highs in the 20s until next week, the season seems it will progress as designed. That has everyone breathing easier.
"[The snow's] just given us a chance to get the feeling back for it," Beauchemin said. "It's kind of like riding a bike, you just always know how to go back and do it again, but it's always good to have that snow time because nothing in preseason can really prepare you for exactly what it feels like to be on the snow."