Olivia Colarusso (‘19) stands in the gate, poles positioned to start, listening to her teammates cheer her name, poised to start the ORHS ski season. Racer ready? Three…two…one…go.
The Oyster River Ski Team kicked off their season this past Friday, January 4th, a GS race (giant slalom) at Pats Peak Ski Area in Henniker against Portsmouth, Pelham, Hanover, and Bow. The team faced challenges in the race due to missing racers and difficult conditions; however, their overall performance was strong and they look optimistically towards the rest of the season.
The Oyster River Ski Team is made up of a racers from a variety of skiing backgrounds; many have been skiing for club teams for many years, while others have only skied recreationally and are new to racing. For many new team members, Friday’s race was the first time they had been timed running gates. Both experienced and novice racers enjoyed cheering for teammates at Friday’s race.
The OR girls placed second, behind Hanover while the OR boys came in fourth, with Bow in first. The leading OR racers were, Colarusso who came in third overall for the girls with a combined time from her two runs of 55.64 seconds and Owen Mueller (‘21) in eleventh overall, with a combined time of 54.58.
Experienced racers noted that the course was set in a straighter pattern, with gates set closer together than is typical, this added a challenge as there wasn’t as much room for racers to build their turns. For inexperienced racers it was a challenge because the snow piled up around the gates and tripped them up.
The straight and close-set pattern made the course more difficult because GS courses are typically more spread out with offset gates. By consequence, GS skis are designed to be fast, but they require space to turn. So, in a course is set too close together, like this one was, there isn’t enough room to turn. Tyler Nachilly (’19), one of the boys’ captains, said after inspecting the course before his first run, “I did not mentally prepare for this atrocity.” He later said, “overall, it was definitely interesting, not really similar to anything I’ve practiced before. But it ended up being okay.”
Holly Reid (‘21) said after her first run, “I think the course’s set was a little bit different than what most of the team is used to, but I think it’s a good skill to be able to adapt to it.”
Emma Moore, a race worker at Pats Peak, was one of the people who set the course. She explained that when setting a GS course she tries to, “give it a little more swing up top, not too straight to get it going too fast.” She also tries to have, “nice easy turns on the bottom [the flat part of the the trail].”
Racers also faced some issues with the amount of snow in the course during their first run. Nachilly said, “there was a lot of snow still in the course, and that kind of slowed me down a little bit and I lost a little bit too much speed.”
Moore expressed some worry about the berms, loose snow that builds up in mounds along the side of the course, building up on the outside of the course. “If you get caught on the outside, it’s pretty easy to lose yourself and you just fall.”
Sofia Sarzosa (‘22) fell during her second run due to berms that built up after skiers pushed snow to the sides of the course during their first runs. Sarzosa said, “I started off a little too fast and caught a [berm] near a gate.”
Reid made a similar point, saying, “I think the snow conditions were pretty tricky; it was pretty hard to stay above and high on the gate.” She concluded, “I think it’s really important for my next run to stay above and early (start turns earlier and and stay away from the berms on the outside), and really be aggressive.
Despite the issues with the course, Nachilly said of the race overall, “I think the team had a pretty good showing. We’re missing a good amount of people today, so that definitely affected us. From what I saw, everyone had really great runs, and everyone seemed really positive about their runs.”
As Nachilly mentioned, the boys team faced an added challenge at this race, as they were missing some of last year’s varsity athletes due to illness or injury. Head coach, Mike Regan stated, “it is difficult to not have some of your top skiers.”
Regarding the rest of the season Regan, stated, “I think the team’s looking better than ever this year, probably our best year ever for Oyster River skiing.”
Reid agreed, saying, “I think the team is going to do really awesome this year because we have a pretty good connection and everyone’s friends.” She elaborated, saying, “with the good support of a team like that, the team is going to do well.”
Nachilly stated, “the team vibe, as always, is spectacular. We always have a great time, there’s a lot of cheering at the bottom of the race course.”