Three years ago, the Varsity Ski Program was cut at Whitman, causing an uproar among students, and fear among the skiers about the future budget.
“The varsity ski team program was cut when this year’s seniors were freshman, so a couple years ago, and when that happened it was basically [that] they were varsity athletes who came to Whitman primarily to ski race. When the team was cut, the athletic department said that they would honor the funding that they needed to keep racing, like varsity funding, and they would uphold that as long as recruited athletes are at the school” said Meg Robinson, a sophomore on the alpine team.
The team was told by Head and Assistant Athletics Directors Dean Snider and Skip Molitor to keep the numbers of the team up. “Skip and Dean both told us that the amount of funding we get will be dependent upon the number of freshman we get. So I think its good that we have four freshman this year and eight [from] last year, so we’re continuing to bring people in for the program, so hopefully that will continue next year” said senior alpine captain Torey Anderson, who was recruited her freshman year to be on the varsity team.
Competitively, the team does very well among their local competition. “We finish second place at almost every meet behind UBC, even though schools like University of Idaho are a varsity sport. We’re still competing against 11 schools who take the sport very seriously,” said sophomore Patrick Finnegan. There are only two varsity programs in the Pacific Northwest.
During the last three years, the athletes have had much of their costs paid for. “Under the current budget, the ski team budget covers entry fees, gas and renting turtle-topper vans, passes at the races we go to. Right now we pay for some food and for a season’s pass to train at Bluewood financially, and a USSA license, that’s a fairly reasonable amount to commit to. It’s not cheap, but its something we’re willing to commit,” said Robinson.
The University of Puget Sound is another liberal arts school with a competitive club team. “[Skiing] is one of our highest funded club sports teams,” said Mike Knape, a member of the Puget Sound budget committee. “It is explicitly for traveling to races and practice costs. They also do a week-long camp that the team funds through dues and by hosting a gear sale on campus.”
As Whitman’s last varsity ski recruits graduate and the team’s provisional three years run out, the team is anxious to find out what will happen to their budget.
“As it stands, there is no decision to make, ski team funding will remain the same next year. There is no reason for the skiers to stress out,” said Dean of Athletics Dean Snider.
The skiers will compete at Regionals next week in Colorado, and, if all goes well, at Nationals the next week in Maine. +