The alpine racing team's annual dues are in the neighborhood of $500. While team members say they get their money's worth of skiing in two or three trips, they're getting much more this year. After finishing second at regionals in Hunter, N.Y., last week, the women's team is headed to nationals.
“This year was an amazing transformation for the girls' team,” Polly Evans, SEAS '13 and an engineering graduate student, said.
It's the first-ever trip to nationals for a Columbia alpine team, male or female. Each team sends five skiers to compete in two events—slalom and giant slalom. The top three individual times go toward the team's score. While Evans has qualified in the past as an individual, she said this year, there was more depth on the team, allowing it to get enough high scores to qualify.
It was a result, Evans said, of luck, as well as the aggressive recruiting efforts of team captains Victoria Wills, CC '14, and Vidal Meric, GS '14.
“We're a ski team and also a ski club,” Meric said. “It's just as important to have a lot of members in the club, so we can do all the trips that we want to do—collect enough dues so we can do our favorite things.”
The end result was a talented, international group, which included three Turks—including Zeynep Ejder, BC '17, who has competed internationally for Turkey—a few Italians, Americans, and the Canadian Wills.
“One day, there was just so many Turks racing, so we just said, Oh, we're like the Turkish national team of Columbia University,'” Meric said.
The team also added Lauren Peirce, CC '14, who finished right behind Evans at regionals and whom Evans said takes the pressure off her. Wills, a snowboarder, qualified for nationals as an individual as well.
Nationals will be March 9-15 in Lake Placid, N.Y. The team is still working on its funding situation and travel plans to get there. It'll be a much smaller contingent than the club's normal weekend outing—two or three dozen people.
The team chemistry this year, team members said, has been especially great.
“Ski racing can be super intense, especially when you're not racing as a team, and you're racing as an individual,” Kara Krakower, BC '14, said. “It's really cool to be on a team that actually supports each other.”
Its traditions range from waiting at the bottom of the course with a megaphone for a teammate to finish, to tackling teammates and having snowball fights while waiting to race, to dressing up on Senior Day in Halloween-esque skiing outfits, which in the past have included Borat and blue unicorns.
“I hope that people on my team beat me,” Evans said. “It's a lot more relaxed than other ski racing can be.”
Because the team does not have its own coach due to price concerns, club members also must coach each other going down the slopes.
“Everybody watches each other and tells each other what they're doing wrong,” Evans said.
“It is hard, though. The less you train, the more you decline, no matter what,” she added. “You forget what you're supposed to do.”
Outings start as daily trips every weekend to nearby skiing destinations. As the season wears on, they travel further away on overnight trips, in preparation for competition.
“When you go into a course, you have no idea how fast is a good time until everyone is done, and you can compare against people, which makes it unique,” Wills said.
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Correction: An earlier version of this article misspelled Zeynep's Ejder's name. Spectator regrets the error.