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Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Middlebury needs a Club Alpine Ski Team

Willson brought his plan for a club alpine ski team to the Student Activities Office.
Willson brought his plan for a club alpine ski team to the Student Activities Office.

Middlebury is an institution with a vast array of storied DIII athletic teams. Our programs have won multiple national championships, and we have racked up 44 team national titles. Forty-one alumni have gone on to compete at the Olympic games. Our alpine ski team is one of the top DI programs on the east coast and has sent numerous athletes to National Championships this season alone. 

Our club sports teams are no different: Our women’s ultimate frisbee team has won the last three national championships. Despite our impressive athletic resume, widespread student interest in skiing and a perfect venue for training and competitions, there is no club alpine ski team in sight. But why?

Numerous attempts have been made to kickstart a club alpine ski program, and all have failed. The closest students have come to a racing team is the Ski and Snowboard Club, which hosts group skiing opportunities and recently put on the first-ever rail-jam for Student Ski Day at the Snow Bowl. 

I have raced competitively for the last ten years, from the Cascade Mountains of the Pacific Northwest all the way to the Andes Mountains in Argentina. When I arrived at Middlebury, I wasn’t able to continue competing, but I still have the same fiery passion for the sport. With this in mind, I am attempting to start a club racing team. The process has not come without its own challenges, however.

I brought my plan to the Student Activities Office (SAO) with high hopes, positivity and drive. The SAO listened attentively as I pitched Midd Club Alpine to them. I had garnered a few local brands as sponsors, collected data on interest within the school and provided information on how I’d make the team accessible to all interested. Though my pitch was well received, the idea was ultimately shut down. The biggest arguments against the club were issues of money, liability costs and the fact that we would be copying a preexisting DI sport. The SAO will only fund new clubs up to $1,000 in their first year.

Of course, there is the issue of money. Skiing is expensive; a day pass to many resorts can soar over $100. Not to mention, basic equipment costs can add up quickly. Despite this, I’ve calculated what the estimated cost of club alpine would be, and I believe it wouldn’t take more than $10,000 to get the club off the ground. For reference, the crew team was allotted $33,000 in 2020.

Yes, skiing is dangerous! Concussions are common, ACL tears a possibility and collisions not unheard of. But the same injuries are just as common, if not more so in football and ice hockey. 

Some say we already have a ski team, so there is no need for a club team. True, our NCAA DI team is successful — even a powerhouse. But to get a spot on the team often requires taking multiple post graduate years before college to refine the skill, athleticism and technique necessary to make the team. Only the best of the best can make the transition from racing in high school to competing on the NCAA circuit. 

Irritated but not discouraged, I began brainstorming new ways to get the club into motion. Though we wouldn’t be associated officially with the school, we could still carry on in another way. For the time being, we hope to join forces with the Middlebury Ski Club, a local non-profit team with a long-standing history of youth ski racing. Even further down the road is the concept of starting the team as a non-profit, independent of the college but built for and by its students.

Okay, so we don’t have a club ski team…some might wonder what’s the big deal? I’ll tell you: club sports are the lifeblood of our college. Not everyone can play at a DIII (or DI) level in college. Club sports are more manageable in terms of athletic-strain and academics. Yet, they still provide the benefits of health and friendship just like any team.

Middlebury offers over 15 club sports, including crew, soccer and even equestrian. Funding for these organizations is often tight and relies heavily on donations and fundraising. Additionally, these sports aren’t often given the support they need. The club soccer team only launched in 2021. Now, it is one of the most successful club programs on campus, with a strong record and high enrollment. 

The club alpine ski team is no different. We are struggling to get off the ground but are backed by a group of highly motivated, passionate student-athletes. We are driven by memories of our childhood, ones of waking up early to carve down snowy peaks with our friends. 

Here at Middlebury, we have the perfect mountain to call our home. We have a strong group of ex-racers and passionate skiers alike. We even have support from notable alumni in the ski racing community, like Erik Arvidsson (US Ski Team) and Ali Nullmeyer (Olympian, Canadian Ski Team). The only thing we need now is the funding and support from our school.

For more information or inquiries on Midd Club Alpine, visit www.middclubalpine.com or email nwillson@middlebury.edu.  


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