Club of the Year: This award is given annually to honor a NENSA club that is making great strides in supporting the NENSA mission to sustain a vital and active nordic skiing community in New England.
Our NENSA 2020 Club of the Year is Holderness Nordic!
When NENSA hosts an Eastern Cup at Holderness School we know it will be both an outstanding and an inclusive event. The Holderness Nordic race organizers encourage high school racers to join, who typically may have never skied in an Eastern Cup before, as well as also having a robust Masters participation. Holderness Eastern Cups always include BKL races, and in the past few years, they have made a wonderful CXC (cross country cross) course with fun jumps, bumps, gates and tunnels to ski through, even incorporating one of those jumps into our Eastern Cup loop as an option for the older skiers! The Holderness School and the Holderness Nordic Club are intertwined – the coaches, trails, the whole infrastructure – and this full community support shines brightly at every event they do!
The Cheri Walsh Memorial Eastern Cup race, always held in February, and historically, our final race of the season, has also been the spot where NENSA typically names our Junior National Team. Holderness Head of School Phil Peck and Holderness Nordic Club Leader Peter Hendel always make sure that there is a fun raffle, filled with lots of great prizes, for ALL participants racing that day, as a fun and inclusive way to keep the celebration going before naming the New England JN Team.
“Holderness always embraced the concept of making a ski race a Festival — recent terrain park additions to BKL and top-junior racing naturally complements the vibe of their events — and helps guide XC Skiing into the future.” Justin Beckwith, NENSA Competitive Program Director
But their commitment to the Cheri Walsh Memorial Eastern Cup race is not the only reason that Holderness Nordic Ski Club rose to the top of our NENSA Club Award nominees this year. Holderness Nordic has it all – the staff, the support of the entire school community, and fun “old school” trails. But they are also looking to the future with a new John Morton homologated 2.5k loop and sprint course, snowmaking, and lights all coming to fruition this coming year, thanks to the generosity of an alum. The goal is to still keep the trails playful and fun to ski on!
Holderness Nordic embraces their love of cross country skiing in everything they do. This New Hampshire club of about 30 BKL & middle school athletes and 20 high school athletes has a lot of history surrounding it, and the folks running it. The coaching staff, led by former U.S. Nordic Team Coach Pat Casey, is also remarkable. Current coaches include Olympian Kristina Joder Casey and NENSA trustee Peter Hendel. Head of School Phil Peck, who was also a World Cup skier and Olympic coach, makes time to ski with the team when he can as well.
Fall Training 2020
Thirty-seven years ago Phil Peck came to Holderness from coaching with the US Team. He wanted to coach young athletes and also teach. The only school in the country he wanted to work at was Holderness because of the balance of academic and snow sports excellence. Phil was blessed to coach with wonderful coaches like Dennis Donahue, Steve Gaskill, and Peter Hendel. One challenging snow year during the late 80’s Holderness hosted 3 Eastern Cup Races, the Nordic Combined Championships, and two college carnivals.
While Phil moved out of coaching at Holderness to become head of school 20 years ago, Peter Hendel has never left the program and has been the “quarterback” of 30 Cheri Walsh Memorial Eastern Cup races. Before Peter started teaching and coaching at Holderness, he led the club’s Bill Koch program. Now, in “retirement” Peter is the culture keeper of Holderness Nordic. He works with their remarkable Bill Koch Club coordinator (and Holderness graduate) Molly Whitcomb and Frosty Whitworth to support the BKL program and robust middle school program. Peter also assists the terrific Director of the Holderness Nordic Program, Pat Casey, AND he is the assistant groomer. Peter is the behind the scenes force who has given tirelessly of himself to the Holderness school and Nordic Club Program for almost 40 years.
Kristina Casey describes Peter as, “A dream – gentle, kind, gets everything done – he has such a passion for the sport”
Phil sums it up well saying, “Peter Hedel is a rock star. He loves coaching and is super excited about the middle school coaching he is now doing. Peter does not want any attention – he wants to serve.”
Coach Peter Hendel going over some logistics with his team
For the last eleven years, Peter has supported the Holderness School Nordic Head Coach Pat Casey. The Nordic program at Holderness School has a long tradition of producing world-class athletes, and Pat has been an incredible asset to that program. He and his wife, Kristina, have been especially impactful in their outreach to the local community. Working with Molly Whitcomb, they are providing training options for Holderness Nordic Club members, especially middle school and high school, year round. Pat has also played a pivotal role (working with John Morton) in helping Holderness envision how they can transform their playful “old school” trails into a world class facility that still has that Holderness feel. These new trails, and the snowmaking will all be in place for the opening of the 2021-22 ski season.
Coach Pat Casey (center) with Holderness School coaches Disney and Duran
Phil Peck comments, “What I love about Pat is that he is so capable – as a coach and leader. He is unpretentious. As the saying goes – confidence is grounded in humility – Pat exudes that! He has a huge work ethic, never draws attention to himself – it’s all about the kids and making the program better.”
Kristina Casey talks fondly about her husband Pat and Peter Hendel’s working relationship, “They work so well together – they admire each other SO much – it’s business, but it’s not. They are both psyched to being doing what they are doing”
Phil on Peter & Pat as a team: “They energize each other! Peter is continually growing and learning new things – they feed off of each other in a really positive way”
Congratulations to Holderness Nordic, your entire coaching staff and community for being the NENSA 2020 Club of the Year! Holderness Nordic truly is a community and a family affair. Here’s to your incredible past and to your future! Thank you from all of us who have benefited so greatly from your club and your events over the years. We can not thank you enough, and we can’t wait to get out and ski on those new trails a year from now!