One of the most spectacular places to cross-country ski is at Minnewaska State Park Preserve, thanks to the views afforded from its location in the Shawangunks, and so there’s no more appropriate place to learn how to do the sport or brush up on your technique. That’s the focus of the soup-to-nuts clinic led this Sunday, February 15 at the park by certified professional ski instructor Vic Izzo. From 10 to 11 a.m., Izzo will focus on classic Nordic skiing technique, from basic to advanced, and from 11:15 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. on the vigorous sport of skating with skis.
Izzo is a former ski racer, and he also coached the high school Nordic ski team at the Wallkill Central School District for 18 years. His name might also be familiar to music-lovers: A retired teacher of music at the Wallkill public schools, he now teaches at two local colleges. He is adjunct professor of music at SUNY-New Paltz, teaching low brass and leading the wind ensemble, and teaches music theory and appreciation as well as low brass at SUNY-Ulster, where he leads two bands.
Izzo is also well known for SUNY-Ulster’s annual TubaChristmas, in which he leads a rousing performance of Christmas carols played by dozens of tubas and euphoniums (the college’s performance is one of many TubaChristmases around the nation). The New Paltz resident recently talked with Almanac Weekly’s Lynn Woods about skiing and music by phone from Lapland Lake Nordic Vacation Center in the southern Adirondacks, where he was teaching a workshop.
How long have you been doing the clinic at Minnewaska?
Since I started coaching the sport at the Wallkill schools. Our team did patrols in the park in exchange for the entrance fees, and I’ve kept on scheduling myself for patrols and clinics ever since. If the snow holds, I may do a follow-up.
What does the ski team patrol do?
It makes sure people aren’t lost and are staying on the groomed trails.
Tell me about your involvement with the local high school cross-country ski teams.
In 1994 the present coach Nick Mancuso and I started the team at Wallkill Central Schools to compete in the interscholastic leagues. New Paltz, Saugerties, Monticello and Rondout Valley all had teams back then, and now I think Kingston, New Paltz, Monticello and Wallkill do. I coached the team until I retired in 2003. I also coached the Junior Olympics for two years.
What’s the advanced version of classical Nordic skiing?
When you don’t just slide the ski along, but lift it up. This moves you forward and makes it easier and more effective to get a long glide.
Have you always been cross-country skiing?
I grew up in Kingston and was originally an alpine skier. I skied downhill for a now-defunct club, and if you name any downhill ski spot in the Northeast, I’ve been there. I got really frustrated with the expense of the equipment and standing in line. You spent all that money and maybe had five runs on the hill. I had friends who were cross-country skiers, so I thought I’d try it. I absolutely hated it, because I didn’t know what I was doing.
So what got you back into it?
The skating revolution happened, in which what people did on speed skates they started doing on skis. There’s a technique called marathon skiing, in which you keep one ski on the track and use the other as a scooter. Bill Koch won a silver at the Olympics in 1976 doing this the entire race. Skating on skis evolved, and doing this on skis is faster than on skates; it’s more like downhill. Now there are specific skis and poles and boots for skating.
But you’re also teaching classical Nordic technique.
I evolved, and now understand classical technique so much better. And I can go out for four hours and the only standing I do is to rest and enjoy the view.