Smooth as silk — maybe even smoother.
This is how Freddie Anderson skis, which is quite amazing for somebody who will have her 90th birthday on Wednesday.
Anderson and her daughter Christina are co-directors of the Schenectady Ski School at Maple Ski Ridge in Rotterdam.
Freddie founded the school in 1950, and she’s been sharing her love of skiing with thousands of people ever since — and setting some records along the way.
“To the best of our knowledge, it is now the longest-operating ski school in the country under the leadership of the same director,” said Chrstina.
And this director doesn’t sit behind a ski school desk all day. She’s on the hill with her students.
A week ago, I visited Maple Ski Ridge and observed Anderson teaching a married couple in a private lesson.
As I watched her lead the students down a gentle slope, I was impressed by her classic style — her stance, balance, hand position and edge control all part of it. And then I thought, what a wonder it is that she is skiing at all, and not just because she’s turning 90.
One year ago, Anderson’s ankle was shattered when an out-of-control, first-day snowboarder smashed into her. Friends of Freddie everywhere wondered if she’d ever ski or teach again.
It seemed her age was against her, but Anderson was determined to defy the odds. She worked tirelessly at rehabilitation during the offseason, working out in the gym and on the tennis court. In the late fall, she cleared a major hurdle when the swelling in her ankle went down enough to enable her to get her ski boot on.
When the snow came, she picked up where she left off last season.
“I don’t think I have ever had such good movement patterns as I have this year, and it’s due to the equipment,” she said prior to her lesson, which was being filmed by WXXA Fox 23 for broadcast at 10:30 p.m. Tuesday.
Anderson thinks her state-of-the-art shaped skis deserve a lot of credit.
“They just turn so effortlessly, and I’ve never felt more comfortable on the snow,” she said.
But to her easy turning skis, Anderson brings 87 years of on-snow experience, which began when she was 3 and sliding down hills on the Mohawk Golf Course in Niskayuna.
Asked what she most enjoys about teaching, Anderson said, “Bringing others into the feeling of pleasure that I have from being out on the snow and enjoying the mountains.”
Her students that day were Dr. Justin Hurlburt and his wife, Blythe, residents of East Greenbush. They had skied a little 15 years ago, and signed up for private lessons at Maple Ski Ridge because they wanted a refresher.
“It’s very exciting because I decided to go back to skiing, and I’m turning 40 this year,” Blythe said. “It was very motivating to have someone who is a little bit older than me — shall we say — whipping around and getting everything moving for me again.”
“It’s all we can do to keep up with her when she’s going down the hill,” said Hurlburt, dental director at Hometown health in Schenectady. “It’s our fifth lesson, and she’s got us going up to the top.”
“There were times when I wanted to take a little break and she’d be, ‘Nope, let’s go, you can do it and we’re ready,’ ” Blythe said. “She keeps us entertained with her ski stories, and it’s very inspirational.”
Without Freddie Anderson, there probably wouldn’t be a Maple Ski Ridge.
George Mulyca, whose family owns Maple Ski Ridge, said she was the inspiration for the ski area.
“In the 1950s, we had a rope tow on our farm just for family and friends,” he explained. “Freddie came and saw what we had, and said we should open as a ski area.”
Anderson had started her teaching career as an amateur instructor with the Schenectady Wintersports Club in 1944. She founded the Schenectady Ski School in 1950, giving lessons at the Schenectady Municipal Golf Course.
When the Mulycas opened Maple Ski Ridge in 1966, Anderson established her ski school there. A double chairlift was built in 1972. and a triple chairlift was added in 1989. The area is currently in the names of George’s daughters, Carolyn, who is the maintenance supervisor, and Marilyn, who is the bookkeeper.
Maple Ski Ridge employs 51 people. The ski school has 90 instructors, including some who are in training.
“We are very strong proponents of the Professional Ski Instructors of America, and we encourage our senior staff to become members and take advantage of the training that PSIA offers,” said Anderson, herself an honorary life member of PSIA.
The school handles some 1,500 students per week, including school groups, and Anderson said she couldn’t run the operation without her daughter as a partner.
“Christina is so competent in every respect as a professional teacher and a professional business person,” she said.
Freddie’s excellence as a teacher has not gone unnoticed over the years. In 2006, Ski Magazine named her one of “10 great instructors [in the country] to bring out your best.” In the announcement, Ski pointed out that “young instructors follow her downhill the way a royal court would follow their queen.”
In April, Freddie and daughters Christina and Carla (an instructor at Breckenridge, Colo.) plan to attend a national PSIA conference in Aspen, Colo. As a 50-year PSIA member, Freddie will be given special recognition at the event.
Royal Mountain owner Jim Blaise isn’t hoping for more snow for Presidents’ Week Feb. 19-27.
“I don’t care if we get another storm or not,” he said. “We’ve got all the snow we need, all trails and lifts will be open and I’m just hoping for nine nice days of sunshine.”
Royal will be open 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. each day, and people can ski or ride any five days during that period for $125.
The Sports Page Ski Shop in Queensbury was recently presented an award for “Best Backshop Ski Tuning” in the nation. The shop was one of 10 in the country to receive recognition for various achievements at the Snowspsorts Industries America trade show in Denver, Colo.
Sports Page was nominated for the award by ski industry manufacturers and representatives. The shop was founded in 1982 by former racer Gary Higley and his wife, Susan. Today, Gary, Susan and sons Justin and Andrew, also former racers, run the store and shop.
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