Skiers face uncertain futures, consider other options

Rachel Hoar

After being notified that both the varsity Alpine and Nordic programs would be cut, Whitman skiers are left with a decision to make: what to do now.

The timing of the decision makes student choices less than clear-cut. Many Whitman skiers are still trying to process the information, which they learned the afternoon of Mon., March 9.

“I had no idea this was coming,” said first-year Alpine skier Nathan Ord.

Some skiers now say that they must not only decide if they wish to transfer from Whitman after this cut, but if they are feasibly able to do so, due to the timing of this announcement.  

Voices of students
“Most of us, Nordic and Alpine, came to Whitman
because of ski team, and so we are all pretty
devastated. It’s a huge part of our lifestyle, and
our lives at Whitman, so it’s not just a change in
club or a change in activity; it’s a change lifestyle.”
-Bailey Arend, ’10, Nordic captain
Telling us now, just after the high of getting back
from USCSA nationals, and with this hard week
of work ahead, it’s a very difficult thing.”
-Nathan Ord, ’12, Alpine skier
It’s understandable that in times of economic hardship,
[Whitman] has to make cuts, but I have to question
completely cutting one program for the sake of
everything else. I could understand maybe making us
take a budget cut so that other sports could keep their
budgets, but completely getting rid of us?”
-Roxy Pierson, ’11, Nordic skier

“I’m looking at a transfer application, and the deadline is March 1,” said first-year Nordic skier Kira Peterson. “And applying for scholarships at other schools… that’s a little out of the question now.”

The college has stated they will aid any skier who wishes to transfer to another school. Many skiers, however, are torn over whether to leave or stay.

“I think what we have to consider is, if we want to stay at Whitman, or if we want to ski,” said sophomore Nordic skier Paige Devlin. “Because we can’t have both.”

Although skiing would be re-categorized as a club sport under the announced changes, skiers question if their sport would look the same as it has in the past.

“If we go club, it’s going to be very difficult to keep this alive with a standard club budget,” said Ord.  

Whitman’s decision to move to a club sport has received mixed views on its feasibility. The ski program moved from club to varsity status in the 2002 to 2003 school year. The team had previously competed in the Rocky Mountain Intercollegiate Ski Association (RMISA ), equivalent to Division I. In moving to club status, skiers would compete in the United States Collegiate Ski & Snowboard Association (USCSA), which is equivalent to Division III. Club coaches receive little monetary compensation, and traveling for both training and competition would remain expensive.

The Nordic team has very little USCSA competition in the west. While the Alpine team has nearby competition, Bluewood will not allow them to train without a coach.

Budget issues notwithstanding, there are other concerns on the minds of skiers. Some say that it would be hard to leave behind the teammates they have grown close to over their Whitman careers. Others do not wish to leave behind the relationships they have established at Whitman.

“I have a family here,” said Ord. “I don’t feel like I could leave that solely for the purpose of skiing at another college.”  

 “Skiing is a big part of my social life on campus,” added sophomore Nordic skier Roxy Pierson. “If a lot of my other friends were to transfer, it would be really hard to adjust.”  

Those who wish to stay also face the difficulty of adjusting to life without one of their biggest passions.

“I need that kind of exercise, and I need the team feeling to really be happy and successful in school and in the rest of my life,” said junior Nordic captain Bailey Arend.

The board of trustees is expected to make their final decision by April 10. Students are encouraged to submit their comments to George Bridges at [email protected]