Arooskis, a cross-country ski program for ages 18 and older, will return to Bangor and Waterville mid-December. The low-cost, season-long program is run by Healthy Hometowns, the community development division of the Maine Winter Sports Center, and led by experienced ski instructors.
“Arooskis helps people get out of the house one night a week and do something fun and social and active,” said Lauren Jacobs, the Health Hometowns coach who leads the programs in Bangor and Waterville.
The program began in the County about six years ago, Jacobs said; and last year, they decided to expand to Bangor and Waterville.
“It was time to scale up,” Jacobs said. “We wanted to reach more communities.”
In Bangor, the weekly classes will start at 6 p.m. each Thursday at the Bangor Municipal Golf Course; and in Waterville, the classes will start at 6 p.m. on Tuesdays at the Quarry Road Recreation Center. The evening classes were scheduled to accommodate the typical 9-to-5 work day. People of all ability levels are welcome, including those who’ve never skied before.
“Cross-country skiing is really a technique-heavy sport,” Jacobs said. “So getting instruction makes it way more fun.”
“With classic skiing — knock on wood — I can get someone on skis and within an hour, they can be moving and feeling good about it,” Jacobs said of teaching beginners.
The season-long program is $55 per person and includes basic instruction for beginner skiers, as well as more challenging workouts and technique advice for intermediate and advanced skiers. The cost also includes an Arooski T-shirt.
Both classic (traditional) cross-country skiing and skate skiing will be taught during the classes, but participants may opt to do just one or the other.
“Many adults in the outdoor community give so much of their time to help with trail building, conservation, youth programs and other projects,” Jacobs said. “Arooskis is sort of our way of giving back to those adults; it’s something just for them, and it’s also a way to help get more people involved in the outdoors.”
“Plus parents are much more willing to bring kids to outdoor programs if they’re into it themselves,” she added.
The program does not provide ski equipment. However, many local outfitters and recreation centers offer rental skis.
The first lesson in Bangor will be at 6 p.m. Dec. 12 at the Bangor Municipal Golf Course; and the first lesson in Waterville will be at 6. p.m. Dec. 10 at the Quarry Road Recreation Area. Both lessons will take place regardless of snow conditions.
“We’ll start anyway, even if there’s no snow,” Jacobs said. “We’ll just do fun, on-foot stuff.”
While the lessons are typically held at the same spot each week, some sessions may be held at other area trails, depending on conditions. Participants will also have the opportunity to attend a variety of events and trips throughout the winter, where they will meet “Arooskis” from other parts of the state.
This is the second year that the Bangor Municipal Golf Course will be groomed for skiing, a joint effort by the Penobscot Valley Ski Club and Bangor Parks and Recreation. For the evening Arooskis classes, instruction and games are usually at the lit driving range, though participants are asked to bring headlamps to light the way on dark stretches of trail.
Registered participants will receive weekly email updates. Typically, Jacobs will pick a theme or specific skill to work on each week. The class starts with stretching and instruction (sometimes games), then participants have time to break off into groups or ski on their own. The lesson typically lasts about an hour and a half, depending on the weather.
“Last year was fun,” Jacobs said. “We had a small crew, but I think we’re going to have a bigger group this year.”