By Jennie Acklin

Ski racing in Western New York means you must be prepared for any and all kinds of weather. And that’s just what the elite team of Niagara Frontier Ski (NFSC) racers endured last weekend at their annual pre-season training camp, hosted by Miguel Azcarate and Holiday Valley, Dec. 20-23.

When asked about ski conditions, and whether or not the rain and warm weather would alter the ski camp plans, Azcarate immediately said, “No, racers must be prepared for all types of weather on the race circuit, so our plans will not change.”

Azcarate, a former professional ski racer for Spain and Gold Team chairperson, provides this group of top western New York athletes, an Olympic-style ski camp with specialized training through the NFSC, which is composed of Holiday Valley, HoliMont, Kissing Bridge, Peak n’ Peak, Buffalo Ski Club and Ski Denton. The program has seen great success by establishing standards and providing cooperative training opportunities for the area’s top level ski competitors at all levels from U12s–U18s.

Qualification for the Gold Team is based on the past season’s race results. To qualify, athletes from member ski areas must submit an essay to be considered for the elite team and each area’s coach must make a personal recommendation.

Azcarate coaches the Gold Team, along with local area coaches Andrew Minier (Kissing Bridge), Brad Rauch (Buffalo Ski Club), John Galvin (Holiday Valley) and Jeff Walker (HoliMont).

Azcarate is also the HV Training Center director and head coach of the Holiday Valley race team, a position he has held for the past 16 years.

This year’s itinerary started with uniform distribution — new Rossignol uniforms in striking orange —  presented to each member of the team. Two sessions of skiing each day, plus daily stretching and strength training workouts and a new session, Skill Quest with Eric Harlow, kept the athletes busy for four days. This is the first time the USSA program has been introduced to these young racers. The USSA program is designed to present a framework of skill development in skiers.

Money to fund this program comes from sponsors Shults Auto Group of Jamestown, Rossignol Ski Company, and Mud Sweat N’ Gears, (Azcarate and his wife Kim Reading’s successful ski shop in Ellicottville.)

One primary fundraising event is a raffle for a car from Shults Auto Group of Jamestown. Additional funds come from race entry fees.

Anyone interested in supporting the Gold Team, or other HV Training Center teams is encouraged to contact Miguel Azcarate by e-mail at We hope you will join the Ellicottville Times in making a donation to such a great group.

The proceeds of raffle ticket sales also become the primary financial support of the Holiday Valley Training Center teams: freestyle, snowboard, racing, as well as the Gold Team. The raffle drawing is usually held during the Pond Skimming event in March at Holiday Valley.

2013-2014 NFSC Gold Team Members

This year’s members include Bella Wylie, Thomas Shantler, J.D. Foxcroft, Fiona Cavcic, William Mangan, Danielle Mason, David Flaherty, Nick Scott, Dylan Thomas, Max Carbaugh, Mack Hurley, Candice Kasahara, Paige Duffy, Mitchell Teal, Maggie Munshauer, Lauren Meyer, Sophie Richards, Aiden Elizondo, Gordon Minier, Hanna Dora, Harry Armstrong, Chloe Richards, Anya Elizondo, Phillip Vance, Ethan Henja, Lake Thibodeau, Alex Baase, Patricia Mangan, Taylor Davies, Jacob Flaherty, Mackenzie Galvin, and Sarah Flaherty.

Congratulations to all of you. You should be proud of your achievements, and we at the Ellicottville Times wish you great success this year!

Past success from this training camp include the Gold Team U14s being ranked in first place for the state for the past two years running. Patricia Mangan is also close to qualification for the U.S. Ski Team, and Morgan Megarry, a previous Gold Team member, is approaching qualification for the Canadian Ski Team.

The first race for U18s is Dec. 24 at Brantling. The U16s will race on Dec. 31 at Brantling, and the U14s and U12s will be at Holiday Valley Jan. 19.

Ski race results are reported every week in the Ellicottville Times. Please check back to follow the success of these outstanding young athletes.