At New Paltz High School, winter sports are beginning to start. Perhaps one of the most interesting sports the school offers to students is Nordic skiing.
With over 30 years of history at New Paltz High School, the program is still alive. The season begins this year on Nov. 17 and runs until the State Meet on Feb. 27.
New Paltz, Wallkill and Monticello school districts all have Nordic skiing programs and compete against each other. “When we have local snow, the meets take place at Minnewaska State Park and at the Mohonk Mountain House golf course,” said Coach Ann Gregory.
“When we do not have snow, I am the Nordic Coordinator, so I have to find places for us to travel,” she said. “Section 2 is great and allows us to join in on some of their races.”
There are also a number of other places Gregory said they can go to if there is no snow locally. “We also go to Gore Mountain, which makes snow for the Nordic Races, Crandall Park in Glens Falls, Brookhaven Golf Course in Saratoga, Lapland Lake or Prospect Mountain in Vermont.”
To train without snow, the teams will do running exercises and roller skiing among other strength and conditioning workouts.
“We make use of local running trails, hills, paved rail trails and school grounds. Creativity is a necessity when there isn’t snow,” Gregory said. “So [we] wish for snow! The funny part is when it finally snows we don’t have school.”
According to Coach Gregory, the junior varsity races start around 2 kilometers and varsity races start at 5 kilometers. Gregory said that for the girls’ teams their goal is to get to 7.5 kilometers and 10 kilometers for the boys.
The school works with local business Rock and Snow to rent out equipment to high school students who want to join the Nordic ski team. Students can get their boots, skis and poles all from Rock and Snow.
“Rock and Snow is great. They are our only provider for rental skis, poles and boots,” said Gregory. “We tell our beginners to start with a rental package and as athletes improve, we encourage them to buy their own skis. It doesn’t matter how fast your skis are if you don’t have the skill yet to handle the skis.”
In the area, the River-2-Ridge trail, which begins at the base on Main Street in New Paltz, is groomed for Nordic skiing when there is snow. Minnewaska State Park grooms 20 miles of its carriage roads when it snows. Gregory said that they are very fortunate to have places like this that groom for Nordic Skiing.
“The students that stay with the program love the sport. As a beginner, you have to be patient with yourself. This is a technical sport and it takes time to learn. It’s rare for someone to have immediate success,” said Gregory. “Learning how to balance on roller skis and skis can be a challenge. The sport is unique. They learn how to wax skis. They race both Skate and Classic Styles.”
This season, Gregory is hoping to coach the Nordic ski teams to medals like they have gotten to in the past. “No doubt, you can imagine the challenge of keeping pace with the programs that are on snow much longer,” she said. “Nonetheless we have managed to medal at several of the state meets including a State Champion in both the boys and girls race.”