Published February 19, 2009, 07:16 PM

Northwestern skier second in state

Crawl, walk, ski. That was the progression for Northwestern High School student Nicolette Amber.

By: Emily Kram, Superior Telegram

Crawl, walk, ski. That was the progression for Northwestern High School student Nicolette Amber.

“I learned to ski after I learned to walk, like right away,” Nicolette said. “Both of my parents skied, so my mom would snowshoe trails in the yard, and we had little skis, my sister and I. We would just go out and ski in the yard together.”

Nicolette’s rapid development as a skier has continued. This year as a freshman, she placed second in the overall pursuit among 104 racers at the Wisconsin High School Nordic Championships Feb. 7 at the Minocqua Winter Park Trails. Nicolette finished third in the classic race and second in skate to earn second overall in the state competition.

“She’s a born skier,” said Paul Amber, Nicolette’s father. “It has been fun to watch her progress and evolve through the years.”

Northwestern has no Nordic team, so Nicolette races with the Hayward High School ski team. Nearly every day after school, her mother shuttles her to and from practice. But when Nicolette isn’t training with her Hurricane teammates, she skis trails much closer to home.

“There are actually trails like 10 minutes down the road that way,” Amber said, gesturing toward Brule. “That was where I skied my whole life when I was little.”

Nicolette and her younger sister, Olivia, skied at the Afterhours Ski Trails after mastering the paths in their front yard. Ski trips on the Brule trails became a family event once the two sisters joined their parents on the “grown-up” trails.

During that time, Amber, a guidance counselor at NHS, taught both of his daughters to ski without poles. When children learn to cross country ski, Amber said, they often rely on the poles for balance instead of developing that ability naturally. Neither of his daughters use poles while skiing until fourth grade.

By the time Nicolette and Olivia picked up poles for the first time, they had almost perfect balance and were faster than all of their peers.

Next year, both sisters will look to make a splash at the high school level.

Olivia finished first in the state in the middle school division this year as an eighth-grader. She had the fastest time on the classic course of all racers, both boys and girls.

Last year, Nicolette and her younger sister finished first and second in the middle school division.

“I really love skiing,” Nicolette said. “It’s my favorite thing to do; that’s why I continued with it. It’s not just about the racing, I just love to ski. It’s a fun activity.”

However, Nicolette is also a competitive person and sets high goals for herself. Each race, she examines her technique to see what she did well and what can be improved. Nicolette can tell when she has skied a good race, and when she has done her best, she considers it a success no matter where she places.

“She works hard at it,” Amber said. “Every race she goes into she learns something.”

When the ground isn’t covered with snow, Nicolette can be found running or roller-skiing. She ran for the NHS cross country team this fall and plans to go out for the track team this spring. When school is out for the summer, Nicolette continues running but also adds roller-skiing to her routine.

“That’s a big part of our training,” she said. “It’s different being on pavement. I’m always more cautious being on pavement because if you fall, it’s a lot different than being on snow.”

The surface aside, Nicolette said roller-skiing is very similar mechanically to traditional skiing.

“That’s partially whey we do it, to work on technique and keep those muscles active,” she said.

Nicolette will have one of the biggest experiences of her life in March when she competes in a Junior Nationals event in Trukee, Calif. She made the Midwest Junior National Nordic Ski Team by accumulating points in a series of qualifying races. The competition runs March 5-15, and Nicolette is looking for sponsors. She can be contacted at (715) 374-3364 or via mail at 7215 County Road S, Lake Nebagamon, WI 54849.