Lake Placid native to ski for US Biathlon in upcoming European races
LAKE PLACID — Lucy Hochschartner grew up in Cascadeville a short distance from the 1980 Winter Olympic Nordic ski trails and biathlon stadium at Mount Van Hoevenberg. Now she’s looking to become one of an elite club of Adirondackers who have competed on the international stage in a winter sport.
Later this month, she will be representing US Biathlon in two International Biathlon Union racing events: the IBU Cup on Jan. 14-17 and Jan. 20-23 in Arber, Germany; and the IBU Open European Championships on Jan. 27-31 in Duszniki Zdroj, Poland. US Biathlon named five women and five men to the team, plus two alternates.
“I was just extremely honored and excited,” Hochschartner said Dec. 22. “I’ve actually never been to Europe before — for skiing or otherwise.”
Hochschartner, 23, graduated from St. Lawrence University in Canton in the spring. She had competed on the school’s Nordic ski team alongside Lake Clear native Jackie Garso, who also made the transition to biathlon after college and will join Hochschartner on the US Biathlon roster in Europe. They competed together in the New York Ski Educational Foundation program while in high school.
“We’ve been teammates for almost a decade now,” Hochschartner said. “This is the first year we’ve not been on a team together, because she moved out to California, so we’re excited to be reunited in Germany.”
Hochschartner is the daughter of David Hochschartner, the former headmaster at North Country School, and Selden West, a history teacher at the school. It was her father’s love of biathlon that first drew her to the sport.
“My dad is very into biathlon,” she said. “He loves watching it. He used to do it, not professionally or anything, but as an enthusiast.”
Hochschartner’s hometown also had a role in opening her eyes to the possibility that biathlon could be part of her athletic future. Four-time U.S. Olympic biathletes Lowell Bailey and Tim Burke (who grew up in Paul Smiths) live in Lake Placid and are working hard to grow their sport in the Adirondacks.
“It’s always something I’ve been around growing up in Lake Placid,” Hochschartner said. “But I didn’t start pursuing it full time until after college because it’s not a college sport.”
Hochschartner shot a rifle intermittently through middle and high school, but she didn’t get her own rifle until her freshman year of college ended. That’s also when she took part in a biathlon camp.
“I got into it because US Biathlon has this great program called Talent ID Camp,” she said. “It’s for a week over the summer, and they’ll teach you how to shoot and do all sorts of physical testing and help you figure out your path in biathlon.”
In May, Hochschartner moved to Bozeman, Montana to train in biathlon at the Crosscut Mountain Sports Center, which specializes in the sport. After the 2018 Winter Olympics, Bailey moved to Bozeman to become the sports center’s first executive director before moving back to Lake Placid in 2019. He’s still on the Crosscut Board of Directors and is now the director of high performance for US Biathlon.
Burke is currently the director of athlete development for US Biathlon.
“In a year where many athletes will experience limited racing opportunities, we are excited to name our biggest IBU Cup team to date,” Burke said in the Dec. 21 press release announcing the IBU Cup roster. “This team is a good mix of veterans and up-and-comers, and we look forward to watching them build on the success of last year’s historic IBU Cup results.”
Although 2020 was a challenging year due to the coronavirus pandemic, it was also a year of milestones for Hochschartner. She capped off a four-year Nordic ski racing career at SLU last winter, graduated in May with a bachelor’s degree in both environmental studies and government, was chosen to receive a Fulbright Award from SLU in September and was named to the US Biathlon roster for the IBU Cup in December.
The Fulbright Award was to help Hochschartner spend a year in Paraguay, studying the country’s 2004 “Zero Deforestation Law.”
“(To) look at how that was passed and the conditions needed for successful environmental legislation to be passed, with the idea of it being a model for elsewhere,” she said. “And why this law only applies to half of the country. Half of Paraguay is a rain forest, and the other half is a tropical dry forest. They’re both really important ecosystems, but only the rain forest is protected.”
Due to COVID-19 restrictions, traveling to Paraguay was not an option in the fall, and Fulbright Awards were postponed through November. Then she had to make a choice — to accept or decline the Fulbright and travel to Paraguay. By this time, she’d spent many months training in Montana, so she declined the Fulbright and decided to pursue biathlon instead.
“As painful as it was, I definitely was really excited to go and grow as a person, meet new people, experience a different culture, practice Spanish, learn more about environmental policy, learn from all the great work people are doing there,” Hochschartner said. “But with coronavirus, it just wasn’t the right time for me. I want to be with friends and family, and with biathlon going really well, that’s an opportunity that is hard to pass up because it’s the only time in my life I can do it. I’m not going to be coming back to biathlon at age 40.”
Is a World Cup tour in Hochschartner’s future? The Olympics? It’s too early to say. Eventually she’ll get back to a career in environmental activism, but for now, you can find her on a ski trail with a rifle strapped to her back.