Ski Lines: Challenging season for cross country so far

PHOTOGRAPHER:

From left to right, Shenendehowa cross country skiers Iris Wiedmann, Raquelle Landa and Courtney Krawiecki. (Photo provided)

So how has the season been for cross country skiers this winter?

“A rollercoaster ride.” is how Paul Zahray describes it so far at the well-known Lapland Lake Cross Country Ski Center he and wife Kathy own and operate in Northville. “We’ve had a good two rounds of nice skiing earlier this winter. But in each case, it was followed by warm and wet weather. Much of our terrain is covered, but it is not skiable.

“There is a limit to how much you can do when the temperatures sometimes reach 40 degrees.”

The modest snowfall and unusually mild weather is not peculiar to Lapland, of course. Cross country terrain throughout most of the area has been a combination of grass and mud much of the winter. Only when you go well north into the Adirondacks are some groomed trails open, and even then the Ski Bowl at Gore, where there is snowmaking, has offered just limited sliding up to now. 

In the cross country world, however, that can change in a hurry. 

“If we get a 12-inch snowfall, which normally is not unusual at this time of the year, we can go from 10% open to 90 or 100% in just a couple of days.” Zahray said last week. “Improvements, like widening and regrading trails, have helped us retain snow, and we have become very creative in moving around what we do get.”

SECTION II RACERS UNDERSTAND MOVING AROUND, TOO

Already this season, high school races at Gore and Brookhaven in Greenfield have been canceled, and other invitationals have been moved to Gore, where snowmaking has produced enough coverage to host some competition. Just four events have been held so far. Otherwise specialized training has been limited to roller skis, and even that has been difficult because of the icing and dirt on area roadways. For instance, Shenendehowa started its training in mid-November, but so far has had fewer than five days on snow.

Many of the high school Nordic racers compete in fall sports like cross country running, so the lack of snow doesn’t indicate a lack of  fitness. But it does limit work on ski technique, which is important when races begin, and that should be soon. The Section II championships are just three weeks away. 

Still, even with racing limited so far, there have been impressive performances

Shenendehowa freshman Raquelle Landa, who was sixth in the sectionals and eighth in the state meet last year as an eighth grader, has taken the two individual races so far by more than 40 seconds each time. But Glens Falls senior Clara Avery edged Landa for individual honors last week at the Johnstown/Guilderland Invitational. The Shen girls with Landa, Iris Wiedmann and Courtney Krawiecki have dominated the team scoring from the start of the season   

On the boys’ side, Glens Falls sophomore Forrest Slingerland ran away from the field at the Saratoga/Shen Invitational two weeks ago, winning by more than a minute-and-a-half over Queensbury freshman Josh Jenkin. But Jenkin’s teammate, older brother Ben Jenkin, a junior and the defending Section II champion, was away at a competition in Maine at the time. Ben Jenkin came back to take the Johnstown/Guilderland event by more than a minute over Slingerland, who had more than a two-minute edge over the third-place racer. The Queensbury boys have taken team honors each time out this season. 

The Section II championships are currently scheduled for Lapland Lake on Feb. 15. The state championships are set for the Rochester area near Bristol Mountain Feb. 27-28. Both competitions are classic style races this year. 

WORLD CUP SKI JUMPING NEXT MONTH AT LAKE PLACID

The first World Cup Ski Jumping event to be held in the U.S. since the 2002 Olympic Games in Utah will be in Lake Placid Feb. 11-12.

The Intervale site was a regular stop on the international ski jump circuit in the 1980s, but there hasn’t been a World Cup event there since 1990. The venue has undergone significant upgrades recently, and has just hosted the jumping competition in the World University Games. It is currently the only facility approved for year-round ski jumping in North America.

WOMEN’S ALPINE WORLD CUP RETURNING TO KILLINGTON

The best women ski racers in the world will be returning to Killington next November. This will be the seventh straight year for the international competition, which again will be held on Thanksgiving weekend. The two-day event has regularly drawn large crowds in the season-long competition held mostly in Europe. 

WORLD UNIVERSITY GAMES THOUGHTS

If you didn’t visit the recently concluded World University Games events at either Gore or Lake Placid, I hope that at least you saw some of the 86 events over 11 days on ESPN.

While not quite Olympic level, the competitors and the competitions were spirited, and the television coverage that aired was excellent. So was the organization and operation of the Games, so kudos to the Adirondack Sports Council, which brought the Games to our area and, in partnership with the Olympic Regional Development Authority, was in charge of the events.

While ticket sales at the Games were less than hoped and the closure of Main Street in Lake Placid hurt some local businesses, the $550 million New York State invested in venue improvements and infrastructure upgrades to host the Games are expected to provide long-term ongoing benefits to the town and the area.

Phil Johnson can be reached at [email protected].

By PHIL JOHNSON

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