Ski team hopes to maintain consistency through transition phase

The Tufts ski team aims to qualify for Nationals this season. Courtesy Chelsea Stevens

The Tufts ski team is a perennial contender for a bid to the United States College Ski Association’s (USCSA) National Championships. Capable of racing competitively, even against varsity ski teams, this student-run club has had no shortage of success, but also is not without difficulties to overcome. Coach Martin Wilson left the team after last season, and the women’s team graduated top racers Sara Hanneman (LA ’14) and captain Chelsea Stevens (LA ’14) last spring.

Junior co-captain Dan Bozovic is proud of the way the team has competed in the past. He feels that its success can be perpetuated in the future through an infusion of new talent, and he believes the returning athletes from last year are ready to step up.

“At regionals competition we face varsity teams and we are competitive amongst them as well,” senior co-captain K.C. Hambleton said. “That kind of shows our level of talent and how much work we put in during the season to be able to compete with these teams with a lot more money and a lot more hill space than we have, but being a club team I think we make the most of our resources and are pretty competitive at the end of the day.”

In downhill alpine racing, the three fastest runs for each team are added together and compared, and whichever team is faster wins. Tufts ski team competes in slalom and giant slalom racing, and the men’s and women’s teams compete separately. But, according to Hambleton, this doesn’t mean that the teams are separate in any other way.

“We are one team with men and women,” Hambleton said. “We practice together, we train together, do all that stuff all together.”

The ski team is a tightly knit community. The team does dryland workouts that consist of push ups, core work, sprints and cardio for newer members, as well as multiple weight lifting sessions per week for those who are willing and able to handle it. The emphasis is naturally on lower body strength. The team is also planning a bonding trip to the Loj to get to know the new freshmen and become closer as a team. Hambleton said that she met a lot of people early on in the season by going to the fall dryland workouts, which the team is just now starting.

“We are trying to do a little more commitment earlier in the fall so we get to know each other as a team,” Hambleton said. “More bonding activities, so that when we get to our training week in January, we know everybody. And then also, just trying to put a little more emphasis on conditioning in the offseason so that when we actually get on the snow we’re stronger and can spend more time working on our technique and less [time] trying to get in shape for the races.”

Every year the team’s goal is to make Nationals. But individual athletes have goals for themselves, too.

Personally, I want to win the league,” Bozovic said. “The whole team is training hard this year, we have a lot of drylands going on, but personally I really want to push myself and try to win the league.”

The team will go away for a week of training in January to work on gates and introduce many of the concepts of downhill alpine racing to newcomers. Consistently one of the largest teams in the league, the team will most likely be composed of between 50 and 60 members this season, which is actually fewer than usual. While the size of the team could potentially dilute the amount of time each coach gets to spend with each member compared to the other teams the Jumbos compete against, Hambleton believes the team’s size is actually an advantage.

“I think one thing that is different about us is that … we always have a really good support system up at the top of the mountain during races,” Hambleton said. “People are always cheering for people in the gates getting ready to start the race. I think that’s something that’s really unique in terms of the chemistry of the team.”

The team hopes its emphasis on chemistry and bonding this year, as well as an early start to preseason training, will help in continuing to compete at a high level. Like most teams, there is intra-squad competition, but Hambleton said that it is always friendly. She believes that having students run the team allows them to create the sort of environment that they want.

“I know that Wilderness claims to be the most tightly knit group on campus, but ski team would definitely give them a run for their money,” Bozovic said. “I know when I joined the team my freshman year, they pretty much became my family. It’s a really good community to build a foundation at Tufts. People [on the team] are so crazy and so quirky and so weird and bizarre that people have said when they come to hang out with us they don’t know what to expect next because we are just a wild group of people.”

Hambleton echoed Bozovic’s sentiment.

“Ski team is the best decision I made at Tufts by far,” she said. “On a Tuesday night you’re sitting on a chairlift and you’re just like, ‘wow I could be studying and doing homework right now, but I’m skiing, so life is awesome.’”

Both captains are waiting excitedly for the first snow, a change in the weather that many Tufts students might lament, but that members of the ski team live for.