For six decades, West Mountain in upstate New York has been bringing skiers—and racers—into the sport. 

By Paul Post

Spencer and Sara Montgomery moved east to West Mountain, where they’re pursuing the adventure of a lifetime in his hometown of Queensbury, New York. They’ve given the Southern Adirondacks
resort a $17 million makeover since purchasing it in 2013, including three new chairlifts, 40,000 feet of snowmaking pipeline, 200 new snow guns, four groomers and a 500-foot lift for the tubing park. 

It’s quite a change for a couple who met on the Chicago trading floor and spent 10 years in Colorado, skiing at some of the world’s most famous resorts. 

West Mountain has been a family-oriented resort since the founding Brandt clan opened it on Christmas Day 1962. By installing lights for night skiing, they quickly attracted local curiosity seekers and developed a strong customer base throughout the region. The
Adirondack Northway (Interstate 87) opened in the early 1960s, providing a direct link from the Albany area, about an hour away. While small in size, with a 1,000-foot vertical drop, the center has made a big contribution to the sport.

“It’s a feeder mountain,” Spencer said. “I’m willing to bet that West Mountain has taught more people how to ski and is one of the top training mountains in the United States. We have 1,600 kids in after-school programs. That’s our history and our future.”

The site’s steep trails have hosted competitive racing since 1966, when Tom Jacobs and Isadore “Izzy” Ture founded the program (see “Remembering,” page 33). With on-mountain upgrades complete, the Montgomerys are now turning their attention to developing a full-time ski racing academy. One of their first moves was to hire Steve Lathrop, a former five-year World Cup competitor on the U.S. “A” Ski Team, who previously worked at Stratton Mountain School in southern Vermont. Lathrop is starting his third year as West Mountain’s alpine race director. 

A New Hampshire native, Lathrop learned how to ski on a rope tow built by his father, who served with the 10th Mountain Division during World War II. At one point, Lathrop was ranked 16th in the world in slalom. If not for injury, he would have gone to the 1972 Winter Olympics in Sapporo, Japan, so he knows what a good racing program needs and believes West Mountain has all the key elements.

In January 2020—prior to the COVID-19 shutdown—West Mountain hosted a four-day FIS event including two huge U-16 and U-19 races, with 225 racers each day from all over the East. A full slate of high school, masters and New York State Racing Association competition is on tap for the 2020–2021 season.

This fall, West Mountain also opened a brand-new ski racing academy that allows student-athletes to train 

full time. Those from outside the area, a half-dozen from western New York and New York City, take classes remotely through Queensbury High School or their own home school. Next year, plans call for having a full-fledged lodging component as well.

“The academy is for older kids who are able to live on their own and handle their studies and ski training,” Sara Montgomery says. “A lot of kids at that U-19 level drop out of ski racing because it becomes unaffordable for their families, with all of the travel and the high cost of equipment. This gives them the opportunity to continue racing at a competitive level at a more affordable rate.”

With good coaching and top-notch facilities, it might just be a matter of time before a West Mountain racer achieves international success. “I really believe this mountain has everything needed to develop world-class ski racers,” Lathrop says. 

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