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Higley Hustle ski races return to Colton

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COLTON — Cross-country skiers of all ages and abilities came to Higley Flow State Park on Sunday to compete in the Higley Hustle Ski Festival.

The races made their return after being called off last year because of a lack of snow. This season’s slight snowfall caused concern, but there was enough snow for the race to go on.

“If anywhere gets snow, it’s usually here,” said Judy A. Fuhr, a Colton resident who has helped to organize the races since they began.

The racers kept to the wide paved camp loops that run through Higley Flow State Park, where the snow had been packed densely enough to survive a bit of warm weather. The race usually takes the skiers through the park’s narrower wooded trails, but those did not have enough snow.

The festival is a Colton tradition. When the race was founded about 15 years ago, it was designed for amateurs hoping to learn more about competitive skiing. Now it draws people from all ages and skill levels.

“You get a tremendous variety of people,” Ms. Fuhr said.

The first two races began at 10 a.m., with the 5-kilometer and 10-kilometer racers starting at the same time and skiing side by side for the first part of the course.

Ethan H. Wood, 13, Saranac Lake, won the 5K race. He skis for his school team, and his coach recommended he come to Colton for the race.

“I just went out hard, then took it easy for the rest of it,” Ethan said.

The 10K race is sanctioned by the New York State Ski Racing Association, which awards points to the winners of various races that are tracked throughout the season. It draws some of the most dedicated racers in the state, Ms. Fuhr said.

“It’s a lifestyle, almost. They race every day of every weekend,” she said.

Eric W. Seyse, Scotia, competes in about 10 cross-country races every year, and he said the Higley Hustle is a perennial favorite.

“I love this course,” he said after winning the 10K race Sunday.

Mr. Seyse has been skiing since he was in eighth grade. While other people may choose to stay inside for the winter, he said, he has a better idea.

“I’d rather be out there breathing the fresh air and getting some sun,” he said.

The youngest racer in the 5K race, Adam A. Boll, 11, Potsdam, shared a similar sentiment.

“I like skiing. It’s really fun and it’s one of my favorite sports,” he said. “I like the feeling of just gliding along.”

The main races were followed by a 2.5-kilometer youth race at noon and a 5K freestyle race at 1.

The Higley Hustle is part of Colton’s Winterfest, an annual two-day event that also included sled dog, a quilt show and a community dinner.

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