Warm weather, wax and wicked courses were foremost on the minds of skiers and coaches on Sunday, the day before the start of the Junior National Cross Country Ski Championships at Birch Hill in Fairbanks.
Many of 362 athletes and 85 coaches from across America went through final preparations Sunday at the Jim Whisenhant Ski Trails. Competition begins Monday with an interval start freestyle race.
New England region skier Koby Gordon, 16 and Henry Harmeyer, 15, did some final training on Sunday morning and the trails, including Monday's Black Funk 5-kilometer course, left an impression.
"They're harder than back East, I'd say," Gordon said.
The Black Funk route features 580 feet of climbing per lap. Girls and the youngest boys will ski one lap while the older boys will ski two laps.
Madison Keeffe, 17, of Steamboat Springs, Colo., didn't sound too intimidated.
"I like the hills. They're super steep and have technical downhills," she said. "They're challenging in a good way."
Keeffe has never skied in Fairbanks but has competed in Anchorage, where she struggled with cold weather and frozen toes. She was therefore pleased by the unseasonably warm temperatures, which reached into the 40s on Friday and above freezing on Saturday.
Sunday morning, the temperature was a still-pleasant 21 degrees. The forecast calls for declining temperatures throughout the week but nothing that would threaten the races.