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Sullivan West ski team off to a late start

By By Sullivan West journalism students Leif Johansen and Camille Sensiba
February 3, 2016

LAKE HUNTINGTON, NY — The Sullivan West ski team is off to perhaps its most unusual start to a ski season ever. With some of the warmest weather this area has experienced in recent years, slopes have been slow to open for competition and recreation alike. As team members finish off their first six weeks of the season, they enter week three of practicing outdoors. Local ski areas have gradually opened more trails as colder temperatures set in and natural snow accumulates. Belleayre Mountain, the usual destination for team races, now boasts just over half of its 50 trails open at a time when the season is typically at its peak, while other slopes are experiencing similar conditions.

“[The weather] is crazy. It’s caused us to cram all of our races into two weeks that we usually have over the course of a month or two,” says Sullivan West senior Bristol Woods, one of three seniors on the team this year. The team’s schedule is packed with practices at Holiday Mountain that often surpass four hours in length every day after school, and the team meets as frequently as three times a week. “Being on the ski team requires more time than most sports,” says freshman Joseph Joyce-Turner. “Most nights we don’t get home until late, and we sometimes leave the school at 6 a.m.”

“We race GS [giant slalom] and slalom. I like GS a lot more. It’s faster, it’s more freeing. You don’t have to hold back to make sharp turns. Instead, you can just open up and round each gate as fast as possible,” says Sullivan West senior and ski team captain Jeffrey Michel.

Although the athletes do not ski down the hill together as a team, freshman Kai Brasseale believes that when teammates encourage each other, it improves their performance on the slopes. “Going down the hill doesn’t take the whole team, but having them cheer you on definitely helps,” Brasseale says.

The ski team has had a difficult year, but according to Michel, the stats aren’t as bad as they appear. “The best of the year so far in our school was 13th place. That doesn’t look awesome, but when you think about it, we’re a C school going up against A schools that are way bigger. Half the time we don’t have enough racers to be labeled a full team. You need four people for that, and we usually do, but DQs and D&Fs [disqualifications and did-not-finishes] happen. If you miss the gate or straddle it or clip it so a ski pops off, you’re done. We’re also not allowed to practice on the course at all. All we get to do is look at it. Even during practices, we don’t get to race on the same courses that we ski on in a competition, either. So that makes it tough.”