Alumni Spotlight: Mike Raymaley '65
The Witherell Era of Northwood Skiing
by Stephen "Reno" Reed
Last week, I asked Mike Raymaley ’65 if he would share some memories of his years as a skier at the end of Warren Witherell’s illustrious coaching career at Northwood School in the 1960s. Mike has been a friend of mine since I came to Northwood in 197I. Along with Bruce Colon and Harry Fife, we used to golf at the Lake Placid Club Course, the Whiteface Inn, and Craig Wood, with an occasional trip to the beautiful course at Middlebury College, where Mike is an alum. My favorite memory of Mike involves losing a bet to him: the Red Sox were 14 games ahead of the Yankees on July 19, 1978. Mike declared that the Yankees would win the A.L. pennant. I gave him 100 to 1; it would never happen. In October, the Yankees defeated the Sox in a one-game playoff. (Damn Bucky Dent). I paid up. Mike used the $100 to buy a meal at the Steak and Stinger (Placid’s most famous local restaurant back then) for him, me, and two other friends. In any event, Mike’s memories of his years as a skier at Northwood are both vivid and buoyant.
During Mike’s time in the “Witherell Era” of Northwood skiing, he was lucky to have both great teammates and an excellent coach. They went racing every winter weekend all over NY and New England, often stopping for a free place to eat and stay overnight at the Dog Team Tavern, a fabulous place owned by the parents of John Joy ’65. Anyone who has eaten there will never forget the sticky buns.
Through Mike’s four years on the team, Northwood consistently won half the top ten results at most venues. Ni Orsi was the brightest star and won pretty much every race in New York, with Mike often finishing second or third. Orsi won the Jr. National DH championship two years in a row. In 1964, Harry “Rebel” Ryan won the Jr. National downhill and giant slalom races in Alpine Meadows, California, finishing second in the slalom. Mike’s own results were impressive. During March of his freshman year, having just earned his Jr. A classification, he won the MacKenzie Trophy Race, beating racers from Dartmouth and Middlebury and others among the East’s top racers. In 1965 he capped a great career by winning the Jr. Eastern Slalom Championship at Cannon Mountain, N.H. Since there was no snow in July and August, teammates Orsi and Ryan, and Coach Witherell took to winning national honors in water skiing.
Mike took a year off after Northwood and skied without a coach. Near the end of that ski season, he borrowed his mother’s Volkswagon to travel to Wildcat Mountain in New Hampshire and won the Sr. Eastern Downhill, a result that helped earn him a place at Middlebury. After college graduation, he joined Coach Witherell at Burke Mountain Academy before returning to Whiteface Mountain, where he worked with NYSEF before retiring from skiing.
After leaving skiing, Mike has been successful as a real estate agent and store owner in Lake Placid. He recalls Northwood as the best years of his life. He made special note that Warren Witherell was not only a superb coach, but he was also the best teacher he ever had. He remembers reading The Sotweed Factor by John Barth in Warren’s class and credits the experience with making him a more astute and avid fan of literature. Mike also remarked that his academic experience at Northwood and the chance to play other sports set it apart from the ski academies that emerged during the 70s, offering a healthy balance between academics and athletics then and now. His advice to skiers today: “You won’t get far without taking risks; go for it.”