The men’s and women’s club ski teams made a difficult decision Jan. 17.ÊThat morning, after learning of the car accident that killed four Yale students and injured five others, the skiers decided to skip the second of only five scheduled regular season meets.

Yale competes in the McBrine Division of the United States Collegiate Ski and Snowboard Association, which holds just five alpine ski races during January and February.

Despite losing all points from that meet — a huge setback in the division’s cumulative point system — both teams still have a chance of finishing in the top three spots of the McBrine Division, qualifying them for the Regional competition.

Both men’s captain Jonathan Treem ’04 and women’s captain Katie Palms ’03 made the same prediction: it all depends on this weekend at the Mad River Glen course in Vermont.

In Yale’s three USCSA meets so far this winter, both teams have finished first or second in the McBrine division in both the slalom and giant slalom events. Last weekend at the Pico Race in Vermont, the men’s team finished first in both events; the women’s team finished first in the slalom and second in the giant slalom.

Nikken Cullman ’04, last year’s top men’s skier, finished second in the slalom and fourth in the giant slalom.

“[Pico was] one of our strongest races [this season],” Cullman said.

Cullman and Treem both said they were impressed with the finishes of several freshmen.ÊDrew Palin ’06, a candidate for the division’s best new skier award, finished fourth in the slalom and second in the giant slalom.ÊGorin Lynch ’06, who placed sixth in the slalom, and Zev Balsen ’06, who came in 12th in the slalom and 15th in the giant slalom, joined the men’s team’s top five skiers. Just five official racers will compete at the Regional race for Yale.

“The freshmen are really dominating,” said Rebecca Rapple ’06, who finished first in the women’s giant slalom.ÊRecruited by several Division-I ski programs, Rapple attributes her success to her high school experience in upstate New York and the Junior Olympics.

Rapple was followed by Emily Maher ’06, who finished 12th in the slalom and 15th in the giant slalom.ÊAnnemarie Baltay ’05, third in the giant slalom and second in the slalom, and Tory Phillips ’05, 80th in the giant slalom, also made huge contributions that will be needed again this weekend.

As Yale’s ski strength grows, the team may be forced from the McBrine Division and into a more competitive grouping.

“If things continue the way they are, then we’ll have to move up divisions,” Palms said. “I’m glad I made it on to the ski team before it became super competitive.”

Although the Mad River Glen race will determine qualifiers for the Regional race, this weekend also has a fun spirit.ÊFor the contest’s final race, skiers traditionally ski down the mountain in costumes. According to several skiers, the USCSA banned drinking and nude skiing from the mountain this winter.ÊLast year, the Yale team dressed in a Hawaiian theme: the men wore board shorts and leis and the women dressed in bathing suits.