October 25, 2021

In the Olympic mood

Winter Games boost interest in local participation

Joe McIntyre/staff photographer

Snowboarder Calvin O’Connor, left, of Rexford (near Schenectady), makes his way down the mountain at Greek Peak in Virgil.

VIRGIL — Kassandre Murdock followed her skiing instructor’s lead in digging her ski poles into the snow, going up a moveable walkway back up to the top of the small slope to go down again.

The Stillwater, N.Y., native may not be as good as Mikaela Shiffrin, a U.S. Olympic skier seeking five gold medals in Pyeongchang, South Korea, but that does not stop Murdock from wanting to get better.

Murdock watches the Olympic coverage whenever she can, in between going to school at Tompkins Cortland Community College and working three jobs. She mainly watches skiing and snowboarding events, winter sports she partakes in.

“Watching them go down the slopes is inspiring,” Murdock said. “It’s what got me interested in trying to ski with jumps. It looks really fun.”

Murdock’s enthusiasm for the games is shared by other businesses and organizations looking to capitalize on any interest generated by the 23rd Winter Olympics.

Greek Peak Mountain Resort in Virgil has gotten plenty of attention during the Olympic season, with alpine skiing, cross-county skiing and snowboarding available on its hills. Kaitlyn Head, the director of sales and marketing for Greek Peak, said the mountain has seen an increase in visitors in February, but that also had to do with recent snowfalls, a Winterfest event and Presidents Day weekend as much as the Olympics.

“It usually lasts until the end of the month,” Head said.

The resort plays coverage of the Olympics in its restaurant, Trax, to get customers excited about the games.

Reanna Zappavigna, a graduate assistant for SUNY Cortland’s recreational sports department, said students are taking advantage of whatever winter activities are available. A slew of new activities are planned to build on the Olympic interest, including a mock biathlon, where students throw tennis balls into hoops instead of shooting a rifle, and a trip to Lake Placid, site of the 1932 and 1980 Winter Olympics.

“As long as we have snow, students will be interested,” Zappavigna said.

Allison Harford of Elmira, a skier at Greek Peak, hasn’t had the time to watch the Olympics, but prior games inspired her interest in cross-country skiing and snowboarding. She sees other people following suit.

“It motivates people to go outside, to do something,” Harford said.

The increase in winter sport interest is not just limited to skiing or when the Olympics are running. Mike Drake, the operations manager for the J.M. Mc- Donald Sports Complex in Cortlandville, said the public skating sessions at the complex’s ice rink are up 30 percent this season compared to last winter: “It usually goes up in Olympic years,” Drake said.