Every year, skiers around the world look forward to winter. Most ski for fun, but there are also people who take it to the next level and ski competitively, which includes traveling around the country for competitions. At Jamesville-DeWitt High School, senior Paige Petrell has been skiing since she was 2 years old and has been racing on Toggenburg Mountain’s ski team since she was 4. Petrell has traveled to Maine, Vermont, and all over New York for different national competitions with the best young skiers in the country.
There are a variety of events within ski racing and each requires different equipment to fit the needs of the race style. Petrell competes in three different events. One is slalom, which is, “where people wear a bunch of guards and it looks like they’re punching the gates (poles), but their body is brought through the gate due to edge angle of the ski,” said Petrell. Her second event is giant slalom (GS), where longer skies are used to make longer turns to go around two gates (poles) with flags set up. Lastly, her third event is super giant slalom (Super G), which is similar to GS, but turns are elongated and racers are going at much higher speeds.
Traveling is one of Petrell's most valued parts of competitive skiing because she gets to ski on new slopes, in places she has never been. Because she trains all year round, she has to travel during the off-season. She’s gone to many places around the country, like when she went to Copper Mountain, Colorado, during a couple weeks of her freshman year. “I used to go to Mt. Hood, Oregon, to train during the summer, which was awesome because the mountain is cold enough for snow but as soon as you leave the high altitudes you’re back in the high 80 degree summer weather. So a majority of the time I would ski in the morning and swim in the afternoon,” said Petrell.
Petrell’s favorite ski area is Alta Ski Resort in Utah because “it has some awesome double diamond terrain, really steep ski bowl, and is really pretty because it is on the mountain so you’re able to overlook Utah,” said Petrell. Her favorite hill she’s raced on is Gore Hill, on the trail called Echo, which is in the Adirondacks. Gore Hill is her favorite because it is the perfect hill for her events since there are a lot of ups and downs, which increases her speed greatly.
Petrell has been to multiple large racing events with the best racers in the country. In her eighth grade year, she went to the Can-Ams, which consists of the best skiers in Canada and the Northeast of American for United States Ski and Snowboard Association (USSA) skiing. Also, her freshman and sophomore year, she went to the Eastern U16 Championships. Some of her biggest successes as a skier were when she competed as a first-year U19. She competed against skiers three years older than her, but still won both the New York State GS State Championship titles and came in second place for the slalom event. Then, Petrell moved to the U19 Eastern Finals and finished second place in the slalom event and sixth in the GS.
Although she enjoys traveling, she does have to make sacrifices, such as missing school. “Sometimes I miss a Friday or a Monday for a travel day,” said Petrell. Last year, she was gone the entire month of December, training with the New York Ski Educational Foundation (NYSSEF), which is a program attached to Northwood Boarding school in Lake Placid. “This year, I’m leaving for most of January to ski with Mount Snow academy to be able to ski more FIS races without it affecting my schooling,” said Petrell. FIS goes through March, so Petrell said she will be leaving often throughout the rest of the school year, since she is trying to lower her points to increase her ranking. At Mount Snow, Petrell will attend a full day of school on Mondays, then will have half days from Tuesday to Thursday. “We train six days a week when we aren’t racing and then depending on the type of race we have, we could miss two to five days,” said Petrell.
“This year, I’m taking a big step and starting to ski in the International Ski Federation (FIS), which is another level (up) from the USSA races that I’ve skied in my entire life,” said Petrell. FSI consists of the best of the best; “about 60 percent of the competition are girls racing for Division I colleges, so it’s a very high intensity and high competitive,” added Petrell.
The next step in Petrell’s path of her ski career is selecting a college. “I really want to ski Division I in college, somewhere in the Northeast,” said Petrell. Her top schools include, but are not limited to, St. Michael’s College in Vermont, University of New Hampshire, Plymouth State in New Hampshire, and possibly Boston College. However, she is debating whether or not attend Waterville Valley, in Maine, a post-graduation program for skiers, in order to lower her FIS points so she will be more heavily recruited. The way a skier is evaluated is through being awarded points by the USSA. This starts their first year as a U16 USSA skier which is during their freshman year of high school. They start with 999.0 points and every race their points are lowered, which is considered better. This ranking system is the exact same for FSI skiers, except most people don’t start FIS until sophomore or junior year, but still start with 999.0 points. “Many Division I schools look at recruits with 20-50 points.” said Petrell.
There are many different aspects and commitments when it comes to being a ski racer. For the future of her skiing career, Petrell said, “my biggest dream is to one day make the US development team and possibly go to the Olympics.” Good luck to Paige this year and her following career!