New director on board at Nordic center

Written by Dick Mason, The Observer December 09, 2011 08:01 pm

New Nordic Center Director Elishah Thomas  learned to ski while growing up in Central Oregon. ANTHONY LAKES photo
New Nordic Center Director Elishah Thomas learned to ski while growing up in Central Oregon. ANTHONY LAKES photo

Wooden skis and bamboo poles were popular when the lodge now housing the Nordic Center at Anthony Lakes was built in the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps.

A lot has changed on the Nordic ski front at Anthony Lakes since then. In fact, a lot has changed in just the past three months.

For starters the Nordic Center has a new director, Elishah Thomas. She is succeeding Dick Knowles, who led the cross country program at Anthony Lakes for at least the past 15 years and played a key role in its noteworthy development.

“Dick left some very big shoes to fill,’’ Thomas said.

Sunset Magazine recognized the Anthony Lakes Nordic ski area earlier this year. The magazine rated it one of the five best Nordic ski areas that adjoins an alpine ski area in North America.

Knowles is now a consultant for Anthony Lakes. He is advising Thomas as she helps make several promising additions to the Nordic ski area. Theses include Mud Lake Trail, a relatively short groomed trail where dogs are allowed. Skiers and snowshoers are not charged for using the trail, but they are asked to clean up after their dogs. 

Sunset Magazine recognized the Anthony Lakes Nordic ski area earlier this year. The magazine rated it one of the five best Nordic ski areas that adjoins an alpine ski area in North America.
Sunset Magazine recognized the Anthony Lakes Nordic ski area earlier this year. The magazine rated it one of the five best Nordic ski areas that adjoins an alpine ski area in North America.
 

Another new twist at the cross country ski area involves its Nordic Center building. Seating, a couch and tables have been added to the upstairs, which is now open to the public. The Nordic Center is designed to be a place where families can relax and eat in comfort, Thomas said.

A second upgrade at the Nordic Center is the addition of food and beverages. Burritos, a soup of the day, products from Kneads Bakery in La Grande and homemade Dutch cookies are available.

Thomas has been the Nordic Center director for only about three months, but she is not new to the Anthony Lakes Ski Area. Thomas has worked at Anthony Lakes three years and previously was its ticket booth and events coordinator. She credits Knowles with doing a good job preparing her to take over as the Nordic Center director. Thomas said Knowles was prepping her before she realized it.

“Dick would things like, ‘Now it will be important for you to know this,’ and I would not know what he meant.’’

Thomas, like Knowles, is a lifelong skier. She learned to ski while growing up in Central Oregon. She credits Kim Meeder of Bend, a former member of the U.S. Olympic team, with inspiring her to learn how to ski.

“She touched my life. She is an amazing person,’’ Thomas said. 

Meeker was a member of the U.S. Olympic biathlon team. The biathlon involves Nordic skiing and firing at targets with a rifle.

Thomas said Meeker taught her to embrace skiing as a lifelong recreational activity and taught her a lot about technique.

“She made me a more efficient skier,’’ Thomas said.

One thing Thomas likes about skiing is the serenity she feels when outdoors in the snow.

“I like the peacefulness and the quiet comfort the snow adds,’’ she said.

Thomas, a graduate of Colorado Christian University, is focusing on ways to make it easier for families and their children to get involved in skiing. She wants to make it easy for people to have the chance to find out whether they like Nordic skiing.

“We want to provide opportunities for people to learn how to ski without feeling intimidated.’’

This is why one of the events she is helping add this season is Celebrate Nordic, which runs Jan. 7. Free equipment rentals, Nordic skiing clinics and use of trails will be offered. Prizes and free food will also be provided.

As the Nordic Center director, Thomas oversees an area that has 30 kilometers of groomed trails.

She is looking forward to the challenge.

“I am extremely grateful to have the opportunity,.’’ said Thomas, who lives in Baker City with her husband, Patrick, and their two children.

Mike Gooderham, a member of the Anthony Lakes Ski Patrol, said the Nordic ski area is in very good hands with Thomas at the helm, an individual he said is excellent at connecting with people.

“She is an outstanding people person, enjoys Nordic skiing and has a lot of enthusiasm for managing and running a ski area,’’ Gooderham said.

Anthony Lakes’ Nordic ski area is will be open this weekend from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

Its holiday schedule runs from Dec. 15 through Jan. 1. The Nordic ski area will be open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. each day during this time except on Christmas Day when it will be closed and on Dec. 24 when closes at 1 p.m.

After Jan. 1 the Nordic ski area will be open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Thursday through Sunday.