With school cancelled Wednesday because of heavy snow, Esko senior Paige Tranah was most likely on her skis.
"If the mountain is open, I'll be there," said Tranah, who has been skiing since age 2. "You can't pass up a snow day."
Just days earlier, Tranah was in Winter Park, Colo., honing her downhill skills over Thanksgiving break as a part of the Duluth Superior Alpine Club's fall training camp.
Tranah's roommate over the extended trip was schoolmate Sarah Severson, while classmate Alex DeRocher brought his talents to the nearby Copper, Colo., ski resort.
All three travelled to the Rocky Mountains in hopes of getting on snow earlier than in Minnesota, but with the recent foot-plus snowfall at home, the trio is again set to command this year's Cloquet-Esko-Carlton alpine ski team.
Both DeRocher, a senior, and Severson, a junior, teamed together as just two of 177 racers to enter last winter's single-class state meet at Giants Ridge in Biwabik, Minn.
DeRocher, a three-year state entrant who missed a gate and finished his two-run time at 1 minute, 34.11 seconds last February, said he's gotten new slalom skis since and is on a mission to accomplish his best-ever high school season yet.
"I have high expectations," said the 6-foot, 175-pound DeRocher, a Lumberjacks varsity skier since seventh grade.
Seventh grade is when 12th-year CEC Coach Ryan Zimny selected Severson to race. Like DeRocher, she struggled in her second state meet last year, clocking a dual-run time in 2:20.38 -- despite a problematic pair of skis.
"It was high nerves," admitted Severson over the phone Tuesday night on her way home from Colorado. "My goal has always been to get to State, but now I want to perform."
Tranah's section performance was 16th overall last year, just one spot from advancing to her second-ever state race.
"It was devastating," she said. "All I knew was that I have my senior year. I'm really pushing to go this season."
The big three will lead the Lumberjacks this season, but veteran girls including Cloquet's Kaitlyn Knutson, Carly Boder and Carlton's Tori Anderson will all contribute, while Esko's Sam Sinnott and Cloquet's Jack Fossen will help pace the boys.
As for Wednesday, Tranah was eager to enjoy the snow.
"Skiing is something I've done all of my life," she said.
"I love going out to ski," added DeRocher. "I'll talk to my friends. It'll be a good opportunity to make some turns."