The Marist College ski team has begun preparing for their 2014 season. And while this will be met with much less attention and anticipation than the Division I teams on the Poughkeepsie campus, the ski team has been one of the most successful teams at the school in recent years.
Last season, competing in the McBrine division of the United States Collegiate Ski and Snowboard Association (USCSA) as a club sport, the women’s and men’s squads finished first and second in their groups, respectively.
“Last year was our best season in a very long time,” said senior and three-year member of the team Tyler Hub. “We competed against some really good schools and had a lot of success.”
The team travels to New York, Connecticut, and Vermont for their races, which will start at the beginning of the spring semester. They are generally weekend trips, as races are held on both Saturday and Sunday. The travel time can be a hassle, but most team members agree that it is worth the sacrifice.
“I love being on the team because I’m with people who have the same interests as me,” said senior Alana Brolly, who is entering her fourth season on the squad. “At first I thought I wouldn’t like having to travel the first five weekends of spring semester, but the people and the environment make it all worth it.”
As a club sport, the ski team members are not racing on scholarship. Everyone who is a member of the team joined by choice, and Hub thinks that this has a lot to do with the squad being such a tight-knit group.
“We are not just teammates. We are all really good friends both during the season and throughout the off-season,” said Hub. “There is a ton of camaraderie with this group. I think that is the main reason everyone likes being on the team so much. Everyone is really supportive of each other and enjoys being around each other when we go away for our races.”
Once a year the team travels to Canada, not for competition, but to ski recreationally and bond. “It’s always an awesome time,” said Brolly. “Bonding experiences like that are great for any team. It builds chemistry and gives everyone an opportunity to go away together and have a good time.”
Shawn Bartosik is the president of the executive board and one of the captains of the team. Now a senior, he originally had no interest in joining the team, but tagged along for the Canada trip and enjoyed the experience.
“I really didn’t have any plans of skiing competitively in college,” he said, “But I went up to Canada with a bunch of people who were on the team and I really enjoyed my time with them. I thought they were a great group of people and felt comfortable around them, so I decided to join.”
With their success, the ski team hopes to become more relevant on campus and attract more attention. This, by nature, is tough because of the distance that their races are from the Marist campus. It would be difficult to expect a student fan base to gather along a mountain hundreds of miles away. But the team has made strides towards becoming more noticed.
“It’s tough for them,” said friend of many of the ski team members, Nick Ferrante. “It is one of those sports where it’s hard to draw a lot of attention. But as they keep coming home from races and telling us about their success, it makes it easy for people to start noticing them.”
“When I joined the time I only heard about it through word of mouth. I had never competed before, just skied recreationally,” said Hub. “We have become more present at activity fairs and those types of events so we can attract more people like me, who wouldn’t think to give it a shot until it was brought to their attention. And I think with any sports team, winning will bring us attention. So if we continue to come back with good results this year, more and more people will know about the ski team.”
Regardless of the chatter around campus, the team agrees that their cohesiveness as a group is the driving force to their favorable results.
“There’s no pressure on anyone,” said Brolly. “When we travel to races, it’s more like going away with your friends for the weekend than anything. Those friendships are important to all of us.”
Marist funds their trips to competitions by paying for the hotel and lift tickets. The students themselves are only responsible for feeding themselves over the weekend. “Once we finish races, it turns into a day of skiing with your friends,” said Bartosik. “Our lift tickets are good for the entire day, so we take advantage of that time to free ski and hang out.”
The team began their training in early October, with dry-land practices being held in the McCann Center gym. They use this time to work on conditioning before they head out to the slopes after Thanksgiving break. After the holiday, the team will go to their “home mountain”, Hunter Mountain in New York, for a try-out.
“This gives us an opportunity to look at any freshmen or new members of the team,” said Hub. “We can see where everyone stands and where their strengths and weaknesses are.”
Marist’s first race of the season is the weekend of Jan. 18 at West Mountain in Queensbury, NY. They will race for five consecutive weekends, wrapping up their 2014 campaign Feb. 16 at Magic Mountain in Vermont.
“Everyone’s starting to get excited,” said Hub. “I think we’re all ready to go have some fun.”