Ski Lines: Section II season gets underway

Phil Johnson's weekly ski column
Mayfield High School skiier Madison Relyea.
Mayfield High School skiier Madison Relyea.

Categories: High School Sports, Sports

Ready or not, the Section II ski race schedule gets rolling this week with both the Alpine and Nordic racers set to compete.

After a great late fall start to the season that allowed competitors to get on snow early, recent warm and rainy conditions have made training opportunities more difficult. The emphasis in recent years on snowmaking at area hills has kept the Alpine racers training regularly, but the biggest benefit so far has come from snow guns now in place at the North Creek Ski Bowl that have provided uninterrupted coverage for Nordic training.

This is a Classic style race year for the cross country skiers who had a meet earlier this month at the Ski Bowl. Paul Lindsey of Lake George just edged Hadley-Luzerne ‘s Erik Schreiner by 0.2 seconds for individual honors in the boys’ race. Queensbury took team honors, led by Aidan Rowley and Lucas Jenkin. Also competing for Queensbury this winter is Bryce Beyerbach, whose brother Brian finished second in the state championships last year as a senior. 

On the girls’ side, Mayfield sophomore Madison Relyea made a smooth transition from cross country running to cross country skiing with a second-place finish just behind a Rochester-area competitor. Relyea is expected to contend all season with Queensbury senior Bailey Gengel, who finished sixth in the state meet last season, and Hadley-Luzerne freshman Katrin Schreiner.

The Schreiner siblings’ dad, Hadley-Luzerne coach  Curt,  was a three-time U.S. winter Olympian in biathlon, the sport that combines Nordic ski racing with marksmanship.  Both his son and daughter train at the family’s Saratoga Biathlon Club center in the town of Day. Up next: the Queensbury Relays on Saturday. 

The sibling situation extends to Alpine also this winter, with Hunter Montgomery and sister Maddie from Queensbury top contenders for individual honors in slalom and giant slalom section competition.

The field in the girls’ gate events is especially competitive this season, with Montgomery to be challenged by Schuylerville’s Hannah Klingebiel, who won the state championship in slalom last winter, and Melissa Taggert from Shenendehowa, the reigning section champion in giant slalom. 

Making things even more interesting, at least around the Montgomery family dinner table, is the emergence of younger daughter Meredith, an eighth grader who is expected to be a race contender this winter. Then there is Mikaela Leonard, a well-regarded racer as a ninth-grader competing for Shen. Her brother Pat, a senior co-captain on the Plainsmen boys’ team, finished ninth in slalom in the state meet last year.

Hunter Montgomery, a Queensbury junior, is the defending state champion in slalom. A full-sized football defensive end for the Spartans last fall, he isn’t hard to miss in an event that is usually dominated by more compact racers. A major challenge for him this winter will be holding off his cousin Ian, who races for Stillwater, and brothers Chase and Cole Paton from Shenendehowa. The Alpine race season gets underway Saturday at Royal Mountain.  

Both the section and state championships in Alpine and Nordic will be in North Creek in February. The top 12 finishers in the section championship qualify for the state event. 

While developments at the North Creek Ski Bowl have shored up a previously weather-dependent season for Nordic racers, there are some new opportunities for Alpine racers, too. The NYSEF program at Gore Mountain has long provided coaching and training opportunities for competitors beyond their school regimens and lately there is even more with the expansion of the race program at West Mountain.

How much did the early snow help?  Said Queensbury Alpine coach Section II coordinator Steve Jackson: “This is the first winter in at last 10 years that we have been training gates since the beginning of December.”

When you think of great ski racers, names like Bode Miller and Hermann Maier come to mind. They were big guys, well over 200 pounds. But their greatest success was in the speed events, Super G and downhill. It is uncommon for someone that size to excel in the more technical races.  

At 6-foot-2, 200 pounds, reigning state slalom champion Hunter Montgomery from Queensbury High School has unusual size for a gate racer, but not unprecedented in our area. Consider former Shen slalom competitor Steve Brown who, at 6-foot-6 and 280 pounds, played football at Connecticut a decade ago.

The Free for KIDS program sponsored by ISKINY is on again this winter at 27 areas throughout the state. The Ski and Ride Passport allows third- and fourth-graders up to three free day passes at each area and even free lessons at some. For details, check

The Big Tupper ski area in Tupper Lake was to re-open this winter after several seasons of not operating.

But, so far, it hasn’t.  

Efforts to call the area or make contact through Big Tupper’s website were not successful. Meanwhile, Hickory Mountain outside Warrensburg shows no sign of activity. That area has been closed now for several years. Neither area has significant snow-making capabilities. 

Happy New Year. 

Phil Johnson can be reached at [email protected].   

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