Ski teams strive for community on the slopes

Naia Willemsen, Campus Life Reporter

When one thinks of Walla Walla, skiing is likely not the first thing to come to mind. Most people wouldn’t expect Whitman to have one ski team–let alone two. Alpine and Nordic skiing are two popular club sports on campus with both teams competing in different events.

The Alpine ski team is what most people think of when they think of ski racing. Alpine skiiers compete in two events, slalom and giant slalom, both of which involve making turns while racing downhill.

For senior Alpine ski team member Emma Beaver, Whitman’s Alpine ski team has given her the opportunity to finally try racing.

“When I was younger, I always wanted to race, but it was always a lot of travel and it gets expensive, so I couldn’t put in the time for it…But [to do Alpine] you don’t even have to have skied before,” Beaver said.

The team competes against other club ski teams in races at the beginning of spring semester in locations in Oregon and Washington. This year, they have been to four different weekend races and will be competing at regionals in Montana from Feb. 23 to Feb. 27.

For Beaver, being on the team is about more than just skiing, though.

“[My favorite part of being on the team] is just the people and the fact that I’m able to get off campus during the weekends and get outside, but mainly the people and getting to have a lot of fun with people I maybe wouldn’t hang out with–it’s a great group,” Beaver said.

Despite the similar names, Alpine and Nordic skiing are pretty different. Nordic skiing is on flat ground; it is “skiing without a lift,” as senior Nordic co-captain Sylvie Corwin described it.

While Nordic skiing at Whitman is also a club sport, instead of competing against ski teams at other colleges, they compete at community races.

“I like that we just do community races and have a more low-key vibe. At those races there are really fast people and you can race as hard as you want, but there are also people just going out for a fun ski, so you can kind of pick what level of intensity you want the sport to be,” Corwin said.

Like the Alpine ski club, you don’t need any skiing experience to join the Nordic team. Corwin hopes to encourage students who are interested in the sport but have not had a chance to try it to join the team.

“Part of what I don’t like about skiing is that it does have these barriers like there’s a lot of equipment and often you have to drive a fair way to get to the snows, often there’s trail passes–it adds up. The fact that the club can cover that and make it a sport people can try for these four years…I really like that we’re able to get people to try it and not have quite so many barriers to the sport,” Corwin said.

Although first-year Jonathan Grothe had some Nordic skiing experience prior to joining the team, he appreciates the friendly environment.

“It seemed welcoming and [like] not a super big commitment where you could still have some fun experiences and…be around people who were really good and people who were beginning, and there’s not much pressure,” Grothe said.

Although both ski teams are reaching the end of their seasons, there will be the opportunity to join either (or both) ski teams next year at the activities fair.