With the whoosh of ski blades carving a downhill path at West Mountain Ski Resort on Jan. 8, Broadalbin-Perth made good on a promise five years in the making.
By introducing its first Alpine ski team.
The eight-member varsity team, comprised of two seventh-graders and six high-school students, fared better than expected at the Niskayuna Invitational, according to Maggie Miller, who coaches the fledgling team with Matt O’Brien, manager of Oak Mountain Ski Center.
“For the experience level we had, and where we started, we were really impressed with how our racers did,” Miller said. “There were 233 racers, and most of our kids finished in the middle of the pack. That’s great for their first race.”
In 2015, Broadablin-Perth conducted what’s called an “interest inventory” to gauge how well it was doing in providing extracurricular activities that matched up with what students said they liked. Two activities students put at the top of their wish lists: Alpine skiing and lacrosse. Both sports opportunities were added this year.
The introduction of the team not only addresses a gap identified by the interest inventory, it also better aligns the school district with many of the goals outlined in its long-term strategic plan, including offering programs that help students identify and cultivate their innate strengths. Middle and high school students began taking an updated version of the interest inventory this week.
Sixteen students signed up for the downhill team in the fall, and the coaches divided them into modified and varsity squads. Although all had spent time on skis, only one had any racing experience. They began with off-snow training on dry land, honing their balance and agility with stair exercises and circuit workouts.
“Anything off-snow to get their muscles ready for the snow,” Miller said. “From here, we could see where they were athletically.”
For the uninitiated, Alpine is a form of downhill skiing that originated in the European Alps, as the name suggests. The B-P team competes in the slalom and the giant slalom, timed technical events that challenge the skier’s ability to maneuver over courses marked by closely spaced gates.
The initial six-member varsity team grew by two after the coaches decided to move a pair of athletes up from modified. All 16 athletes practice at Oak Mountain, but only the varsity team competes.
“They’re all good skiers,” Miller said. “The goal is to transition them from good skiers to great skiers, and get them carving all their turns in and out of the gates, make them race ready.”
The skiing tournament season runs through the second week in February, with state competition later in the month.