The Daily Gazette
The Locally Owned Voice Of The Capital Region
Philip Johnson's Ski-Lines
by Philip Johnson


A Daily Gazette sports blog
Ski season in Upstate NY

Despite the cold, it was a good ski season

It was spring skiing safari time last weekend, and the destination was Mt. Snow. Vt., with sidekick Skyler, 5, (“Almost 6!” ) along for the adventure. For her, it is not about the waning of the ski season, it is just another opportunity to have fun outdoors.
She has come a long way on skis this winter, moving up from mostly “a piece of pizza” (snowplow technique) on novice slopes to “French fries” (parallel skiing) on intermediate trails. And she loves her days on the hill.
We were in for a surprise this time. Instead of soft snow and a relaxing time on the ski deck that you would expect at this time of year, it was mid-winter conditions on the hill — great mid winter conditions — with packed powder, no crunch underfoot and snow coverage top to bottom, side to side over the whole mountain layout. Even the glade trails still had full cover.
It wasn’t sunscreen weather, but it was certainly comfortable, especially compared to what we have had earlier this winter. Based on what we experienced, unless we get warm rain in the next couple of weeks, April is going to offer the best spring skiing we’ve seen in years.
We deserve it.
With comfortable day-time temperatures, ski surfaces soften up and make the mountains easy to maneuver. Then, as the temperatures drop after dark, the snow cover firms up and groomers can prepare the surface like new for the morning. As a bonus this time of year, many people, especially those living to our south, have packed in their gear for the season, leaving a lot more room on the slopes (and in parking lots) at our favorite areas.
Overall, it was a good ski season in the Northeast, es­pecially when it had to be. Cold weather in November allowed ski areas to build a good base well before the holidays. And despite colder than normal temperatures for much of the season, the snowstorms we received came at perfect times — before the Christmas-New Year holiday, Martin Luther King weekend and the Pres­idents’ week school break in February when people could get to the hills.
Of course, it is always an exciting year when there is a Winter Olympics. And, despite concerns before the Games, the competitions went off just fine.
The U.S. showed very well in snowsports. The U.S. Alpine ski team earned eight medals, including another surprise from Lake Placid’s Andrew Weibrecht. Teenager Mikaela Shiffrin and world champion Ted Ligety were gold medalists, and will be back to lead a good U.S. team that should once again include Lindsey Vonn who, assuming her knee rehabilitation goes well, should end up as the most successful alpine skier of all time by the end of next year.
In snowboard and slopestyle skiing, a young contingent of U.S. athletes did well. An exception was veteran Shawn White, who did not win the medal he expected. The U.S. Nordic skiers, however, were a disappointment, especially Kikkan Randall, who was expected to win the first medal ever in women’s competition, but failed to even make the final of her strongest event. A week later, she won a World Cup race in Finland. Few people noticed.
Two people who will be missed next winter are Nordic combined athlete Bill Demong of Vermontville, near Saranac Lake, and bronze medal mogul skier Hannah Kearney of Norwich, Vt. Both are former Olympic gold medalists who had hoped to repeat this winter. Neither did. Both announced their retirement from competition after the Games and, in calling it quits, the U.S. loses two of its classiest athletes on the international sports scene.
Locally, area natives Bill Enos, originally from Rotterdam, and Schenectady native Tuffy LaTour earned kudos for the performances of their athletes in snowboard and skeleton, respectively. Both should be back for more next year.
It was a good season for our local ski areas, too. West Mountain seemed to rally from some hard times in recent seasons and new management has some ambitious plans for the Queensbury area. Oak Mountain in Speculator had a second consecutive good year under its new ownership and Hickory, outside of Warrensburg, showed some signs of life operating several days after snowstorms, a major advance over the past couple of years, where it had almost no activity whatsoever.
Willard Mountain in Easton reported good results. Royal Mountain in Caroga Lake was both reliable and good, as always, under 40-plus-year owner-manager Jim Blaise.
It doesn’t seem like there could be a ski season in our area without Freddie Anderson giving lessons at Maple Ridge. The 93-year-old longtime head of the Schenectady Ski School had some health issues that kept her away from the hill much of the winter. Let’s hope she can get back to sliding when the lifts start spinning again.
We’ve have good skiing now since late last November. Now, it is call-ahead season. There is plenty of good snow left on the ski hills but it pays to check before heading out for your own spring adventure. I’m looking forward to more as we head into spring. But for now, this will be a wrap for Ski Lines this season. Enjoy the months of bad sliding.

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