For Tory Phillips ’05, skiing is life. When not experiencing the visceral rush of speeding down the slopes, Phillips can be seen chatting about her favorite pair of skis or imagining which mountain she would like to tackle next. As a freshman, she feels right at home with the Yale Alpine Ski Team, a club team that engages in skiing competitions with other New England colleges.
“The team is awesome,” Phillips said. “It’s a bunch of people who enjoy something that I do.”
Comprised of both novices and experienced skiers alike, the team takes part in four U.S. Collegiate Ski and Snowboard Association competitions during their short winter season, where they race against schools such as Vassar, Wesleyan, Rhode Island, University of New England, and Brandeis. The team is divided into men’s and women’s categories, and each sends 10 skiers to compete in the slalom and giant slalom (GS) competitions. In slalom races, the turns have a shorter radius, while GS races have wider turns and generally a faster pace.
“Both our men’s and women’s teams are doing very well this year thanks especially to a few choice sophomores and freshmen who joined the team,” said co-captain Carolyn Graeber ’02.
In their first race at Middlebury, Vt., five Bulldog men placed in the top 15, with both rookies and veterans contributing to the team’s success. Nikken Cullman ’04, who had never raced for the team before but competed in the Junior Olympics in high school, placed first in both the slalom and GS races, while Dave Wing ’02 finished seventh in the slalom.
Two weeks later at Killington, Vt., the women’s team made an impressive showing, as Phillips placed first in GS and second in slalom, and Annemarie Baltay ’05 and Kerrie Lenhart ’04 also placed in the top 15 for GS and slalom, signifying great potential to qualify for regional competition at the end of the season.
The Eli skiers next hit the slopes at Pico, Vt. this weekend, with their final race coming at Mad River Glen, Vt. the following weekend. If the men’s or women’s team places among the three best colleges in the McBrine division of the USCSA, they will move on to regional competition.
But despite their passion for racing, the majority of skiers on the team insist that having fun is the primary objective. The team’s laid-back approach is evident in their lack of regular practice.
“We are a club sport, so mostly we have people on our team who just want to get some experience racing, hang out with cool people, and get away from Yale in the dreary winter months,” Graeber said.
Co-captain Chris Beardsley ’02 agreed.
“The ski team is tied together by how much fun we have together and after that skiing well in races just falls into place,” Beardsley said.
Because they spend weekends together during competitions, the ski team has fostered an intimate sense of camaraderie, and they get together for weekly team dinners. Many team members found the most enjoyable facet of the ski team to be their week-long training trip to Mont Tremblant in Quebec, which took place during the final week of winter break. Students could ski on their own, or work under the instruction of a professional trainer. After a day on the slopes, the skiers would often partake in the area’s vibrant nightlife and establish closer bonds with one another.
“Part of the training trip is getting to know the freshmen and new sophomores who just joined,” Beardsley said. “This year we have a lot of new people, which is wonderful.”
Dan Kahn ’05 hails from the warm state of Florida, where skiing is considered foreign, but that did not prevent him from joining the team and strapping on his skis for a competition. Although he admits his performance at last week’s race was less than stellar, he said he still enjoyed himself and likes the social element of the ski team.
“It was my first race ever, but that’s what is so great about the team — we range from people like me with no experience to champion racers and everyone is welcome,” Kahn said.