SHS ski box 2/5 issue

Scarsdale ski captains are used to working with teammates in pods, so cohorting this season was an easy adjustment for Raider senior captains Jane Schmelkin, Caroline Cavalier, Cole Zoland, Hayden Claussen, Noah Jaffe and Jackson Dean.

“The kids have academic cohorts, so we maintain the same cohorts for our ski team,” coach Pat Liu said. “I have four captains who are cohort A and two captains who are cohort B and they are in charge of kids only in the same cohort. What’s nice is I already have captains groups of seven to eight per group, so that actually lends itself nicely to adapting to COVID because they’re already in smaller groups.”

Even the buses are run by cohort and for the first, and so far only, race of the season, there were 14 on one bus, three on the other, and one skier got a ride from a parent or guardian, which is permitted this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

That’s just one of the many changes and challenges the team is facing.

“Ski captains are the older and experienced team members who lead drills, both in dryland and snow practices, give guidance to newer racers, and help foster the community of the ski team,” Schmelkin said. “This year, being a captain is not exactly what I had imagined because now it is also our responsibility to make sure the team follows COVID guidelines and lead drills and exercises via Zoom during off-cohort day. Despite the changes we have had this season, we have still been able to connect with teammates, teach race techniques and help encourage our teammates.”

Finding chances to ski hasn’t been easy. With the courses in New Jersey out of play and Hunter Mountain not running races, all Section 1 teams are at Thunder Ridge this winter. Though USSA skiing is allowing 100 racers per day during this point in the pandemic, Thunder Ridge has cut that number in half, which typically means three boys and girls teams can compete per day and instead of 10 skiers teams are limited to nine per gender. Additionally, if you have a race at Thunder Ridge you can’t also practice there that week, and when you do practice, you can’t use gates. And, there are no coed junior varsity or developmental team races.

Liu said the team is limited to two races and he’s unsure if there will be any type of postseason opportunity. “It’s very frustrating for me as a coach, but on the other hand for me as an educator I’m so glad that we have something,” he said.

Liu has been trying to set up as many training days at Catamount as possible, but is unsure if the team is allowed to travel there anymore this season due to state regulations.

“We’ve had an entire season go by that we learned from in the fall, so why couldn’t we get our act together for the next season? Why does it seem we have to reinvent the wheel every time?” Liu wondered. “I coach at Catamount and we’ve been ahead of the curve for skiing. We’ve experienced practices since December. We’ve been adjusting the whole time and realizing what’s safe and what’s not safe to keep us open.”

The changes at Thunder Ridge include ticket sales from a trailer, the lodge only being used for the bathroom and masks at all times unless you’re skiing. Teams also ski 1 through 9, not alternating with other teams.

At Catamount the kids order their food through an app and eat in small groups, and though the lodge limits people to 20 minutes of dining, Scarsdale’s skiers were directed to eat outside.

“Scarsdale said don’t eat inside at all, which I think is smart because that’s where the vector of transmission is: it’s indoors, eating without a mask,” Liu said.

Scarsdale did provide an extra Coach bus to Catamount and there are seating charts and distance between the student-athletes.

“It’s been really rough for us as a team because we’re the biggest one in the section, so we’re impacted the most,” Liu said. “At least from a Scarsdale point of view I’ll still go to Catamount three times a season. We got a lot of training done there. The JV and the devos, unfortunately the only thing I can offer them in the meantime is dryland training, which is really disheartening.

“My goal is to get the JV and developmental kids something. If they don’t get anything they’re not going to come back next year.”

The opportunities dwindled even more with the snow days Feb. 1 and 2, with more snow expected throughout the month.

“We have not had as many on-snow practices and races as we typically do, but that has only made our team more excited and eager to ski when we are lucky enough to go to the mountain,’ Schmelkin said. “Although this was not the senior year season I had imagined, it is definitely super memorable and being able to go skiing with my team has brought some appreciated normalcy back into our lives.”

Led by Claussen, a state qualifier last year, the boys team has six other seniors and a host of veterans. The only underclassmen to pierce the varsity lineup this year were sophomore Zach Berman and freshman Elliott Zhang.

“The boys are extremely strong,” Liu said. “We beat Fox Lane by 14 seconds or something. It’s really rough because Hayden is a senior and thank goodness he made states last year so he can have that memory he can hold onto. He doesn’t have that to look forward to.”

The girls have only two seniors, captains Cavalier and Schmelkin, and at least half of the varsity caliber skiers are underclassmen, a good sign for the future.

“I was so excited to meet so many new younger girls joining the team this year,” Schmelkin said. “I know the team is in good hands with our coaches and it has been really great to watch so many younger members learn to race and develop their skills.”

With so many young skiers in the program, 19 freshmen and eight sophomores, Liu wishes he had the normal amount of training and racing time to set the team up for the future.

“Hanna Pitchon is a skier of mine who is ready to learn how to clear gates, but I don’t have any other time to teach her unless we go to Catamount,” Liu said. “And I’m not going to teach her on the day of a race.”

The Raiders have raced once so far and the veteran boys and the young girls fared extremely well.

“It was exciting,” Liu said. “There were a lot of questions on whether or not we would have a season, so for us to actually get to the point where we had a race was great.”

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