As the ski world waits for Mikaela Shiffrin to become its all time World Cup champion and for the World University Games to begin its 11 days of competition this week in Lake Placid, local Section II ski racers are mainly focused on local hills and whether or not there will be enough snow to finally get the high school competition schedule underway.
A significant early-season snowstorm raised hopes in December. But since then, much of the precipitation in our area has been snow-eating rain, and temperatures have regularly been above freezing, so snowmaking has not been able to make up for what nature hasn’t provided.
The weather has played havoc with the area high school race season so far. The Nordic competitors did manage to get in a relay event just before year’s end, but the Queensbury Invitational scheduled last week at Gore had to be canceled due to lack of snow. That is especially telling because there is ample snow making at the Ski Bowl, significantly more than at the other cross country race venues in Section II that rely primarily on natural snowfall. Keeping fingers crossed for Friday and the Saratoga/Shen Invitational at Brookhaven.
The Alpine areas that host races have snowmaking, but it still requires temperatures below freezing to work efficiently. The start of competition has already been pushed back until next Monday, and there has been little opportunity for teams to train on snow so far this season.
“We were able to sneak in four days of practice before the new year,” said Shenendehowa coach Rich Burnley last week. “But I know some teams have not been on snow yet.”
With the return to colder temperatures this week, Burnley remains optimistic for the season which has now been compressed into less than a month between the first races Monday and the Section II championships Feb. 14.
SHEN GIRLS LOOKING TO REPEAT
Burnley has good reason to look forward to this winter’s races. His girls’ team is the defending state champion, led by senior Micaela Leonard, who won the individual giant slalom title a year ago. Teammate Allison Bach took third in the slalom in both the Section II championships and the state event.
Overall, the girls’ field looks especially strong this year, with Queensbury senior Meredith Montgomery, the defending state slalom champion, challenging Leonard for individual honors, and underclassmen Ava Bachta from Shaker, Piper Dock from Glens Falls and Riley Ward from Queensbury expected to show well. The preseason team championship outlook is a toss-up between Queensbury, Ballston Spa, Shenendehowa and Saratoga SPrings.
COTTER BACK TO DEFEND OVERALL STATE TITLE
On the boys’ side, Broadalbin-Perth junior Colin Cotter won the slalom title and was the overall combined champion in the state event last year. Contenders this year include James Parobeck, a junior who is expected to show well for Saratoga Springs, which won the boys’ team state championship a year ago, and Queensbury’s Hudson Montgomery, who was fifth in Section II last year as a seventh grader.
The Section II Alpine races this season are scheduled for West Mountain, Oak Mountain, Willard and Royal Mountain. Because of the World University Games events schedule, none of the high school giant slalom or slalom races will be at Gore. Some of the Nordic races, however, will be held at the Ski Bowl in North Creek.
One spectator with a special interest in the upcoming World University Games is California-based acting coach and long time television actress Caryn West.
In 1972, as a student at Stanford University, West competed in the first World University Games at Lake Placid and won the overall gold medal in the women’s Alpine competition. After completing her studies, she began a long career as an actress, best known for a recurring role in the series “In the Heat of the Night” and more recently for appearances in shows like “NCIS” and “Chicago PD.”
Will Mikaela Shiffrin become the all-time World Cup Champion before she turns 28?
The Burke Mountain (Vermont) Academy graduate, who has family in the Berkshires, has been on a tear racing in Europe recently. With her 83rd career World Cup victory, she will pass Lindsey Vonn as the all-time leader for women, and with four more, to get to 87, one more than the all-time record held by Sweden’s Ingemar Stenmark, who competed in the 1980s.
Shiffrin competed in her first World Cup race at 15, and won her first at 17. She turns 28 on March 13.
OLYMPIC MUSEUM DIRECTOR RESIGNS
Alison Haas, the longtime director of the Lake Placid Olympic Museum, has resigned.
Haas oversaw the major redesign of the 40-year-old museum that was reopened to the public just a month ago. It was the culmination of a multi-year Olympic Regional Development Authority project to bring this tribute to two Winter Olympics and more than a century-long history of winter sports in the area into a modern,appealing, visitor-friendly attraction. It is now a must-stop for those spending time in Lake Placid.
Hass served as the director of the Museum for more than a decade.
Phil Johnson can be reached at [email protected].