the City to the Slopes:
Columbia’s Ski/Snowboard Team Dedicates Its Time To the Outdoors
is 6:30AM on Sunday morning. With my skis strapped over my shoulder
and my pack and ski boots hanging off my back, I hike across 116th
and Broadway through Columbia’s campus to Amsterdam Ave. where
I meet the other members of the team and board a charter bus.
I think it is often overlooked, but it takes more than just motivation
for any college student to be up at this hour for whatever reason.
In this instance, I would say it is dedication that drives the
core team members of the Columbia University Ski/Snowboard team
to rise so early. “If I’m skiing, I can get up,” states Senior
Rick Siger who has been a member all four years of his college
As a result of living in Manhattan at sea level, the nearest ski
area is in Vernon, NJ at Mountain Creek and the trek can be anywhere
between 1-2 hours depending on traffic. On a week with two races,
we not only practice Wednesday evenings and Fridays, but we also
have to be up in the morning hours on Saturday and Sunday to participate
in the races. But for us, it is the opportunity to do what we
love: be outside in the snow (even if it is man made), and compete
with nearby schools (Princeton, Rutgers, Lehigh, Fairfield, and
Lafayette). Our reasons for being driven and devoting so much
time to this club sport vary. Senior Christina Schenk from Hawaii
declares, “If you have to suffer through the coldest months of
the year, you may as well enjoy being outside.”
The Columbia Ski/Snowboard team has only existed in the past 15
years. As we are growing rapidly, more people are joining and
the performance of the team is increasing. While the men’s team
has consistently competed in Regionals, last year was the first
year the women’s ski team made it also (to do so the team has
to be one of the top four teams in the league). Both teams are
looking forward to participating in Regionals again this season
in Toggenburg, NY.
Coming home after midnight on Wednesday night might make one question
why we commit (about 35 hours a week) so much of our limited time
to participate in this sport. For former members of the crew team
like sophomore John Friar, the snowboard team is much less of
a time commitment (the crew team practiced twice daily). However,
do not be mistaken about the hours each member contributes to
the team. Sophomore Nai Nan Ko had to sacrifice his participation
in the Sounds of China and the Asian American Alliance clubs to
be able to dedicate his time to the team. As an experienced racer
through all four years of high school in Massachusetts, he helps
other teammates with technique. As Nai states, “There is nothing
more gratifying to me than helping teach people from my school
to do what I love and being on this team gives me that opportunity.”
With the dedication of being a member of the ski/snowboard team
comes a cost, both financially and personally. To be on the team
you need to have your own equipment, pay the $300 of transportation,
ticket, and USSA race fees, and know how to ski or snowboard.
The financial constraints eliminate a large number of people at
the university. Putting the price into perspective, Mary Chotebortsky
explains, “If you consider the number of days you get to spend
on the mountain for the price of joining the team compared to
what it would cost for daily lift tickets and transportation from
Manhattan, it’s actually a good deal.”
Committing to the team can also place religious constraints on
members. For Sabbath-observing members of team, Friday practices
and Saturday races are not an option. The advantage of the team
being a club sport allows for these members to participate, even
though they cannot be present at every event.
After a long day of skiing, the majority of us are pretty tired.
On the dimly lit bus back to New York from Mountain Creek it is
not uncommon to see people completing their homework on topics
from a cryptography problem set in Number Theory to readings from
Immanual Kant for Contemporary Civilizations. Other teammates
socialize and ignore any work waiting for them in their dorm.
As native Vermonter and sophomore Chris Keitel justifies, “I love
to ski and it has always been a part of my life. It doesn’t matter
how much work I have after practice, to me all that matters is
that I was able to go skiing.”#
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