Ski Lines: Spring skiing season is here

Man in skis, arms wide in snorkel gear

A skier competes in pond skimming recently at West Mountain.

SKI LINES – Break out the baggy shorts and Hawaiian print shirts. It’s spring skiing time. And this year, it should be exceptional. 

Less than a month ago, a late February snowstorm buried the Northeast and saved the important winter school vacation week. Then, even better, another storm came along, followed by blue skies, lots of sun, and modest daytime temperatures. The new snow, massaged by excellent grooming, turned a challenging winter into some of the best March skiing in our area in years.

Long-time skiers know that now is a time to savor — a short period between three-layer temperatures and snow melt, when the time on the hill and time on the deck combine for a great transition from winter to summer. It is spring on the slopes. The last snow guns in the East were turned off last week at Killington, and you can count on mud in the parking lot at the end of a day. But when overnight temperatures in the hills go below freezing, the snow firms up by morning, and where the sun doesn’t beat down directly on the trails, the surface softens up and conditions hold up nicely for at least a good portion of the ski day. 

Enjoy these days while they last.


The ski season actually began in early November, when the revitalized Albany Ski Show came back after being dark for two years due to COVID. Now owned by Adirondack Sports publisher Darryl Caron, the show got off to a good start with a renewed focus on local organizations and a broader reach into other snowsports. It will be back again in November.

Also back that month will be the Warren Miller film that has been a favorite among local skiers for more than 50 years. According to Outside, the media group and franchise owner, next year’s film will be a retrospective on previous Miller films featuring never-before-seen archived footage. The Schenectady Wintersports Club is now the local sponsor, and showings will be held at Proctors.

Also returning in November will be the Women’s World Cup slalom and giant slalom races at Killington. Mikaela Shiffrin, now the most accomplished ski racer of all time, is once again expected to compete before crowds that have surpassed 30,000 in recent years. At 28 years old, Shiffrin, who has relatives in our region, already has won more World Cup races than any skier, past or present, male or female. In addition, she is easy to root for — modest, and an always-gracious competitor, win or lose.    

If you get to Killington, one thing you can’t miss is the new K-1 Lodge, which opened in January. It is a beautiful facility, a major upgrade for the sprawling complex. Killington has just signed an agreement with Toronto-based Great Gulf developer to build the long discussed Village at Killington. The initial phase of the planned residential and retail project will be underway this summer. Closer to home, the proposed village development at West Mountain seems to be on track. Groundbreaking for the residential and commercial project could come next year.  

There won’t be any event around here next winter like the World University Games held in January in Lake Placid. There were more than 1,500 competitors in 12 sports scheduled over 11 days. And while there was no Miracle on Ice or Erik Heiden’s five individual gold medals at the Games, the $550 million worth of infrastructure improvements and facilities upgrades will keep Lake Placid in the International Winter sports picture for years to come. One legacy is the reimagined and redesigned Olympic Museum in the Olympic Center in Lake Placid. It is open year-round and a must-see stop on any visit to town. 

While Lake Placid had a memorable year, its Adirondack sports sibling North Creek, home of Gore, did not. The skiing, especially the new Backwoods trail, was very good, but development of a new $30 million four-season base lodge and nearby detachable chair lift at the Ski Bowl stalled because of long-standing  local wastewater treatment issues that may take several years to resolve. The town shuttle bus system that moved people between the village and the ski hill was dropped by the local business alliance, and the long-talked about Ski Hall of Fame and Museum has yet to move past the discussion stage. The always-small bed base in the village became even smaller when the largest hotel on the main street was closed for much of the season and was recently sold.


A good long-term development for the area ski community came early in the season when Joe and Amy FItzgerald from Saratoga took over ownership of Willard Mountain in Greenwich. They join Jake and Brooke Tennis at Royal Mountain, Matt and Laura O’Brien at Oak Mountain and Spencer and Sarah Montgomery at West, as young family owners of local ski hills, which is a good sign for the future of skiing in our area.

Not so promising was the ongoing insurance issue at Hickory, which has kept the lifts idle and skiing limited at the area outside Warrensburg.

The area lost one of its ski pioneers in December when legendary instructor Freddie Anderson died at age 101. The Schenectady native and long-time head of the Schenectady Ski School for many years at Maple Ski Ridge taught locally for more than 60 years, in some cases introducing four generations of families to the sport. One of her Schenectady protegees, Gwen Allard, was inducted in the US Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame last week for her career ski teaching work on behalf of adaptive skiers.

Another ski community notable from our area just made it back to the US last week. Niskayuna’s Sarah Simson returned from Kazakhstan, where she was the chief judge in the world mogul skiing championships earlier this month. It marked the end of a “where’s Waldo” experience this winter that also had her as a lead official in World Cup competitions in the US, Finland, Sweden, France, Canada, Italy and Georgia (the one bordering on the Black Sea). Simson has been a freestyle competition judge since 1992, and was one of eight judges for moguls at last year’s Winter Olympic Games in China.

For ski competitions this winter, the news was good, highlighted by the high-level FIS program at West Mountain that had some excellent results under first-year coach Thomas Vonn.

At the high school level, Section II ducked and dodged the January warm weather to run an almost full race schedule. Queensbury junior Ben Jenkin won the state championship in cross country and Ballston Spa junior Cole Evans and Shenendehowa senior Micaela Leonard won state championships in alpine. Shen Nordic racer Raquelle Landa, a ninth grader, and slalom racer Hunter Montgomery, an eighth grader from Queensbury, were top Section II racers, suggesting years more of excellent race results.


While there are still some legs left in the season locally, this will be the final week for Ski Lines in what has been the 79th season of a regular ski column in the Gazette. Remarkably, only three people have written the column over that period: Lloyd Lambert, who started it in 1944, Bill Rice, who took over in 1972 and carried on through 2011, and me, for the past 12 years.  

Phil Johnson can be reached at [email protected].

Categories: -Sports, Sports

Leave a Reply