Happy (early) birthday, Freddie.
Frederica Woodall Anderson was born Feb. 23, 1921. She will be 100 years old next Tuesday, and has spent almost all of those years living — and skiing — in Schenectady County.
To generations of those who learned to ski locally, she is simply “Freddie.” No last name is needed. Since the 1940s, she has taught children, and their children, and their children, and even their children how to enjoy winter in our area.
Freddie started skiing at age 3 with her parents on the gentle hills of Mohawk Golf Course. After graduating from Smith College in 1942, she came back home and began teaching friends how to ski at Schenectady Municipal Golf Course, “a bumpy little hill where I gave my first lessons.”
The idea wasn’t about challenging terrain. It never was. It was about balance and movement, and comfort with sliding on skis.
As a teenager, she was in the first group to ride the ski train to North Creek. At Smith, her ski skills resulted in being assigned by the physical education teacher to help teach fellow students.
Back home after graduation, her mentor was local ski legend Dot Hoyt. Freddie became a volunteer instructor with the Schenectady Wintersports Club. In 1946, she became a certified ski instructor; then, in 1948, she joined what would become the Professional Ski Instructors of America.
It was never a stretch for Freddie.
Her father was head of surgery at Ellis Hospital and she grew up living in the GE Realty Plot.
“He and my mother were athletes; golf and tennis in the summer,” she said. “In the winter, they skied. It was just natural.”
Freddie was a natural, too.
“If you enjoy any kind of sport, it is the one for winter,” she said. “It gets you outside.”
THE SCHENECTADY SKI SCHOOL YEARS
In 1950, at age 29, now married to husband Henry, an engineer with GE, she established the Schenectady Ski School which would be the home base for a teaching career that would carry her into her 90s. She did teach part time at Gore when the state-operated area opened in 1964, but she is best known for her almost 50 years at Maple Ski Ridge in Rotterdam.
Years earlier, local farmer George Mulyca had built a rope tow on his Mariaville Road property for use by family and friends. When Freddie saw what was there, she suggested he open a ski area. Maple Ridge is not a steep unforgiving layout. Instead, it is a modest hill.
Ideal for teaching.
Freddie moved her Schenectady Ski School there when Maple Ski Ridge opened to the public in 1966. It was a hit. The ski area grew, and so did the ski school. Over the years, children from throughout the area came to Maple Ridge for after-school lessons during the week and Learn to Ski weekend and holiday programs from Christmas through February.
There were up to 2,200 people taking lessons in a season from as many as 80 instructors some years. Those taking classes included adults, too, and, over the years, snowboarding was added to the offerings.
But no matter the mix, the Freddie legacy will be getting children into the sport.
Ski Tykes was for youngsters 4-5 years old who had never skied. The first principal: “Have Fun!”
And so they did over the course of seven weeks, starting out without skis, winding around cones in the snow, duck walking uphill and pulling themselves along a rope line. Freddie’s gift was teaching kids without her students thinking they were being taught. With the basics of moving on snow absorbed, the youngsters would gradually make the move to skis.
Freddie and Henry raised three daughters, not surprisingly all skiers. When Henry passed away in 2000, daughter Christina joined the ski school with her mother and helped run it through 2014.
About her mom, Christina said recently that she was dedicated to teaching others the craft of gliding gracefully down her revered slopes: “When she saw the light in peoples’ eyes, that was the greatest gift in the world for her.”
‘SMOOTH AS SILK’
And how was Anderson on the slopes?
“Smooth as silk — maybe even smoother,” wrote former Gazette ski columnist Bill Rice after watching her on the hill one day. She was 89 at the time, and coming back from an ankle fracture suffered in a collision with a snowboarder the year before.
Freddie’s accomplishments have not gone unrecognized. She was awarded an honorary lifetime membership in PSIA, the national organization of ski instructors she helped to organize in the 1960s. In 2006, Ski Magazine named her one of “10 great instructors (in the country) to bring out your best.”
The Schenectady Ski School and Maple Ski Ridge parted company in 2014, but Freddie kept on skiing at Whiteface where daughter Christina moved her teaching. Finally, she decided she had had enough. The effects of the long years, including two knee replacements, took their toll, and she gave up her skiing four years ago.
She still lived independently until late 2019 when she moved from her long-time home in Niskayuna to Kingsway Manor Assisted Living. She had a bout with COVID-19 last year, but “came out of it with flying colors,” according to daughter Christina.
SIMSON JUDGING WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS
Niskayuna’s Sarah Simson is off to Kazakhstan next week to judge the 2021 World Championships in freestyle skiing, and the World Cup finals starting two days later.
An experienced international judge in both the aerial and mogul events, she judged a World Cup competition earlier this season at Winter Park, Colorado, and is slated to be the sole U.S. judge in the winter Olympic Games next February in Beijing.
SECTION II WRAPS UP SKI SEASON
Madison Relyea led her Mayfield Nordic team to victory last week in the final high school ski competition of the season. Relyea, a senior who was unbeaten in the last two years, won the 6.6k girls’ event with a margin of more than two minutes over Hadley-Luzerne’s Katrin Schreiner who was more than a minute faster than the third-place finisher.
On the boys’ side, brothers Lucas Jenkin and Ben Jenkin finished in first and second in the 10K race to lead Queensbury to victory.
In Alpine, Saratoga Springs won both the boys’ and girls’ races behind Matt Moeckel and Avery Waters who each won their race competitions.
These races were deemed the league championships. Section II and state championships were canceled due to COVID-19 restrictions.
KNOW BEFORE YOU GO
This week is usually the busiest ski week of the season. Given good snow conditions throughout the region, this year should be no exception.
Be sure to make reservations before you head to the hills and, if capacity limits have already closed out your first choice, try some of the smaller hills in our area. They have great conditions, too.
Phil Johnson can be reached at [email protected].