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October 25, 2007


Eight freshman forestry students at the University of Maine at Fort are helping Maine Winter Sport’s 10th Mountain Ski Center modify its ski trails and spectators’ viewing area in preparation for the 2009 International Biathlon Union (IBU) World Cup event in Fort Kent. 

The proposed changes to the course were encouraged by the IBU for several reasons.  IBU regulations require a straight finish line of at least 100 meters (110 yards).  The IBU also wanted more of a climb for skiers coming into the stadium.  A new section of trail behind the existing bleachers will add four meters (13 feet) of climb to the existing hill.   

Additionally, the venue at 10th Mountain was requested to increase the spectators’ area.  The area inside the new finish trail will allow several hundred more people into the area.  Relocating the trail behind the current “camel humps,” where the trail currently is, will allow for a larger spectator there, as well.  That area perhaps offers the best view of the entire stadium, as well as a portion of the trail.  

The UMFK students are enrolled in Professor Jeff Dubis’ Forest Practices class in the University’s Forestry program.  A portion of the class’ curriculum is designed for students to learn how to safely use a chainsaw according to the principles of the Certified Logging Professional program.  It is the same program that professional loggers must complete in the state of Maine.   

The objective of the course is not to make professional loggers out of the students, but to teach them to safely use a chainsaw, if needed, and to recognize the proper use of one by others in the profession.  Additionally, the students also gain exposure to low-impact logging techniques, through the use of ATVs and associated equipment. Students participating in the project are: Andrew Pelletier (Fort Kent), Jon Morin (Fort Kent), Ken Cyr (St. Agatha), Ben Haigis (Jackman), Mike Henderson (Fort Fairfield), Ethan Pelletier (Benton), Brien Boucher (Mapleton), and Robert Griffin (Bethany, CT).

“It was fantastic to have the UMFK Forestry program students prepare a new trail for the 2009 Biathlon World Cup,” said Nancy Thibodeau, event director at 10th Mountain.  “We were glad to supply their classroom.  Everyone did a terrific job.  They all are wonderful individuals; both the students and their professor.  It was great to see them work and learn.  Our great partnership with the University continues to grow,” she added. 

The students’ work is a community service component that, while not a formal requirement of the class, is something that Dubis tries to incorporate into each class to benefit the community and the students alike. 

Much of the equipment used by the students was obtained by UMFK under two, Maine National Science Foundation forest bio-products research grants over the past two years.