The Elm City isn’t exactly a ski or snowboard enthusiast’s haven.
With no easily accessible ski resorts near campus, it can be difficult for avid skiers and snowboarders to engage in these popular winter pastimes. But members of Yale’s Alpine and Nordic ski teams and snowboarding team still find time to hit the slopes, even if they must travel significant distances to do so.
The Nordic ski team is a part of the United States Collegiate Ski and Snowboard Association and typically competes against other college club ski teams in about five weekend meets during January and February. At competitions, team members compete in 10-kilometer cross-country races in either classic or skate skiing. Classic races are confined to a track and emphasize endurance, whereas skate skiing focuses on speed.
“New Haven doesn’t really have ski trails that are groomed for skiing, so they aren’t prepared or packed down,” said Nathaniel Knapp ’14, co-captain of the Nordic ski team. “When there is snow it is possible to go skiing, but it really isn’t the best way to train because there just aren’t a lot of places to go skiing.”
Because New Haven lacks the proper terrain, during the season the team occasionally drives one hour to Winding Trails, a ski resort in Farmington, Conn., which has cross-country ski trails.
Still, members of the team also find alternative ways to train that do not require snow. These methods include rollerskiing, an exercise involving the use of poles and very short skis with wheels, and, when there is snow, backcountry skiing around East Rock Park.
“You get a lot of weird looks from people in New Haven,” team captain Sonja Peterson ’14 said of rollerskiing. “The problem is there are no brakes, so it can be a little exciting with [traffic].”
But limited access to proper cross-country ski trails has not kept the Nordic ski team from producing successful skiers. Last year, the women’s team qualified for the USCSA Nationals after finishing second at the regional tournament. Despite that performance, the Elis were unable to make the trip to Sun Valley, Idaho because of high travel costs.
Though the team was scheduled to kick off its season last weekend at the Army Invitational in Vermont, it was unable to make the drive due to — of all things — the first major snowfall of the year. Instead, the team will compete in its first meet of the season this weekend at the Clarkson Invitational in Lake Placid, N.Y.
“It’s really fun to travel off campus and meet new people,” Peterson said. “It’s great exercise and it’s a really great way to spend the weekend.”
Though the Alpine ski team is also a part of the USCSA, it is a separate group from the Nordic ski team. While the Nordic team competes in cross-country skiing events, the Alpine team specializes in two downhill racing events, slalom and giant slalom.
The Alpine team also travels off campus to practice at ski resorts. To prepare for competitions, the team drives 45 minutes to Mount Southington, a ski resort in Plantsville, Conn., nearly every Tuesday to train with the University of Connecticut’s alpine team.
Last weekend, the team travelled to Vermont to compete in the Middlebury College Snow Bowl. At the Bowl, the women’s team took first place while the men’s team finished third, men’s captain Christopher Murray ’13 said.
“In our conference, we’ve done at well,” Murray said. “[Skiing] is a common interest that we all share. It brings us together.”
Of the three winter sports teams, the snowboarding team is the newest: it was only established last year. Koh Kazama ’12 decided to begin the club after being disappointed to find no snowboarding team upon his arrival at Yale.
This year, seven to 10 members of the team have been making the three-hour drive up to Okemo Mountain Resort in Vermont every weekend to practice, team member Molly Emerson ’13 said.
Because the snowboarding team is not as established as the ski teams on campus, it has not yet begun competing, though members hope to begin participating in boardercross and half-pipe competitions in the future. Still, the unseasonably warm winter has hindered the team’s progress, as some of the boardercross runs at ski resorts are not yet open due to a lack of snow.
“This winter has been really bad for ski resorts because it hasn’t been snowing and it’s really warm,” Kazama said. “Even up in Vermont none of the mountains are fully open yet, they’ve still got some closed trails. Usually by January all mountains are fully open.”
Though the snow conditions have prevented the team from entering competitions so far, members such as Emerson simply relish the chance to be able to snowboard on a regular basis.
“It just makes me happy that we get the opportunity to do something fun and different outside of New Haven and get out of the Yale bubble,” Emerson said. “I really like going out into the real world and having fun outdoors for a complete weekend.”