Athlete of the Month


NYSEF is proud to recognize exemplary athletes for their achievements on and off the hill through the new Athlete of the Month program.

Athletes throughout the club will be highlighted for their accomplishments including community service, sportsmanship, academic & extracurricular achievement and athletic performance.

March Athlete of the Month

NYSEF Nordic Combined athlete Kai McKinnon is our March 2023 Athlete of the Month! Kai was nominated by several coaches, including Nordic Coach Julianne Stemp, who said Kai continues to remain passionate about Nordic Combined. 

“I believe that she can be one of the first women to compete in the future Olympic Sport of Women's Nordic Combined,” Stemp added. “She is an extremely talented athlete in the sport of both cross country and jumping, qualifying for the 2023 Cross-Country Junior Nationals as a U16, attending and competing in Eastern High School Championships while earning the 2023 title of Nordic Combined National Champion.”  

Ski Jumping and Nordic Combined Coach Colin Delaney added “Kai is a talented athlete, and is always looking for ways to improve on and off the hill. Ski Jumping is a very technical sport, and this attention to detail combined with her work ethic can take her to the highest levels of this sport. One major goal for next winter is to compete at the 2024 Youth Olympic Games in Gangwon, South Korea.”

Qualifying for XC Junior Nationals, and being ranked as the Nordic Combined National Champion are two titles that only magnify how magnificent Kai really is; athletically driven to reach beyond her competition, academically geared for excellence through the support of NYSEF's Winter Term program, and a personality that shines for her NYSEF and Lake Placid High School teammates, coaches, and friends. 

Kai had a stellar 2022-23 season as a U16 and capped it off by taking 1st place in the Under 16 Women’s Nordic Combined, besting athletes from Colorado and Alaska in a dominant fashion at Ski Jumping/Nordic Combined Junior National Championships which took place in Coleraine, MN. She also placed 2nd in the Under 16 Women’s Ski Jumping event.

She was one of 16 athletes from NY, NH, and VT who qualified to represent the eastern division at junior nationals in competitions that took place February 22-25.

Once I’m in the air, I truly do feel as if I’m flying. You feel as if something is pushing up on your skis. Time slows down, and then you land. It really is a remarkable feeling," says Kai McKinnon.

Kai places first

February Athlete of the Month

February’s Athlete of the Month is Charlie Howe, a Winter Term U18 who is one of only six first-year FIS athletes to represent the Eastern Region at U18 Junior Nationals coming up March 9-16 at Mittersill, NH. His performances in SG from Sugarloaf and GS from Stratton were the top results contributing to his qualification. 

“Charlie has had a strong start to the year that began with NYSEF training projects in Valle Nevado Chile, Copper Mountain Colorado, and Sun Valley Idaho,” said Seppi Stegler, NYSEF Alpine Men’s Head Coach. 

Charlie had his personal best GS finish in Sun Valley Idaho which set the stage for strong performances in the U18 qualifier series.

“It's pretty special to see Charlie's growth throughout his time with Winter Term,” said Program Director Beatty Schlueter. “He’s dedicated, loves to ski, and is passionate about all things ski racing. Over the past year, Charlie’s off-season hard work is extremely notable and it's paying off. He truly has committed to the sport and doing everything he can to take advantage of the opportunity provided to him.” 

Charlie is known as a leader who is supported by and supports a great team.

Way to go, Charlie! 

Charlie Howe, second from left, is NYSEF's February Athlete of the Month

January Athlete of the Month

Tim Cunningham rollerskis in September's Climb to the Castle

Our January Athlete of the Month is Biathlete Tim Cunningham!

Tim joined NYSEF in the summer of ‘22 with the Collegiate Summer Group. Tim loved the team and the Adirondacks so much that he decided to stay with NYSEF for the remainder of the season. NYSEF Head Biathlon Coach Maddie Phaneuf says that It’s been a learning experience to coach a Senior-level athlete, but it has been awesome to see so much improvement in such a short amount of time! 

The last international race that Tim competed in was back in 2017. He had his eyes set on competing on the international stage again this winter, and after a lot of hours and hard work put in this season, he finally qualified for the IBU Cup and Open European Championships in Switzerland from January 25-29! 

This is a big deal for any Senior level biathlete, especially when it’s been roughly 5-6 years since their last international team. Tim is passionate, dedicated, and has his heart set on big goals. 

“I’m excited to see what the remainder of this season brings him, and can’t wait to see what his goals look like for next season,” says Phaneuf. 


December Athlete of the Month


December’s Athlete of the Month is Kirsten Iles. This 16-year-old from Manlius, NY is a NYSEF alpine racer at Whiteface Mountain who is attacking the 2022-23 season with zeal. 

“Kirsten is truly one of the most determined athletes I have ever had the pleasure of coaching,” says Patrick Purcell, U16 Alpine Head Coach at NYSEF Whiteface. “She has worked hard to get back to snow, stronger, more skilled, and definitely wiser.”

Purcell’s referring to Kirsten’s brush with what could have been a career-ending injury last season. While forerunning a NorAm Super G race at Whiteface Mountain, Kirsten fell and suffered patellar tendon damage. Months of rehab on her own, followed by still more months of tireless strength training with Purcell during dryland helped get Kirsten back on the snow, strong, confident, and ready for the season.

Recently, Kirsten returned from three weeks of training at Hintertux in Austria where she covered “mega miles” of vertical skiing, according to Purcell. 

“Kirsten has always approached her accident with a positive attitude,” he adds. “Her greatest attribute is the way she puts a twist on what could have easily been perceived as tragic.”

“I am confident that she will achieve lots of her goals,” Purcell says.

2021-22 Athletes of the Month 

Gavin Ebert

Gavin is a second year U16 alpine athlete and is in his second year with NYSEF as a winter term athlete.“Gavin is known for pushing the limits on and off the hill. From always trying to be faster in training, to breaking lifting records in the gym, he inspires others with his passion to be better. With this dedication, the height of Gavin’s success is limitless!” said assistant U16 coach Colden Mrak. His end of season performances at States, Easterns and Nationals set the stage for his continued success in the sport as he transitions onto U18s.

Abigail Van Dorn

Next athlete highlight is Abigail V- D. Abigail attends North Country School in Lake Placid and is a part of the NYSEF Junior XC and Biathlon team. She first learned how to cross country ski at Mount Van Hoevenberg at the age of 5.Her season highlights included participating in the XC U16 Championship and Biathlon National. Abigail’s favorite part of the season is racing! “Racing is super fun and rewarding. Biathlon is a thinking sport where you constantly balance pushing yourself faster without compromising accuracy. I greatly enjoy the uniqueness of the sport. Challenges are both mental and physical.” Way to go!

Lucas Smith and Paul Fogarty

Next athlete highlights are Winter Term athletes, Lucas S. and Paul F. who placed 1st and 3rd respectively at USSA Easterns in Slalom and both had top 5 finishes at CanAms!

Cara Dempsey

Next athlete to highlight is Northwood School’s, Cara D. from Saratoga Springs, NY. She started skiing at the age of 3 - taking lessons at Gore and then joined NYSEF with her two older siblings, Hugh and Norah. When discussing NYSEF, Cara said “NYSEF has always been amazing at supporting me and I would not be the racer I am today if it wasn’t for them.” Cara’s short term goals are to make Nationals next year and her long term goals are to ski in college. In the off season, she enjoys running, soccer, fishing, and other outdoor sports!

January Athlete of the Month: Kai McKinnon

Meet Kai McKinnon, a 13 year-old nordic combined athlete from Lake Placid, NY. Kai currently attends Lake Placid Middle School and has been a part of the NYSEF Winter Term program for one year. 

Kai began cross country skiing at age 3 and started ski jumping at age 7. Her parents, Jodi and Neil, were the first people to teach her how to ski in their driveway and. Like countless other local jumpers, Kai was first taught the tricks of the trade by renowned jumping coach Larry Stone. “My parents encouraged me to keep skiing but it was my desire to fly (ski jump) that kept me in it – skiing has always been a big part of my life. Everyone around me skis,” says Kai.

When asked about her favorite competitions, Kai quickly cites the Springer Tournee in Park City, Utah and Winter Start in Steamboat Springs, Colorado. Both competitions kick off the winter seasons for Nordic combined and ski jumping. When asked about her coaches here at NYSEF, Kai noted, “like most competitive athletes, it can be very frustrating to learn and refine certain skills and my coaches have supported me throughout my entire athletic career - their support has allowed me to become the athlete I am today.”  

Colin Delaney, Head Ski Jumping and Nordic Combined Coach at NYSEF, shared insight on Kai and her recent performances. “Kai brings a great attitude and energy to every training session. She has a professional approach, but you can tell she is always having a good time. A stand out moment for me this season was after her performance at the Lake Placid Supertour in the 5k mass start race. Nordic combined athletes don’t generally participate in races with traditional cross country ski athletes from New York and New England. After her top 10 result in the Supertour, Kai was exhausted, but all smiles. After the race she just said ‘That was a lot of fun.’”

Despite the lack of competitions due to COVID-19 last season, Kai stayed motivated thanks to her strive for the perfect jump. “If the competition season ended prematurely this year, I would still stay motivated because I am always trying my hardest at every practice to do my best and be the best,” says Kai.  This season, Kai reports that she is working on not becoming discouraged after a bad training or competition day and, instead, to look past these days, learn from them and improve. Her short term goal is to win nordic combined Junior Nationals in Salisbury, CT. Her long term goal is to reach the World Cup level and to eventually compete in the Olympics.

Like most athletes, many have common habits or rituals before competitions and Kai is no different. Before her jump, for instance, Kai checks her bindings exactly three times before getting on the bar to take her jump. Kai’s role models in the sport are her teammates who are always pushing her to be the best. “They give me a new perspective on the sport,” she adds.

When she is not skiing or jumping,  Kai is mountain biking, rock climbing, and running. 

Congratulations, Kai!

December Athlete of the Month: Charlie Howe

Congratulations to our December Athlete of the Month, Charles (Charlie) Howe!

Charlie is a second-year U16 alpine athlete in the NYSEF Winter Term Program at Whiteface. Originally from Holland, N.Y., Charlie has been a part of the Winter Term Program for 3 years. His home venue, Woods Valley, is a 15-minute drive from his home and he started his ski career at the age of 2 under the watchful eye of his parents.

Charlie got involved in ski racing through his school’s after-school program, which brought young skiers to Woods Valley every Wednesday. Even though his siblings are not skiers, Charlie was able to stay involved and competitive in the sport through the support of his peers.

Despite COVID-19 cancellations at the end of last season, Charlie was able to train harder than ever and treated each training session like a race. He also forerun several FIS races and compared his times to the FIS men, many of whom skied a busy schedule at Whiteface.

At Gore last season, Charlie placed in the top 3, which gave him confidence moving into the 2021 - 2022 snowsport calendar year. When asked about his favorite discipline, Charlie notes, “I am best at GS but my favorite event is SL – it is more fun, fast-paced and technical.”  During the Regional Performance Series (RPS) at Sugarbush earlier this season, Charlie was able to train and compete against the top U16’s in the East. At Sugarbush, he placed in the top 5 which demonstrated his perseverance despite challenging conditions. “I saw everyone falling ahead of me, so I knew I had to prepare myself to attack difficult terrain on the course,” notes Charlie on his RPS experience.

Winter Term has made a major difference in Charlie’s ski racing. “I can dedicate full-time to training, I have the support of the tutors to keep me up to speed with my academics, and I’ve met my closest friends,” he notes. Charlie is looking forward to February which will feature a large training block to prepare for important races later in the season. “The coaching staff at NYSEF is so supportive, and they know when to tell us to pause and re-visit certain skills. I would not be where I am today without the NYSEF coaching staff,” Charlie says. 

Head U16 Coach Patrick Purcell has noted considerable progress in Charlie’s skiing over the last 2 years. “Charlie understands the mechanics of skiing and uses his ski as a tool. He is becoming more consistent and has unlimited skill potential – he is one of the most talented skiers in our program.” 

Charlie’s long term goal is to ski division 1 for a collegiate team. For now, he hopes to make U16 Nationals. When Charlie is not skiing he is hanging out with friends, mountain biking or playing lacrosse! 

Congrats, Charlie!

March Athlete of the Month: Chiara Gelardi

The Athlete of the Month is Chiara Gelardi, a 13- year old alpine athlete from Fayetteville, NY who currently attends Eagle Hill Middle School.  Chiara was introduced to skiing at the age of 3 in Sunday River, ME by her father, Mark, who is a U12 Coach in the NYSEF - Whiteface Program.

Despite the unique challenges athletes encountered this season, Chiara constantly found new ways to balance her school work and athletics. “My priorities are always on school and whatever sport is currently in season. My closest friends either ski race, play lacrosse or run cross country with me.” Chiara also makes an effort to stay fit and practice health and wellness while staying on top of her work in the classroom, be it virtual or in-person.

Coaches noted that Chiara’s focus paid dividends on the hill. “Chiara put in a lot of hard work over the summer and it showed in the way she skied,” notes U14 Head Alpine Coach Jimbo Johnston. “It’s important for Weekend Program athletes to take full  advantage of every on and off- snow training opportunity, which Chiara did. It clearly showed in her development this season.”

On her racing, Chiara said, “I was definitely most confident in my GS and Super G going into the final races, but this season I improved most in Slalom.” In the future, she plans to make sure her Slalom is just as good as her GS and Super G.

“NYSEF has always been supportive of my racing goals. My coaches never fail to make sure that we always have fun and come out of the race leaving it all out on the hill and growing from it,” adds Chiara.

While NYSEF offers athletes the tools and coaching they need to succeed, it’s up to each athlete to show up ready to train and race. “Chiara’s dedication and approach to skiing is exactly what we are looking for when athletes decide to join NYSEF.  Chiara shows up each day ready to work and her results are the byproduct of her dedication and commitment,” adds Jimbo.

Chiara’s short term goal is to improve in Slalom and become a well-rounded athlete in all disciplines. Her long term goal is to race FIS and be a part of a ski racing team in college. In addition to her skiing, Chiara runs and plays lacrosse. She also studies martial arts and holds a second-degree black belt in two different styles. She trains alongside her father, Mark, who is her main instructor.

Chiara hopes to enroll in the NYSEF Winter Term Program next season. The Winter Term Program allows aspiring junior athletes the opportunity to access top-tier training and coaching opportunities, while continuing remotely in their school's curricula through one-on-one tutoring support. Congratulations, Chiara!

February Athlete of the Month: Gabrielle (Ellie) Avallone

Our February Athlete of the Month is Gabrielle (Ellie) Avallone, a 16-year-old alpine athlete from Southampton, NY. A current participant in the NYSEF Belleayre Program, Ellie started skiing at age 3 and was taught by her parents, Lynne and Joe, both of whom share a passion for skiing. Despite the unique challenges that her ski racing season brought with it, Ellie remained throughout. “I focused on working  on things that I can improve on. We got a lot of quality training this winter and I was able to focus on technique aspects that needed improving, instead of worrying about races every other weekend,” says Ellie.

“Ellie has come a long way this season, largely due to her intense focus during training sessions and her ability to translate what Jim (Belleayre Program Director) and I discuss from free skiing exercises to the race course,” reports Ellie’s coach, Belleayre Head U16/19 Coach Steve Mones.

When asked how NYSEF supported her ski racing goals, Ellie said, “I’ve learned that the more you practice something, the more you will understand it and really absorb the skill. The coaches show us how much they want us to succeed, and I think that really helped this season.” Ellie has showed success this season in regional races, placing 3rd and 5th in the Windham GS events, 5th in one of the Windham SL events, and most recently, 4th at the Belleayre GS. Although reaching the podium is always a highlight in any athlete’s career, Ellie’s favorite part of this season has been the amount of training she has received. “Although the race season was slim, we got a lot of training in and it helped me and others really improve on different things,” she commented.

Like most student- athletes, Ellie definitely recognizes this season as a challenging one but she was able to create a routine by prioritizing her school work before focusing on her training. Ellie’s short term goal is to finish off this season strong. Further along, Ellie plans to go to college and play soccer. Ellie currently plays soccer for a travel team and is a member of the varsity soccer and softball squads at Southampton High School. To support her athletic charisma, she occasionally trades her skis for a board and goes snowboarding!

Congratulations, Ellie!

January Athlete of the Month: Amanda Quiles

January athlete of the month is seventeen-year-old Amanda Quiles - an alpine athlete competing with the NYSEF Gore program. Amanda is a junior at Mahwah High School in NJ and learned how to ski at Jiminy Peak (Hancock, MA) when she was four-years-old. Not long after her first turns, she joined the local race program at Campgaw Mountain (Mahwah, NJ).

Amanda had early success this season, placing first in the U16+ West Mountain Giant Slalom event. When discussing her success and the race season, she said, “I was so excited to race because I did not think we had a lot of events due to COVID-19.”

Even with the lack of races, Amanda was still as excited than ever to train for the season. NYSEF provides a supportive team environment where athletes are brought together to do what they are passionate about: Amanda agrees, NYSEF has allowed her “... to take a break from school and get out and ski.”  Although COVID-19 made some obstacles for student-athletes, she feels more focused in school, having her best year academically.

When asked about her coaches and support from NYSEF, Amanda mentioned, “since I started skiing at Gore, I have learned to challenge myself daily... some skills develop quickly and there are others you need to work on for months... I am so thankful for all the coaches at NYSEF because they are so supportive and will always treat you like family.”

Amanda is no stranger to competitive sports. In addition to ski racing, she is also on her school’s varsity volleyball team and the captain of her mountain biking team. “Her participation and success with other sports has provided her focus and success with her alpine has been a great pleasure watching her grow up and mature within our NYSEF programs (in the weekend program, in Winter Term and our summer camps),” said Gore Head Alpine Coach, John Morgan.

Amanda’s short term goals are to push herself “ training, be more aggressive in the course and to be the best I can be academically”. Her long term goal is to ski in college.

Amanda is an advocate for diversity in the sport. “I am Hispanic and rarely do I see other athletes of various ethnicities,” she said. Amanda supports a local NJ nonprofit, the Winter 4 Kids, a program providing snowsport opportunities to low-income kids from urban areas. “I love to teach others to ski and never miss an opportunity to teach a friend, family member or neighbor how to ski,” she added.


December Athlete of the Month: Andrew Scanio

Our December Athlete of the Month is Andrew Scanio. Andrew is a 15 year - old biathlon and cross country athlete from Lake Placid, and currently attends Lake Placid High School. Andrew learned to ski at 4 years old and started with NYSEF at age 8. Like many local outdoor enthusiasts, Andrew had the opportunity to enjoy both alpine and nordic skiing. “While I enjoyed both sports, I developed a stronger connection with cross country, so I decided to switch to that full-time,” says Andrew. 

Andrew recently took top U16 in the first events of the season, the Harry Eldridge classic and freestyle races held  on January 9 and 10 at Mt. Van Hoevenberg. Andrew acknowledges there was plenty of excitement surrounding the first races held at the brand new venue, which was built to meet World Cup standards over the past year. He felt well prepared for the challenging course as the NYSEF team has been able to train consistently on the new trails since mid-November. 

“Having the new venue and its new snowmaking capabilities have been a complete game changer for our program,” said Biathlon and Cross Country Head Coach, Shane MacDowell. “Andrew has taken full advantage of everything the program and venue have to offer by showing up every day ready to work hard and achieve his goals.”

When asked about Andrew’s short and long term goals, he noted, “my short term goal is to finish the season strong and stay healthy. In the future, I would love to ski in college.” Although the current pandemic has introduced many challenges for competitive athletes like Andrew, he continues to stay focused on his academics and athletics. “It can be challenging balancing school and sport, but I usually try to do as much work as I can during the study halls scattered throughout my school day and then head over to Mt. Van Hoevenberg for ski practice. NYSEF keeps me busy and these days I appreciate the social aspect of the program even more,” he said.

“It has been such a pleasure to watch Andrew mature as an athlete,” writes Cross Country Assistant Coach, Julianne Stemp.  “Andrew has taken real ownership of his skiing-- he has recognized that much of an athletes success in nordic skiing is determined through their summer training, and his hard efforts throughout the summer have produced results which he is excited about this year.”

Andrew’s role models in the sport are Scott Schulz and Van Ledger. “They’re both excellent skiers who graduated from Lake Placid High School,” he says. 

In his free time, Andrew enjoys performing in theater, playing the trombone, and spending time outdoors with family. Congratulations, Andrew!

March Athlete of the Month: Jake Reynolds

NYSEF Athlete of the Month is 19-year-old Post Graduate (PG) Jake Reynolds. Jake, a Northwood School and NYSEF Winter Term alum, has been alpine skiing at Whiteface since he was 2. His father, John and the rest of the Reynolds family have been a part of the ski racing world for generations. “I come from a family enamored with skiing, so I get to see many of the people I look up to every day,” Jake says. Being around Whiteface for most of his life, Jake appreciates the hard work that goes into making the training so successful every season. I know the whole PG team appreciates the daily effort from NYSEF staff to prep the race hill and supply the best surface for us,” he noted.

Since joining the NYSEF PG Program, “I’ve had the chance to race in series such as Nor-Am Cups...these races have given me the opportunity to compete against top tier athletes,” Reynolds says. On the subject of motivation, Jake notes “I set a goal that was very meaningful for me. My goal is to ski Division I,  and I want to be among the best there. Between NYSEF’s venues and their coaching staff, this program was going to give me the best chance of accomplishing that.” Men’s Head FIS Coach Thomas Vonn said, “Jake had a great season and continues to improve at an impressive rate. This past season Jake scored multiple personal bests and was a regular on the podium in many of the FIS races he entered, including grabbing a FIS Eastern Cup win and scoring his first NorAm points.” 

Coaches like Vonn and Assistant Coach Alex Shearer teach Jake and his teammates how to take care of their bodies through conditioning and proper nutrition, as well as how to maintain their race equipment so each can perform at the highest level. As far as training and improvements this season, Jake commented, “ we regularly have the ability to train Super G. Even for athletes like me who want to ski in college where Super-G is not raced, training speed has shown to improve the tech performance of our whole team.”

Jake’s main goal is to ski Division I at an NCAA college or university in the upcoming seasons. Coach Vonn added, ”In the past year and half Jake has gone from being a motivated kid that no one had heard of-- not being on anyone’s national or collegiate radar-- to becoming one of the top juniors in the country, and being sought after by D I schools. I have no doubt Jake will continue to improve. He has the ability and drive to reach any goal he sets his mind to.”

In the off-season, Jake plans to “do plyometric, cardio, and resistance training to maintain my physical conditioning.” When not focusing on skiing, he enjoys fishing and playing tennis. 

Congratulations, Jake!

February Athlete of the Month: Elise Loescher

February Athlete of the Month, Elise Loescher is a 17-year old, ski jumping athlete from Burlington, V.T. and a junior at Northwood School. Elise started ski jumping with NYSEF 4 years ago but has been alpine skiing since she was 2-years old. Since the first time she launched off a ski jump, Elise loved the feeling of flying through the air. What motivates her to stay in the sport is “that unique feeling of flying through the air, the people that I have met and the places I have been able to travel.”

When asked if she had any role models in the sport, she answered, her coach, Colin Delaney and the current women competing in the sport. “Colin is so knowledgeable in the sport and remains humble in everything he does. Another role model are all the strong and talented women who have pushed for equality in the sport.” Some of Elise’s long term goals are to stay healthy, compete internationally, and be a good example to the younger athletes while educating the public about the sport.

When discussing her season, Head Ski Jumping and Nordic Combined Coach, Colin Delaney said, “she has had her best winter to date with her best US Cup results competing in Colorado and across the Midwest.”

Currently, Elise is working on listening to her body and being in tune to any potential pain, especially in her back. “My coaches have taught me to become aware of my back pain and they have helped me strengthen it and be aware when I need to take a break to stay healthy,” Elise said.

Elise hopes to train throughout the summer and be consistent with her jumping. “I’m hoping this summer Elise will get the chance to compete at her first FIS level events in Europe in August. She will have the opportunity to meet more athletes from other countries and experience new venues around the world,” Coach Delaney added.

Additionally, this upcoming summer Elise wants “to focus on the mental side of the sport, being in the right mindset can give you an edge on the other competitors.”

In her free time, Elise loves to visit family and friends, go rock climbing and play lacrosse. Congrats on your season!

January Athlete of the Month: Grant Pedersen

Grant Pedersen is a 15-year old snowboard athlete from Mount Olive, N.J. and is a sophomore at Mount Olive High School. Grant has participated in the NYSEF-Belleayre program for the last two seasons and competes in boarder cross, snowboard GS/SL, slopestyle and rail jam. According to his coaches, he improved his snowboarding considerably this season and always shows up to training with a great attitude. “Grant encompasses everything NYSEF and strives to teach and encourage each athlete to be the best version of themselves,” writes Belleayre Snowboarding Coach Carlie Capela. “Grant takes the time to be a true team player—cheering everyone on at a competition. The way he treats people is inspiring. He’s just a great role model for his younger teammates.”

As Grant improved in the sport, he also focused on having fun—a decision which saw him become even more of a positive influence on his teammates. “Although there may be a few hiccups during training, I always remind myself to have fun— maybe to step away from a trick I am having trouble with and return to it later,” adds Grant. His coaches attest to his growth as an athlete and eagerness to learn about the sport. “Not only is Grant striving to learn by asking questions, he takes what he learns to perfect his overall technique” said Coach Carlie. This season, Grant is working on setting up for the rails correctly and going off the lip of the jump to get more air.

Some of Grant’s goals this season are to make the United States of America Snowboard and Freeski Association (USASA) Nationals and progress in the sport. When asked what he does to prepare for a competition, Grant said, “I visualize the course, rail or trick and listen to music to get pumped up and remind myself to have fun.”

What Grant enjoys most about the freeride program at Belleayre is seeing his friends and enjoying the camaraderie within the program.

When he is not snowboarding, Grant plays lacrosse and helps his dad in the garage working on motorcycles and cars.


December Athlete of the Month: Andrew Van Slyke

Andrew Van Slyke is an 18-year old alpine athlete from Lake Placid, NY and a senior at Northwood School. Alpine skiing has been a part of Andrew’s life since he could walk, having been brought into the sport by his parents, Paul and Ingrid.

After growing 6 inches over the last 2 years, Andrew has made considerable improvements to his skiing technique. In order to become more stable on his skis, Andrew undertook an enhanced training and conditioning program to adjust to his new balance point. With the addition of coaches like Thomas Vonn, Head Men’s FIS Coach/Technical Director at NYSEF and Northwood School, Andrew was motivated to work even harder because he saw the investment and involvement his coaches put forth towards making him into a better athlete. “Coach Vonn’s willingness to help and his positive outlook on how to transfer training skills to race day simply made me work even harder,” says Andrew. Coach Vonn quickly noticed the improvement in Andrew’s skiing. “I would certainly put him in the category of most improved. Andrew’s season is just beginning and with the work he has put in– the results will come,” says Vonn. Alex Shearer, Assistant U19 Men’s Coach said, “Andrew has improved drastically over the last year. He’s committed to performing at the highest level.”

In addition to the coaching staff, Andrew mentioned his teammates as a major motivating factor. “We are good friends who just push each other to get faster every day,” he says.

When asked about goals for the year, Andrew noted, “I would like to lower my points in GS and SL and qualify for Junior Nationals and, if possible, US Nationals.” Moving forward, he plans to continue to train hard and work on skiing the steeper pitches in slalom even smoother and faster. In his off season, Andrew maintains and repairs boats at a marina on Big Moose Lake.

Next up for Andrew are speed events in Sugarloaf, Maine.


March Athlete of the Month: Marli Damp

Our March Athlete of the Month is Marli Damp. Marli is a 15-year old cross country skier from Lake Placid, N.Y. In addition to training for cross country skiing year-round, Marli is also competing on the Lake Placid High School track team this spring.

Like most athletes, Marli has a pre-race routine: “I put glitter on my face and wear my hair in pigtails.” Marli looks up to Olympic gold medalist, Jessie Diggins, who makes the sport fun and playful.

Marli’s goal for this season was to make top 20 at Junior Nationals in Anchorage, Alaska. Throughout the season, Marli had credible finishes and was one of the top U16s going into Nationals.

Although Marli had great results all season, she had difficulty overcoming obstacles at Nationals. “I sometimes overthink on race day and by doing so it takes away energy that I can be using in the race.” Marli has started to talk more with her coaches and peers in an effort to calm her tension before race events. She also has begun practicing yoga!

Although Marli’s end of season goal was not met, she is “motivated by the bad races and will not lose my work ethic…I am looking forward to training harder.” In regards to Marli’s work ethic, Head NYSEF Cross-Country Ski Coach, Shane MacDowell said, “Marli is self-aware of her obstacles and is committed to overcoming them.” Shane added, “Marli likes to be pushed and knows where she can improve in training and on race day…I am looking forward to witness her growth as an athlete.”

Marli is thrilled to move up to the U18 group next season because she “likes distance events and U18s race 10K’s versus 5K’s.” She is also excited for summer training because it is the “hardest training we (NYSEF) do all year…it gets us ready for the winter season.”

In her free time, Marli likes to water ski, run and write poetry!

February Athlete of the Month: Shane Bittinger

February Athlete of the Month is Shane Bittinger, a 16-year old, alpine skier from Monticello, N.Y. Shane began racing with the NYSEF-Belleayre program this year. Shane decided to move to the Belleayre program because of the competitive training opportunities NYSEF offers to their athletes and terrain at Belleayre Mountain.

“Determined, balanced and respectful are words that can describe Shane,” Program Director of NYSEF-Belleayre, Jim Catalano. Shane races for both US Ski and Snowboard (USSA) and High School which creates a demanding athletic schedule. Jim commented, “Shane has executed a solid season while balancing USSA racing, High School racing and managing his academics at a high level.”

As a U19, Shane is determined to “focus on this year and lower his points at the next race event.” He had the opportunity to travel and visit a variety of mountains while meeting new athletes. “Being a part of USSA has allowed me to compete with all levels across New York State,” Shane said.

When asked about recent obstacles in the sport, Shane said, “my skis at U19 Finals.” It is important to have valuable training time on skis before race day. Shane was unable to train on his new 165 cm slalom (SL) skis and had difficulty in the SL event—his best (and favorite) event during U19 Championships at Gore Mountain in March.

Shane’s goals for next season is for early training at Copper Mountain with NYSEF. In the summer, Shane water skis and rides dirt bikes!

January Athlete of the Month: Robbie Sinclair

January Athlete of the Month is Robbie Sinclair, a 14-year old, snowboarder from Saranac Lake, N.Y.
Robbie’s favorite events are boarder cross and slopestyle and competes with the youth men in the 14-15 year age circuit.

Although Robbie was born in South Dakota, as soon as his family moved to the Adirondacks, Robbie started riding in the backyard with his dad. Robbie transitioned to ride at Pisgah Mountain and finally ride and train with NYSEF at Whiteface. Robbie loves to participate in NYSEF because of its mission and the coaches. “My coach (Head Snowboard Coach, Bob Witt) makes daily training fun while also being serious… it helps me develop as an athlete and continue with the sport,” Robbie mentioned. “Bob and all the freeride coaches, manage to be playful while accomplishing our goals for the day.”

Freeride Program Director, Mike Kirchner commented, "Robbie shows great athletic performances and has been the most improved this season…he is a great role model for his peers and other youth athletes." Robbie practices with his younger sister, Alexis, an 11-year old skicross athlete. The innocent sibling rivalry in the cross course makes it enjoyable.

When asked about obstacles, Robbie answered, “the lack of competition and how small the field is in New York State.” In an effort, to compete with the best, Robbie has the opportunity to compete in Vermont and at USASA Nationals in Copper Mountain in April. In the off season, Robbie loves to swim and wake board on the lake.


December Athlete of the Month: Rowen Norfolk


December Athlete of the Month, Rowen Norfolk is a 14-year-old, U16 alpine athlete from Lake Placid, N.Y. and a freshman at Northwood School. Rowen started skiing for NYSEF at age 8 and enjoys going to training because of the friendships he has made in the sport. Since beginning with NYSEF, Rowen has pushed himself to compete at the highest level. Head U16 Coach, Patrick Purcell added, “Rowen’s love for competition sets the bar high for our U16 team.” Even after a season ending injury last year, Rowen was eager to put in the work for a comeback to ski racing.

Rowen suffered an injury in February of 2018, soon before the NY State Championships. Despite the obstacle, Rowen has showed “outstanding results in the toughest conditions…something someone would be hesitant about coming back into the sport of ski racing,” U16 Coach, Pieter van Ingen added. Pieter and the other coaches continue to be impressed with Rowen’s comeback.

When asked about struggles this season, Rowen answered, “the logistics like remembering to dry out my clothing or boot liners.” Like most high school athletes in a sport like ski racing, independence is a crucial ingredient for success. As a freshman, Rowen looks to refine the process of planning and learn from other seasoned athletes. Rowen’s goals this season is to “make it to U16 Nationals and race against ski with the best in the country.”

Although Rowen is modest about his accomplishments, he boasts about his brother, Lincoln, age 12 and sister, Cecila, age 8. Both are going to be Lake Placid’s next skiing superstars.



March Athlete of the Month: Norah Dempsey


March Athlete of the Month is Norah Dempsey, a 14 year old, U16 alpine athlete from Saratoga Springs, N.Y. Norah raced at Gore Mountain (in North Creek) and since become a part of NYSEF’s Winter Term Program. Winter Term allowed Norah to train throughout the winter while getting one-on-one tutoring to keep up with her curriculum from Saratoga Springs High School. In Winter Term, “we got so much time on snow, with excellent coaching. I loved being in an environment where I could focus on my skiing while keeping up and having plenty of support in school,” Norah mentioned.

When asked about goals for this season, Norah said, “to ski consistently fast throughout the whole year, without losing steam at the end.” Although competitive snowsports typically last four months, it is important to continue momentum into the spring especially for athletes like Norah who qualify for special competitions.

Hear what Norah’s coaches are saying:

  • Head U16 Coach, Patrick Purcell commented, “Norah works hard, seriously hard and has an absolute love for what she does in the sport.”
    Assistant U16 Coach, Pieter van Ingen added, “Norah is willing to change her skiing and try new drills in order to become a better racer…something not many competitive athletes are willing to do.”
  • Coach Patrick Purcell said, “Norah is one of the most coach-able athletes and 100% behind her teammates.”

Since ski racing is an individual support, athletes have to be supportive of their peers in a competitive environment. Norah added, “we choose to support each other instead of being on a team and told to support each other…I am grateful to have a group of such amazing friends for teammates.”

Norah ended the season racing against the top athletes in the country at U16 Junior Nationals in Washington. Norah goals for next season are to improve her slalom skiing to the level of her Giant Slalom (GS) and Super G. As for now, Norah is excited to start biking and running. CONGRATS ON A GREAT SEASON, NORAH!


February Athlete of the Month: Tate Frantz


NYSEF February Athlete of the Month is Tate Frantz of Lake Placid. Tate is a 12 year old ski jumper and Nordic combined athlete who attends Lake Placid Central School. Tate started jumping “at 8 years old with NYSEF and was motivated to get involved after my older brother, Kai, began jumping.” Tate recently won the U16 Ski Jumping National Championships in Anchorage, Alaska (at age 12)! Also in Alaska, Tate competed in the team jumping competition which was “a cool event to work together with other Eastern athletes.” Tate and his team won the U16 Team Jumping Competition.

Tate’s coach, Colin Delaney said, “Tate is extremely coachable and always thinking of ways of going outside the box in training.” Colin added, “the fear of jumping can be an obstacle…Tate got over this fear earlier than his peers and continues to build confidence while making positive improvements.”

Some of Tate’s rituals before major competitions are “wearing the same under suit and socks and trying to have peanut butter.”  Tate is eager to “finish off the season strong and have fun.”

In the off season, Tate mountain bikes, bakes cookies, runs and plays soccer. Way to go, Tate!

January Athlete of the Month: Joseph Wilson

Joseph Wilson is a U18 Cross-Country (XC) ski athlete from Keene, N.Y. Unlike many of the XC Junior athletes, Joseph began skiing with NYSEF two years ago in the summer of 2016. “I started skiing one a day a week working with the Saranac Lake modified team and joined NYSEF for more in depth training,” Joseph said.

Since Joseph’s time skiing competitively, he has made Junior Nationals and had a few podiums in several race events. When asked why the urge to join a XC ski program in high school, Joseph answered, “I appreciate how cardiovascular demanding the sport is, enjoy the community and most importantly, the camaraderie of having everyday training partners, my teammates.”

Head Coach, Shane MacDowell, said “Joseph takes a skill and applies it during training and in the race.” Shane has seen Joseph’s progress and his attention to focus on technique to strengthen himself as a racer. “Joseph has a great engine and is getting faster because he works hard,” Shane concluded.

Some of Joseph’s goals are to make Top 30 in Classic race at Junior Nationals and to eventually ski in college. When asked if Joseph has any pre-routine or ritual before a race, he mentioned, “I always have a peanut butter and banana sandwich and get to the race early for warm up.” As long as there is peanut butter and banana available for Junior Nationals, we expect to see success for Joseph. Way to go, Joseph, and good luck this season!

December Athlete of the Month: Brady Mason

Brady Mason is a first year U16 alpine skiing athlete from Silver Spring, Maryland. Although Brady’s home ski area is Roundtop Mountain Resort in Pennsylvania, he had the opportunity to train with NYSEF in the December Winter Term program. December term trained in Copper, Colorado and at Whiteface Mountain.  “Coming from a small mountain to being able to train two weeks in Copper Mountain to being surrounded by Olympic athletes made me feel like I was living the lifestyle of a true athlete…I had to make sure my hard work on and off the snow showed that,” Brady commented. Winter Term Program Director, Beatty Schlueter said, “Brady gave 100% on the hill and in the classroom, his attention to detail in the sport and in his studies made him a great role model for other student-athletes…we would be excited to have him a part of our Winter Term next season.”

While Brady was training with NYSEF he worked with Head U16 Alpine Coach, Patrick Purcell. “Brady was eager to understand the skills and fundamentals of skiing which translated well once he got into training gates,” Coach Purcell said. Brady knows he still has skills to work on and was able to develop consistency with his training throughout the month of December and into the season. “I am a very technical skier and like to know exactly what I need to do in order to be better and to be faster,” Brady said.

Brady’s goals for the season are to be a top first year U16, be a top competitor as Eastern Finals in Stowe, Vermont and continue to work on his Giant Slalom. When Brady is not on snow, he trades his poles and skis in for a Lacrosse stick and travels competitively.

March Athlete of the Month: Emma Lauria

Emma charging during a comp at Killington, VT this season. Photo provided
Emma charging during a comp at Killington, VT this season. Photo provided


Emma Lauria is a sophomore at Pelham High School in Pelham, NY. A mogul athlete, Emma is currently wrapping up her third season with the NYSEF Winter Term program.

Emma is currently enjoying what she feels is one of her strongest seasons to date. She has placed top-10 in singles and top-8 in dual mogul events on the regional circuit all winter. For the second year in a row, she has qualified to take part in both the Junior National Championships and US National Championships.

“What makes Emma a great athlete is her competitive drive,” writes NYSEF Mogul Coach Nick Arnold. “When she does well, she looks to do even better. When she doesn’t perform her best, she looks for ways to improve. Emma has also been set back by several injuries this season, the latest being a broken bone in her hand. Despite these hurdles, Emma has demonstrated time and again her dedication towards achieving her goals.”

Lauria’s proudest accomplishment this season was qualifying for two FIS North American Cups, at Killington, VT and Val St. Come, Quebec, Canada. “This was really special for me because these events feature skiers from around the world,” reports Lauria.

A third-year student in the NYSEF Winter Term program, Emma has become adept at balancing a busy travel schedule with her one-on-one tutorials with Winter Term tutors. While she acknowledges that challenging courses combined with weeks away from school at a time isn’t always the easiest way to learn, she’s picked up some valuable study skills along the way. “Emma is highly proactive about her schoolwork,” reports Winter Term Program Director Dave McCahill. “She’s organized, methodical, and seeks out assistance when she needs it. She’s learning skills that will serve her well through college and beyond.”

Coach Arnold also notes Emma’s positivity and contribution to the team atmosphere. “Emma is a really supportive teammate. When one of her teammates is in the gate, Emma is always there to support them and cheer them on.”

When there’s no snow on the ground, Emma competes for two softball teams. She also helps her dad with the local Booster Club to help raise money for their school and local sports teams.

Looking forward, Emma departs on Tuesday for the US National Championships, held in Steamboat Springs, CO. She’s hoping for a top-25 finish there, and aims to qualify for all four North American Cup events next year.


Congratulations Emma, and best of luck this season!

Emma catching some air in a regional competition at Bristol Mountain. Photo provided

Meet our February Athlete of the Month: Hillary Larsen


Meet our January Athlete of the Month: Matthieu Côté


Meet our December Athlete of the Month: Gabby Armstrong

Copyright: Adirondack Daily Enterprise/ Lake Placid News