Matt Dodge and Becka Padgett captured the 2023 Sise Cup as the top skiers for New England Masters Ski Racing.
Story and photographs by Mark D Phillips, markdphillips.com
The Sise Cup. It sounds impressive.
In the realm of New England skiing, Al Sise was the father of alpine Masters ski racing. A member of both the Vermont Ski Museum Hall of Fame and the U.S. Ski & Snowboard Hall of Fame. According to his biography on their website, Sise skied one of the first downhill ski races at Mount Mooselauke, New Hampshire, in 1928 and was a competitor in the first National Ski Association National Championships held on Mount Mooselauke in 1933. He also raced in the 1981 United States Ski Association Senior Alpine Championships, winning the slalom, giant slalom and the combined.
Al was brought to the realization that there should be a separate category for older racers. With the help of a number of individuals and the Eastern Ski Association, veterans’ racing began.
Largely through his insistence that veterans racing be well organized yet informal and friendly in flavor, the program caught on instantly to remain popular and intensely active. As a tribute to his inspiration, the Veterans’ Committee modeled after the World Cup to provide a trophy for the competitor with the greatest accumulated points during a season.
The Sise Cup is the most prestigious award within the New England Masters and is bestowed to the top man and woman points holders at the end of each race season, and this year was done live following the final race weekend at Killington with a return to the end of season banquet.
Past winners have included names known throughout the ski industry.
Roger Buchika held the SISE Cup for a total of six years in 1972, 1973, 1975, 1976, 1977 and 1978. A top-ranked amateur on the Masters circuit, Buchika was a National Junior Slalom title holder, and in 1965, he was named to the United States Ski Team. He established Great American Ski Rental Company in the White Mountains.
William McGrath captured four SISE Cup overall titles — 1993, 1994, 1996, 1997 — in New England after many close battles in a friendly rivalry with legendary Olympian Tyler Palmer, who broke his streak with a Sise Cup win in 1995. A civil engineer, McGrath moved to Park City before the 2002 Winter Olympics, adding three Jans Cups (the overall title for the Intermountain masters circuit) to his mantel in 2000, 2002 and 2005. A standout at the masters nationals and FIS level as well, he was named to the U.S. Alpine Masters Team in 1997.
The 11-year battle between Jessie McAleer, seven-time winner, and Caroline Beckedorf, four-time winner, was an epic competition. Jesse holds the record for most Sise Cup wins by a woman.
“I joined NEMS in the middle of it,” said NEMS President Matt Mitsis. “Jessie was one of the toughest ski racers on the hill, which included the guys.”
Lisa Feinberg Densmore held the Sise Cup on the women’s side for half of the 1990 decade with her name etched in 1991, 1993, 1995, 1996, and 1999. A former Dartmouth skier, she raced on the Women’s Pro Ski Racing Tour for six years (1985 to 1990), achieving a ranking of 10th in the world. Now known as Lisa Ballard, she still competes and finished the 2022 season ranked second overall among women, 1st in giant slalom and 1st in her age group.
Ben Green and his wife Katie George Green made 2012 and 2013 a family affair, winning the Sise Cup with stellar seasons. Katie Green’s dad, Mark George, held the cup in 2007 and 2011, So that family has had some time with both trophies.
With seventeen races for the 2023 season, New England Masters started their season two weeks earlier than any other Masters region. Matt Mitsis joked that, “It goes without saying that this was a challenging season. We encountered just about every type of weather event you could expect to have in the winter and thankfully, they all seemed to fall directly on our race days. But difficulty aside, we made the most of it.”
The last two race days were no different.
With a slalom race on St. Patrick’s Day (March 17, 2023), the scene was set for everything Irish, including a race announcer who wouldn’t let us forget it was an Irish day. Mark George, skiing in Class 9 (65-69 age group), took the title for fastest men’s racer in the morning race with a two-run combined time of 1:40.12. Deborah Adams, skiing in Class 6 (50-54 age group), continued her dominance as the fastest women’s racer with a two-run combined time of 1:57.92. In the afternoon, Brandon Wilson, skiing in Class 2 (30-34 age group), took the title with a two-run combined time of 1:36.45, beating Mark George by just 3 tenths of a second. Deborah Adams took her second title of the day with a two-run combined time of 1:49.54.
Saturday’s GS event leading up to the banquet was one of the most challenging races of the season. With rain falling most of Friday afternoon and evening, racers were greeted with an icy surface more fitting of a hockey arena than a GS course. As I debated booting up to do my usual inspection of the course, I watched the team setting the course side slipping down the slick surface and decided it wasn’t for me. When my crampons broke and I tried to hike on the course, I sat down and sledded down the course, I then hiked back up using ice crampons. It was quickly decided to shorten the course and drop the second race. The two run GS began just as the sun came out.
Justin White-Chandler, skiing in Class 3 (35-39 age group), took the course at a blazing speed with a two-run combined time of 50.56, with Martin Malachovsky in second at 51.77, and Richard Jefferson in third at 53.01. With a combined time of 58.89, Deborah Adams completed her sweep of the final race weekend, followed by Becka Padgett in second with 59.44, and Margaret Vaughn in third at 1:04.11.
The stage was set for the presentation of the Sise Cup after two days of racing at Killington, with the first in person Awards banquet since COVID took that pleasure away.
Matt Dodge continued his dominance on the men’s competition capturing the 2023 Sise Cup for the sixth consecutive year and seventh overall, dethroning Rodger Buchika as the all-time Sise Cup winner for men. With nine overall victories in a 17-race season, he also was the Class 2 champion, GS Discipline champion, third place in the Slalom Discipline, and finished with 900 points.
Matt started racing in the Gunstock Ski Club at age 7 and has been hooked ever since. He competed through high school and raced on the Division 1 circuit at St. Lawrence University.
“There are a lot of big names on the trophy from all the previous winners over past decades,” said Matt Dodge. “I think Masters racings has changed some over the years and our fields might not be as big as they used to be, but it’s an honor to be included in that group.”
Becka Padgett took the 2023 Sise Cup in the women’s competition, winning for the second time (2021) after a one-year break when Kerry Finch took the award during COVID’s 2022 season. Becka battled Deb Adams all season, with the finish coming down to the wire.
Becka finished the season with 770 Points and five overall victories, Class 1 champion, and third place in the Slalom Discipline. Deb Adams finished the season with 740 points and four overall victories, Class 6 champion, and Slalom discipline champion. The two tied for first in the GS Discipline.
“So lucky to race against these fast ladies that gave me a hell of a run for my money this year,” said Becka.
New England Masters Ski Racing surprised me with the Jack C Tobin Award for “Outstanding Contribution To Eastern Masters Ski Racing” at the banquet. To say I was surprised is a major understatement. It took a full minute to realize my name was announced. The person they described in the award sounded too good to be me. To say I am humbled is also an understatement. This organization became my winter family this year and I can’t wait for next season to come around once more.