By Kellen M. Quigley

The annual running of the Empire State Winter Games torch got its start Sunday in Ellicottville on the way to Lake Placid for the event’s opening ceremony.

At Holiday Valley Jan. 27, snowboarder Grace Dalton had the honor of taking the torch on the ride of its life, carving down the Yodeler slope with torch in hand as the kick off to the relay.

“It’s exciting to have that opportunity,” she said. “It makes this whole experience a bit more real knowing that I’m about to bring that and represent our team.”

Although she has only competed for two years, Dalton, 13, of Oakville, Ontario, said she will be traveling to Lake Placid for her first Empire State Winter Games later this week.

Dalton said she has been snowboarding for about five years, but began her winter sports career as a skier.

Looking forward to the competition, it’s something she said she’s thrilled and nervous about.

“It’s a mix of both,” she added. “I’m pretty excited to go and compete.”

The Empire State Winter Games is a multi-day sports event that is used to bring together winter sports athletes from across New York state and beyond.

For 39 years the Empire State Winter Games have offered a platform for more than 2,100 athletes of all ages to compete in over 30 winter sports events. Some events include alpine, luge, bobsled, cross country, hockey and snowboard cross. The games are located in New York’s Adirondacks and take place from Jan. 31 through Feb. 3.

At Holiday Valley, a party was held to celebrate the arrival of the torch and Dalton’s trip down the mountain. Jane Eshbaugh, marketing director at Holiday Valley, said it was nice that it coordinated with one of the resort’s youth competitions.

“It’s really cool for us,” she said. “It’s a real honor to be chosen as one of the stops for the torch.”

A torch relay is used each year to kick-off the beginning of the Empire State Winter Games. Two torches will travel across New York state, each on separate routes for five days, one beginning in New York City and the other in Western New York

The torch headed from Holiday Valley to Jamestown, then north to Gowanda, east to Yorkshire and then to Kissing Bridge Snow Sports, located north of Springville, on Monday before heading to the Buffalo area.

Both torches were scheduled to arrive at their final location in the Adirondacks on Thursday, Jan. 31 during opening ceremonies to set the stage for the Empire State Winter Games.