LOCALadk Magazine

LOCALadk Winter 2015

LOCALadk Magazine

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Page 22 of 59

Winter 2015 LOCALadk Magazine 23 LOCALadk The Polar Bear Ski Club has produced many elite athletes including Olym- pic Biathlete John "Louie" Ehrensbeck, US Alpine Ski Team members Hank Kashiwa, Gary Vaughn, and Dan Stripp, US Ski Orienteering team member Sandy Stripp Tetreault, and X-Games Skier Cross competitor Chantelle Heroux. Currently, 20-year-old Maddie Phaneuf is training at the Olympic Training Center in Lake Placid, N.Y. and will be competing for the US Biathlon National Team in World Cup races again this 2015-2016 season. Currently, the Polar Bear Ski Club is a program that supports skiing in the fields of Alpine, Nordic and Biathlon. We are unique in this sense. Also unique to the club is that our members may compete in any or all three sports. Most other ski clubs cater to one of these sporting divisions. Ath- letes have the convenience and fortune of practicing up to six days per week to prepare for weekend competitions. Few ski clubs, other than private academies, provide that amount of time on snow our athletes receive. The ages of our athletes range from five to eighteen years old. Most of the racers are between eight and fourteen. Competitors are broken down into groups depending on their gender and age. For Nordic skiers and Biathletes, age determines the distance a skier must race. It also determines the amount of shooting or penalty laps skied. Alpine racers are compared and awarded places based on their course completion time in their age group. For all the athletes this allows for fair competition within the gender and age range. About eight years ago the size of the Polar Bear Ski Team was nearly sixty racers within the three skiing disciplines. At that time the alpine team was dominating the podium in every age group. The Nordic team was small but dominate as well. The size of the team has decreased over the past several years but remains one of the strongest teams in the re- gion. The strength of the Polar Bears can be accredited to many things. The practice terrain for both alpine and Nordic is challenging. McCauley Mountain Ski Area provides easy to very difficult training options. Racers from other ski areas; alpine and Nordic, are very intimidated by our home mountain. Excellent and caring coaches create a fun filled learning en- vironment for young racers. The coaches give of themselves to provide the kids with confidence and support them in their achievements. Cre- ating a sense of family within the organization is common. Camaraderie and competition among the racers themselves motivates them to be- come better. Athletes do not begin their training on the snow. In late fall the teams begin dry land training. After school workouts include hiking a mountain, roller skiing, soccer, TRX, running, plyometric training or a combination of these. Biathletes also participate in paintball running and shooting competitions in the summer. The team train individually but also togeth- er. This helps create the sense of unity among the different disciplines in the club. The goal of our club is to first and foremost foster a life long love of skiing beginning at a young age. The Polar Bear Ski Club program is de- signed with the long-term development of young athletes in mind. Three years ago the club created a new group, Polar Cubs. Polar Cubs was put in place to help transition the youngest skiers. These are the skiers who are too advanced for lessons but not quite ready to participate in a race. The Polar Cubs has been a wonderful addition to the existing teams and given many young skiers the skills and confidence needed to compete. For all areas of the Polar Bears we provide the opportunity for competi- tion and strive to achieve a healthy competitive spirit within a team set- ting. All members are expected to conduct themselves in a sportsman like manner acting as worthy representatives of our families, ski team, ski club, and ski area and town. Unlike most other ski organizations our membership and coaching fees are nominal. In general, the cost associated with any of the three disci- plines supported by the Polar Bear Ski Club is expensive. In 1997 the Club applied to become an official non-profit organization under the name "Friends of the Polar Bear Ski Club". A Board of Directors was created along with the bylaws of the club. Nearly all the people affiliated with the club (coaches, race administrator, timing crew, Board of Directors) do it on a volunteer basis. All the funds of the club go to directly support our athletes. Participating in fundraisers is a large part of the member's responsibly. Annual fundraisers include: a Sponsor Board located at Mc- Cauley Mountain, the Consignment Sale in the fall, and a tent sale in the spring. The Snowflake Derby, which takes place during the Winter Car- nival, is still a very popular and fun moneymaker. More traditional fund- raisers such as pizza sales, clothing, ornaments, and spaghetti dinners are other ways the Polar Bears raise money. Many times the Polar Bears will sponsor a member who is competing in an event beyond a regular season race. Junior Nationals, Empire State Games, Easterns or Nationals are events such as these. Athletes partici- pating in these races had to work hard to qualify or have to be invited to partake in these competitions. Some of the aspects which contribute to the success of the Polar Bear program is the shared working relationship with our home venue, Mc- Cauley Mountain; the affiliation with the Town Of Webb Schools and the support from the Town of Webb Supervisor and Board. McCauley Moun- tain's manager, Steve Uzdivinis, and his staff produce top-notch ski condi- tions and environment. As a team, the coaches, mountain personnel and members provide an excellent race day for all. Without this union, the Polar Bears would not be as strong of a club as it is. Over the years the club has benefitted from immense community sup- port and backing. One of the reasons behind this support is family. Many of the members of the Polar Bear Ski Club are multigenerational. There are families where grandparents, parents and children are or were mem- bers at one time or another. A fund dedicated solely to aid families who may be struggling financially was set up as well. Donors who wish to remain anonymous also support the Polar Bears. The Town of Webb is an area where generous community members want as many opportuni- ties as possible to be given to its youth. Since the inception of the Polar Bear Ski Club, many families have learned a great way to spend time together in the beautiful outdoors. With the support and backing of family members and the community, the club remains strong and creates love for a lifelong sport- skiing. The saying among members of the Polar Bear Ski Club that continues to be carried down from one generation to another is "Once a Polar Bear, always a Polar Bear".

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