Judy May was still cross-country skiing at Blow Me Down Trails less than a week ago — May 15, to be exact.
“I heard other people were up there skiing, so I thought I’d have one last kick at the can,” said May. “I must admit, I had my old skis and I walked across a few patches of grass, but I endured.”
A warm, sunny Victoria Day weekend was finally enough to convince May another ski season was officially over.
“I’m sure you can find patches of snow to ski up there, if you really wanted to,” she said. “But I’ve been gardening and picking fiddleheads and doing other things now.”
As an inductee of the Sport NL Hall of Fame back in 2011, May was automatically grandfathered in to the brand new Cross-Country Newfoundland and Labrador Hall of Fame.
She has been involved in coaching, leader training and race organization in the sport for over 30 years, including stints as provincial coach from 1991-1999 and manager from 1987-1990. She was also a coach or manager for five Canada Winter Games from 1987-2007 and has been teaching Jackrabbit Leaders courses since 1983, most recently in the National Coaching Certification Program’s Community Coaching courses.
She was also recognized by Cross Country Canada in the mid-1990s with the Firth Award, given to women who have made a contribution to skiing in Canada.
Her story, ironically, began in the United States — first in Urbana, IL, where she grew up, then to Bethel, AK when her family moved there.
“There was a fella from Vermont up there and he was skiing,” she recalled. “We were in the middle of nowhere ... we ordered skis and a book about skiing and I did some skiing there.”
She also skied in Kingston, Ont., where her family moved in 1973. She made her way to Corner Brook in the fall of 1977, where she met Dr. Jamie Graham.
“That’s how I really learned how to ski,” she said.
Her love of the outdoors fanned her passion for the sport, as did the fitness and social aspects of it.
Over her three decades involved, she said the sport has changed immeasurably, particularly in Canada. The trail systems and lodges are something she never would have imagined back when she first started. Not surprisingly, with better facilities have come better performances from Canadian athletes.
“Cross-Country Canada has definitely moved up to be competitive internationally,” she said. “People who are racing are better skiers, faster skiers.”
Though she’s not officially involved as a coach with Blow Me Down Trails anymore, she still finds time to pass on her immense knowledge of the pastime to those who want to learn. She volunteers with Gord Casey for an afterschool program at St. Peter’s Academy in Benoit’s Cove.
“Two afternoons a week, working with novice children,” she said. “So I’m still involved.”