Ski team on the go despite lack of snow

The Enterprise — Jordan J. Michael

Cross-country smiles: With little snow left on the ground behind Guilderland High School, cross-country skiers, from left, Ashley Cohen, Emily Gray, and Rachel Swyer practice on Monday. The Dutch competed in a race at Mayfield today, and sectionals are next week; the top 12 boys and girls make the Section 2 state team.

The Enterprise — Jordan J. Michael

And they’re off! The Guilderland cross-country ski team has had trouble practicing outside this season, again, due to the lack of snow. However, there has been enough snowfall up north in the Adirondacks for the Dutch to compete in every invitational this year. Here, some Guilderland skiers work with whatever snow is left on Monday.

GUILDERLAND — Before Mother Nature dumped a foot of snow in the area on Wednesday, the Guilderland cross-country skiers were longing for enough white stuff to practice on. Just as in recent winters, snowfall has been scarce this season, so there was more dead grass than anything else.

Still, some Dutch skiers found a 40-yard stretch of snow behind Guilderland High School on Monday. They did a few passes, only to head back inside.

The task for the day: Run on the track. The skis, poles, and boots were left sitting still on the shelves indoors.

Every winter season, Guilderland has the disadvantage of getting less snowfall than most of the other competing schools, which are further north. But that doesn’t stop the Dutch from producing a few great skiers who have a chance at qualifying for the state team. Some other skiers may not do very well, but they enjoy racing nonetheless.

Winning isn’t a priority for Guilderland; it’s a privilege. These skiers go on a North Country adventure for every race, and they’re happy to be part of something together.

“We’re pretty cohesive,” said senior Ashley Cohen. “We feel proud to represent our school.”

The Guilderland skiers don’t get to train on snow very often, but they prepare to be successful, Head Coach Barb Newton said. And, every Section 2 race has been completed as scheduled this season; some races had to be cancelled in previous years.

“They do care,” said Newton of her skiers. “They look to improve.”

However, not having enough snow on ground for practice can be frustrating. Sometimes, roller skiing and running just aren’t enough.

“We’ve never had good snow,” junior Becca Miceli said. “Ever.”

Tawasentha Park is nearby, but it’s never hosted a cross-country skiing event, Newton said. Western Turnpike Golf Course used to allow Guilderland to practice on its property, and the land would be groomed, but the Dutch haven’t gone there in a few years.

“Snowfall hasn’t been great in a long time,” said Newton. “The other day, the kids shoveled snow to make a trail, but it didn’t last.”

Once again, some Guilderland skiers have taken training into their own hands, driving north on off weekends to Lapland Lake, which usually has quality hills covered with snow. Seniors J.T. Gebhardt, Jack Hanlon, and Taylor Tewksbury made the trip last time.

“We’ll just message each other the night before and agree to go,” Gebhardt said. “Usually, we’ll get there around ten-thirty, eleven, ski for two hours, eat lunch, and then ski for another hour or so.”

The Dutch skiers who train at Lapland Lake end up skiing 15 to 20 kilometers, which is about twice the normal race.

Hanlon, Gebhardt, Miceli, and Isabella Sericolo have a shot at making the Section 2 state team at sectionals next week; the top 12 boys and girls qualify. Miceli needs to increase her finishing time by about one minute, which is substantial in cross-country skiing. Sometimes, 10 to 15 racers cross the finish line within one minute, Newton said.

Most of Guilderland’s skiers also play soccer or run cross-country or track at the school, so they already have the endurance level to make it through a 10-kilometer ski race. This season was designated for skate style, which resembles ice-skating on skies, but some athletes prefer classical style because it’s more like running.

For the Guilderland skiers who enjoy classical skiing more, there’s always next year. Also, maybe there will be more snow.

“You have to use every muscle in your body, and, if one falters, it gets worse, and then your time gets bad,” Cohen said of skiing cross-country. “It’s the most demanding sport I’ve done because you have to put everything together to have the most efficiency.”

How fast can skiers get going down a hill?

“As fast as you want,” said Cohen.

“I keep my eyes open, but then my eyes dry up, and I can’t see,” Gebhardt added. “I’m wearing goggles next time.”