Newhouse Students Capture Excitement and Intensity of Empire State Winter Games

It was a tiring yet rewarding weekend for the nearly two dozen Newhouse School students who covered the Empire State Winter Games (ESWG) in Lake Placid, New York in early February. ESWG is the largest Olympic-style multi-sport winter event for amateur athletes. 

Twenty-two undergraduate and graduate students traversed the slopes of Whiteface Mountain, took in sled hockey games in Tupper Lake and worked early mornings and late nights to provide comprehensive coverage of the Games and its nearly 2,500 athletes through photography, videography, social media posts and website management. 

a photographer stands on a snowy mountain and takes a picture during a ski competition
Photography junior Arthur Maiorella photographs alpine skiers at Whiteface Mountain. (Photo by Justin Dalaba)
a photographer stands above a luge track and captures a an athlete going down the track
BDJ junior Robbie Munch films luge racers at the Mt Van Hoevenberg Sliding Center. (Photo by Seth Gitner)
a photographer takes pictures of the opening ceremony of the empire state winter games in a hockey area full of people
MVJ student Theoplis Stewart II (center) photographs the Empire State Winter Games opening ceremony while PR graduate student Abbie Kludt (left) captures video for the Games’ social media channels. (Photo by Justin Dalaba)

Picture Perfect Games 

With SONY-sponsored cameras in hand, 11 photographers captured everything from bobsledders barreling down the Mt. Van Hoevenberg Sliding Center tracks to the championship hockey games at the Herb Brooks Arena where the 1980 “Miracle on Ice” event transpired four decades ago.

two people in winter gear hug each other and smile
Nordic skiers Talia and Reid pose for a portrait during the 2024 Empire State Winter Games In Lake Placid, New York. (Photo by Surya Vaidy)

The staff edited and captioned hundreds of photos daily before uploading them to the ESWG media website to be picked up by news outlets throughout the Northeast. 

“It was just so nice to be back in such a beautiful place like Lake Placid,” said Surya Vaidy, a graduate student in the multimedia, photography and design program who was participating for the second year. “The best part was just getting the chance to photograph future championship athletes.” 

In between sporting events, Vaidy found time for his side project called “Faces of the Games,” that captured athletes and their families between games, races and events. 

“I got a great set of photos that I think were evocative,” Vaidy said. “And I hope that the athletes and other people will think so, too.” 

A luge racer prepares to head down a track
A luge racer prepares to head down the track at the Mt. Van Hoevenberg Sliding Center. (Photo by Nina Gerzema)
Athletes race to the finish line of a Biathlon competition
Athletes race to the finish line of the Biathlon Super Sprint Final at Mt. Van Hoevenberg. (Photo by Sadie Jones)
a person lights a cauldron at the empire state winter games opening ceremony
The cauldron is lit during the 2024 Empire State Winter Games Opening Ceremony in 1980 Herb Brooks Arena. (Photo by Matt Hofmann)

Nonstop Action

Working alongside the photographers, four videographers had the task of capturing ESWG athletes in motion.  

Patrick Smith, a graduate student in broadcast and digital journalism and part of the sports media and communications track, rose before the sun to get video of daily skiing competitions. 

“Going up there was so much fun,” Smith said. “I learned a whole lot that I didn’t know about videography. Whether you’re a photographer, videographer, content creator, or producer, you gain so much from this experience.”  

a participant in a biathlon shoots a gun
The 2024 Empire State Winter Games Biathlon. (Photo by Theoplis Stewart II)
people mountain bike in a snowy forest
Winter bikers race across the Dewey Mountain Recreation Center course. (Photo by Joohee Na)
a cross country skier skis at night
Sharon Crawford skis the nighttime orienteering event at the Cascade Welcome Center. (Photo by Justin Dalaba)

Keeping Things Running

Once the opening ceremony concluded on Thursday night, there was non-stop action on the slopes, snow and ice. Five public relations majors kept up with the results, posting on the ESWG and Newhouse Sports Media Center social media accounts while also writing press releases and daily newsletters for the games. 

“For someone like me who wants to go into sports and social media, this experience has been really great,” said public relations graduate student Katie Miller. “I just feel like the immersive part of this trip is going to lead to a lot of growth.” 

With the students getting to put time into writing and social media, the three days served as a great taste of what a career in sports and public relations will be like. 

an ice skater twirls in the air
Abigail Marlow from Niagara University Skating Club performs her figure skating routine. (Photo by Diana Valdivia)
a hockey player gets fired up
A Saugerties player gets fired up for 10U Squirt hockey game. (Photo by Cole Meredith)
two skiers race down a mountain
William Swain leads Gabriel Kean during a snowcross race at Whiteface Mountain. (Photo by Arthur Maiorella)

Traversing Mediums

As a digital producer for this trip, I  witnessed firsthand just how hard all of these students worked as I constantly shuffled their edited footage and photos onto our website nightly. 

From a public relations perspective, it was impressive how the entire team was prepared to write or post on social media at a moment’s notice while also helping to tell the stories of participants involved in the games. 

I — along with professors Seth Gitner, Jon Glass, and Jordan Kligerman — just tried to keep it all going. In the end, I think we earned a spot atop the medalist podium when it comes to making the most of the Newhouse School experience.  

three young skiers cheer on a teammate
Super G alpine skiers cheer on their teammate Piper Dock of West Mountain Racing at Whiteface Mountain. (Photo by Ania Johnston)

Jonathan Kinane is graduate student in the broadcast and digital journalism program at the Newhouse School.