Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Vol. CLIV, Issue 9
Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Alpine Ski Team Shreds On and Off the Slopes

Illustration by Uma Bratt

Every winter the Whitman Alpine Ski Team competes against a variety of colleges around the Pacific Northwest on the nearby snowy slopes. The team competes in downhill ski races throughout the season, but also hosts other casual opportunities for ski involvement.

Senior biochemistry, biophysics & molecular biology major and Ski Team President Clarisse Yee reflected on the team’s most recent tournament and detailed the slalom race, where skiers must use technical skill to navigate a course of obstacles. 

Photo contributed by Clarisse Yee.

“Last weekend, we skied at Snoqualmie. And that was the final race for the season before regionals. We skied slalom. Think [skiing] tight turns and through gates really close to each other,” Yee said. “The team did really well, we had a good mix of people that’s never raced before and people that grew up doing racing in high school and it’s really cool to see that.” 

Sarah Hoffman, senior geology major and the team’s treasurer and co-captain, detailed how the tournament maintained a competitive atmosphere while still creating room for fun, making it a special experience for the team. 

Photo contributed by Sarah Hoffman.

“It was their first good weather day of the season. It was sunny on Saturday, which is so nice … all the teams are just kind of having a good time, conference races are always just a lot of fun. It’s a really laid-back league that we are in,” Hoffman said. 

The team has competed four times this year in January and February. Beyond the heat of the race, Grant Andersen, first-year biology major, described the specifics of competing on the mountain. 

“The three [mountains] I went to are Silver Mountain, Lookout Pass and Brundage. All the teams help out with setting up the ski hill. We [all] set the gates up with coaches from other teams. Sometimes you have to set up what’s called a V net, which is the net on the side of the hill that helps if you fall. Then, usually the girls run one course and the guys run another. Sometimes, we run the same course, depending on the snow conditions,” Andersen said. 

Skiing is a sport with large financial barriers and geographical access limits, meaning that many people have not skied at all and even fewer have raced. The Alpine Ski Team hopes to combat this history of exclusivity by being based on inclusive principles that make the team open to people of all skill levels. Andersen explained how he finds the ski team to be a welcoming and friendly environment even for those with no experience.

“For people that haven’t done it before, it’s not stressful at all. People don’t need to know how to ski. Most people who joined didn’t know the race,” Andersen said. He finds the communal aspects of competitive skiing to be just as valuable as the race itself.

Both Yee and Hoffman strive to make the team more inclusive on every level. The team provides resources and access to anyone who needs it.

“We try to accommodate for people who haven’t ski raced before and are interested in learning how to ski race. If they need equipment, we have equipment, and we cover for food and travel and lodging. People … can just join on training trips as well,” Yee said. 

Hoffman is proud of the special community they have created through these systems which enables new skiers to join.

 “I love how accessible the ski team is financially. Because skiing is such a ridiculously expensive sport and racing is even more so. We can bring people to race pretty much for free. It’s really great to just be able to introduce people to ski racing, because most of our team probably has never raced before they got on the college team. People just kind of figure it out and do really well and improve year over year,” Hoffman said. 

When there aren’t races, the team also practices at the local Bluewood Mountain over free weekends to help skiers learn and grow. 

“Sometimes we go up to Bluewood to train with the Alpine race team. Stan Thayne, who’s our advisor, is our go-to when we want to train over the weekends. We like to have some Bluewood gatherings,” Yee said. 

Ski season is short due to weather, so during off-season, the team hosts social gatherings and small-stakes practices. With no snow to sift through, the team focuses less on skiing and more on building a healthy team culture. This adds to the inclusive nature, adding activities off the slopes to their roster. 

“We have dryland [practices]. In the off season, once a week, we usually meet up and we either work out, go to the rock climbing gym, have a ping pong tournament or baking competition. We have a weekly meeting [where] we get together to hang out and have fun,” Yee said. 

Whitman Alpine Ski Team looks forward to the Western Regionals and off-season activities. Students who want to join can attend any of the ski team’s events for more information.

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