By Shannon Lynch, Daily Sports Writer
Published March 13, 2013
The Michigan ski team isn’t a varsity or club sport. In fact, it isn’t actually recognized as a team on campus at all. The “team” doesn’t have coaches or train regularly, it isn’t funded or sponsored by the University and its members aren’t recruited.
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So when the men’s alpine team placed second at the Midwest Regional Qualifier in February, the skiers were surprised and thrilled to have earned a position at the U.S. Collegiate Skiing and Snowboarding National Championships.
The team was an underdog in every event when it traveled to Sun Valley, Idaho, to participate in the championship, and no one was expecting to place. So when Michigan earned third place in the slalom and seventh overall, the Wolverines shocked their competition and themselves.
“(Slalom) was substantially longer than what we’ve ran all year and substantially harder,” said freshman All-American Kane Boynton. “We really had no expectations going in. We were just out there to have a good time and have a lot of fun.”
Six Michigan skiers and one female snowboarder were chosen to compete in Idaho. The difference in conditions at Sun Valley compared to the courses the team raced at this season was incredibly overwhelming.
“The longest course we ran this whole year in the Midwest was 25 seconds, and then we got out there and the course was a 1:10 at 8,000 vertical feet,” said sophomore All-American Taylor Hunter. “So, we weren’t very prepared for that.”
But Hunter did well, finishing his first giant slalom run with a time of 1:08:25 and his second with a time of 1:03.72, bringing his total to 2:11.97. He finished only about nine seconds behind first-place finisher Nils Hoegbom, skiing for powerhouse Rocky Mountain College.
Hunter, along with Boynton and freshman skier Stephen Siddall, all of who are All-American scholars, competed in the men’s slalom event and finished third, with a team time total of 5:04.08. This was a huge victory, considering they only scored behind Rocky Mountain College and Sierra Nevada College, both which recruit students in the United States and overseas.
Michigan’s student skiers have their own form of recruiting by networking, working through social media and having a booth at Festifall each year. This group is open to any and all ski and snowboard racers that attend the University.
The entire team consists of about 50 members in total, men and women, who choose their own level of competitiveness and commitment.
According to junior skier and captain Nick Hill, the almost-casual nature of the team results in a group of students who really care about improving their own performances while also benefitting the team as a whole.
The team races just four weekends out of the year at Crystal Mountain in Thompsonville, Mich. and competes regularly against club sports at the regional level and even the occasional varsity teams.
“We don’t train, and we don’t have a coach,” Hill said. “Everyone meets at a house on Friday, drives up north, (races) and (stays) up north over the weekend. But during the week, everyone is kind of on their own.”
The way the team is run in comparison to other schools’ ski programs is definitely unorthodox, but the system works. It gives students who ski at any level the opportunity to be a part of a group that works to compete at a high level.
Hill said that he and the other team captains hope that the ski team will eventually be given the title of club sport at Michigan. It’s been some time since the team has been so successful, and a year like this will only encourage more skiers, and snowboarders to join the team. As they continue to foster young talent, the Wolverines objective is closer than ever.
“The goal is eventually to be a club sport,” Hill said. “We would be thrilled to be Division I eventually.”