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Sports Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, February 16, 2012

Lack of snow a problem for Dutch skiers

GUILDERLAND –– That big snowstorm never came for the Guilderland cross-country ski team. By this time in February, the school’s fields are usually covered with snow. On Monday, the ground was a blanket of dead grass.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) identified January 2012 as the fourth-warmest January on record for the United States. The average temperature was 36.3 degrees, which is 5.5 degrees above the normal mark. Also, it’s been the fifth-warmest six-month period ever recorded from August 2011 to January 2012.

“I heard that the jet stream just isn’t dropping down enough,” said Head Coach Barb Newton. “We usually have some type of snow by now.”

The temperature was close to 40 degrees on Monday. The Dutch skiers either waxed their skis inside or found space outside to roller ski for training.

The lack of snow has been a disappointment, but the team has tried to remain in good spirits. The season wasn’t entirely lost.

Top skiing seniors Matt Pasquini, Halli Travers, Marissa Buyck, and Austin Miller told The Enterprise that the team has performed a “snow dance” with chanting throughout the season, but no storm has come.

“We dance for snow like every five minutes,” Buyck said. “I sleep with spoons under my bed and wear my pajamas backwards. We’ve tried all the above.”

Still, no snow, and the season is about over. Sectionals were held on Wednesday at Nick Stoners Golf Course near Caroga Lake. Newton said there’s about 4 to 6 inches of snow, but conditions aren’t great.

“It’s been the toughest year ever,” said Newton. “This sport relies on the weather, so we’re always preparing for something that might come. It takes a lot of mental toughness.”

The Dutchmen have skied in five events this year compared to the normal 11 per season. Many times, competitors have skied over grass. Travers said that the ideal amount of snow on a course would be around 5 inches, but that has been a rare occurrence.

“Even though there’s no snow in an hour radius of here, we still find snow,” said Pasquini, who is one of 12 skiers that have gone up to Lapland Lake on the weekends. “Definitely, we’d rather have more snow, but we can still ski and be competitive. We’ve managed to get through these discouraging conditions.”

Newton said that she’s actually prayed for a snowstorm this year, but feels like it’ll come after the season is over. “This is not what skiing is about,” she said. “We’re way behind. We wanted actual track systems.”

Guilderland skiers have gone as far as shoveling snow into buckets to manually make a trail at their school. The team only had three to five days of practice on actual snow this year.

“I give them a lot of credit,” Newton said of her skiers. “They would shovel up whatever snow there was around, but it would be all melted away the next day. It’s been a challenge. I’m looking forward to next year.”

However, the cross-country season may have been a blessing in disguise for some skiers. The Guilderland skiers have had a lot of time to train and get to know one another.

“It’s been rough, but also a fun experience,” Travers said. “It’s a different thing. It’s not the usual cross-country skiing shape, but an ‘I can run really fast’ shape. We’ve done a good job at keeping things lively around here.”

Travers said that previous seasons have felt more comfortable. There’s been an element of surprise this time.

“You don’t really know what’s going to happen during a race, but it’s going to be a good time,” said Travers. “You’re skiing on grass, but you get up that hill anyways. We love to ski!”

Miller, who finished fourth in a race this season, said that the competitions are still worthwhile, even thought there’s little snow. “It’s still the same race,” he said. “Not frustrating –– fun.”

Newton worries that some skiers –– there are 45 of them –– may have been turned off because of the horrible conditions. The Dutch tried hard to stay positive, but it suffered, too.

“We didn’t have a normal schedule,” she said. “The attitudes were good for a while and then it started to fade because no snow was coming. Hopefully, we’ll get snow next year.”

By Jordan J. Michael

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