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

It's never too cold to enjoy good skiing

I had a great day skiing last Saturday.
It was one of those rare chances to get first tracks at 7:30 a.m. The snow was fresh. Trails were immaculately groomed. It was a cloudless, blue-sky morning. And a handful of us were the only skiers on the hill.
But it sure was cold; Cold enough to invoke “The Five Layer Rule.”
All experienced skiers know that on a cold morning, you should wear a good, tight, wicking base layer, a light to medium pullover for the second, a fleece or wind blocker third layer and a windproof ski shell fourth layer. That should keep you warm on just about any day.
The fifth layer?
There is no such thing. If, after four layers, you still need more, it is time to head to the lodge and warm up before heading back outside.
It was that way last weekend. We skied for an hour. With no crowd and perfect conditions, we just couldn’t go inside right away, no matter how much sense that made. When we did go inside, it felt great. After a few minutes, hands were warm, cheeks were thawed, toes were fine and we were ready for one of the best ski days in a long time.
With more than a foot of new snow last week, and more piling up, there will be some great skiing close by in time for the President’s Birthday week, always one of the most popular times of the winter season. Locally, with the exception of some gladed runs in the woods, just about every trail at every area is open, even at Hickory, outside Warrensburg, where what you get is only what nature provides and that has been enough to get the lifts there cranking lately.
What we need now is daytime temperatures in the 30s, an occasional night time dusting of new snow, blue sky and calm winds. Am I being greedy?
The west coast has finally gotten snow. Places like Mammoth and Lake Tahoe have been drought-stricken this winter until a few days ago. The Rockies have some fresh snow too. But now, you don’t have to hop on a plane to get in good skiing. There is plenty right here in the East.
With 98 medal events at the Sochi Winter Games, it is hard not to find at least at least one event that is fun to watch.
As I’ve said before, my favorite is biathlon, the cross country skiing–target shooting event where scoring requires a remarkable combination of ultra high energy distance skiing with calm controlled, precise marksmanship. Now that the courses are open and fully exposed to television coverage, the sport is both exciting and dramatic. There are several events for both men and women with the best of them all, the 4x7.5k relay scheduled Feb. 22. It will be a part of the afternoon coverage on NBC.
The two best Americans in the sport are North Country natives — Tim Burke of Paul Smiths and Lowell Bailey of Lake Placid. Both are in their early 30s and competing in their third Winter Olympics. They have had disappointing results in early races, neither having a top-10 finish, let along an Olympic medal, which no American has ever won in this event. Their best chance now will be in the men’s relay.
The Games are always filled with surprises. Shaun White will leave Russia without a medal. Neither Sarah Hendrickson or Lindsay Vann came close to the podium in the first-ever women’s ski jumping. And Kikkan Randall, arguably the best U.S. woman Nordic skier ever, did not even make the final round of her best event, the 10K sprint. Plenty of competition still to come with more surprises inevitable.
There is a lot of buzz at
Sochi about the new slopestyle ski and snowboard events. And Americans have scored very well, with Mt. Snow, Vt.-area athletes Devin Logan and Kelly Clark among those winning medals so far. But without a trained eye, these events appear to me like an impressive menu of twists and turns performed by enthusiastic young athletes whose efforts are judged by indecipherable standards. The outcome is mainly subjective.
Remember the old line ‘If you can’t time it, measure it, or add up the score, it isn’t a sport.”
Now, I would prefer to have my competition winners be chosen by objective standards. But when you think about it, that can be unfair, too. Countries and sponsors spend a lot of money on research and technology to provide the best equipment to their athletes. Skiing has done that for years. Earlier this week, Erin Hamlin won America’s first individual medal in luge just days after there was considerable attention given to high tech research on sled runners done locally at Norton Company in Watervliet. You’ll be hearing a lot about the Bodine and the BMW sleds in bobsled soon.
So how do we determine the best? If we rule out both judges’ opinion and superior technology, what would be left of Olympic competition? Hockey!
As most alpine skiers know, boots that fit properly make a big difference. But sometimes, especially at the start of the season, or after a long ride in the trunk of a car, boots get stiff and getting into those boots can be a real ordeal. I know that problem.
But it doesn’t have to be that way anymore.
Recently, I found a product called “Slide On.” It is a small spray can that can be easily tucked in a boot bag. Spray the Teflon-like liquid on the inside tongue and back of your boot liner, then slide your foot into the boot. Grimacing and grunting are gone! It works. Now, I won’t go skiing without it.
There were no surprises at the Section II ski championships earlier this week. On the Alpine side, Shenendehowa and Saratoga Springs won the team titles. Shenendehowa sophomore Julia Smith and Saratoga senior Kieran Mottau continued their domination, easily winning the individual competition in both the slalom and giant slalom disciplines.
On the Nordic side, it was a Queensbury sweep, with sophomore Tyra Winn again winning the girl’s race, while Liam Mulshine had a surprisingly easy time besting the boy’s field. Queensbury finished first in both the Boys and Girls team competition. .
The state championships will be Feb. 24-25 at Bristol Mountain, near Rochester.

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