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Philip Johnson's Ski-Lines
by Philip Johnson


A Daily Gazette sports blog
Ski season in Upstate NY

Frigid temperatures affect Nordic scheduling

How did you spend your New Year’s Day?
If you were a Section II high school cross country ski coach, at least a part of it was on–line checking e-mails, checking weather forecasts, calling families about changing competition schedules, arranging transportation — in other words, not much time for hanging out on the holiday, warming by the fire watching football.
The result? The Shenendehowa Invitational Nordic competition scheduled for today will take place Saturday on the Queensbury High School campus.
So what is one day?
Well, not much on the calendar, but if you are a coach or a compet­itor or a volunteer, one day —
especially over a long holiday
period — can mean a lot of schedule shifting and plan changes.
Snow and cold are the culprits, of course. But, hey, this isn’t swimming or bowling we’re talking about. It is January and, after all, Nordic skiing is an outdoor sport. But there can be too much, as well as too little, new snow, and temperatures below zero can be dangerous to competitors, so there is also a rulebook that trumps judgment when questions arise.
“Changes are a fact of life when you are dealing with a sport that is so weather-dependent,” said Bob Underwood, Queensbury coach and Section II Nordic ski coord­inator in one of several e-mails that circulated throughout New Year’s Day and evening.
“Even if we were to try to hold the race [as scheduled], we would not be allowed, according to those rules.
So the official opener for the Section II Nordic season (the Queensbury Relays earlier this week didn’t have team scoring) is now Saturday. It comes fast after that. The Saratoga Invitational is Tuesday at Crandall Park in Glens Falls, followed by the Johnstown Invitational Friday at Lapland Lake. In all, there are eight events on the schedule through Feb. 7, followed by the Section II championships Feb. 12 at Lapland Lake. The New York State championships will be Feb. 24-25 at Bristol Mountain, near Rochester.
Last year’s Section II champ­ions — Emma Underwood of Lake George and Brian Halligan of Saratoga Springs — as well as state champion Austin Huneck from Shenendehowa have all graduated. Those expected to contend for the top spots among the girls this winter include sisters Sarah and Amy Duclos of Shenendehowa and a host of Queensbury skiers, led by Tara Wynn and Megan Kellogg.
On the boys’ side, Owen Putnam of Shenendehowa, Matt Forshey of Scotia-Glenville, and Queensbury’s Liam Mulshine are podium favorites.
Queensbury and Shenendehowa are considered the favorites in the team competitions.
On the Alpine side, the main question seema to be, “Is there anyone who can challenge Shenendehowa sophomore Julia Smith?”
It is pretty much conceded that if she stays on her feet, she is likely to win all events this year, which is just one more than she did last year. And yes, she also won the Section II championship, in convincing fashion.
For the boys, Saratoga senior
Kieran Mottau, a contender most of the season, peaked just at the right time last year to win the combined slalom and giant slalom championship at the state meet. He has the ability to dominate the compet­ition if he just can make it across the finish line.
Queensbury is expected to be a top contender for the team championship for both boys and girls, with Shenendehowa the major challenger on the girls’ side and Saratoga on the boys.
The Alpine competition season opens Wednesday with the Queensbury Invitational at West Mountain. That will be a giant
slalom race. The first slalom competition will be Jan. 15 in the Stillwater Invitational at Willard Mountain. The regular-season competition runs through Feb. 3 with the Section II championships in both slalom and giant slalom set for Febr. 11 at Gore.
Like the Nordic event, the Alpine state meet will also be Feb. 24-25 at Bristol Mountain.
With the new snow and moderating temperatures, this weekend looks like a great one on hills and trails throughout the region. The first Super Sunday of the year —
Island Madness — will be this weekend at Whiteface. Adult lift tickets will be $40, $35 for teens and $30 for juniors and there will be special activities in the base lodge throughout the afternoon.
Lindsey Vonn, with 59 World Cup ski victories, is only three behind all-time champion Annemarie Moser-Proel, who won 62 during her career which included a gold medal in downhill at the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid. Vonn was having a strong season last year and very likely would have overtaken Moser-Proell if she didn’t miss the second half of the winter with a torn ACL.
While she may be known to most sports fans as Tiger Woods’ girlfriend these days, ski competition watchers know Vonn is not only talented, but one of the hardest workers and most fit female athletes in the sport. But she injured her knee once again in December. Can she be ready to race in Feb­ruary?
For most athletes, the answer would be no. The U.S. ski team roster for the Olympics must be turned in by Jan. 19. Vonn certainly will not be ready to race then.
But based on past performance and a tremendous work ethic, has she earned the right to a spot on the US Team roster? The number of Alpine slots is set. If she takes one, another skier will be left off the team? What would you do?
I say yes, and put her on the team. With my vote and what is certainly no small push from NBC, which has used Vonn heavily in the promotions of its its coverage of the games, I think she will be on the roster, if she wants it. I don’t know how I would feel if I were the healthy competitor who was dropped on the chance that Vonn can compete.
Pennsylvania has a lot of ski
areas. Several of those in the
Poconos are not a long drive away from us. But most of the areas are relatively small, at least so far as vertical is concerned.
Skiing Magazine once earned a loud chorus of in-state boos by referring to these hills as “slopettes.” Safe to say that not many folks around here think of Pennsylvania when it comes time to plan a ski trip. But that may change soon, due in large part to the efforts of a Latham businessman — Ken Ellis, who is president of the Aquatic Development Group.
Ellis and a college friend teamed up to buy the Camelback Mountain Resort in the Poconos in 2005, and have just begun construction on the Camelback Lodge and Indoor
Water park, which, when complete in 2015, will be the largest slope-side water park in the U.S. Think the kids and grandkids won’t lobby for a winter vacation there?

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