While most sports teams tend to take training trips to warmer locations, the ski team is forced to go colder, in search of snow and ice. Over winter break, the Vassar ski team took a week-long trip to Sugarbush Mountain in Vermont. There, they skied the slopes during the day and spent their nights bonding in the warmth. The team prides itself on being open to skiers, or “brewskis” of all skill levels, from beginners to those who have been skiing long before their time at Vassar. About 50 Vassar ski team members attended the Sugarbush trip.
While very much a real sport, the group’s non-varsity status means that the ski team does not recruit from pools of talented athletes, but rather from the Vassar student body. Most recruiting is done at the first activities fair, where first-year students sign up for the email list and are later invited to an all-team party. It is these acts of bonding that ski team members relish. Most members remember the first time they signed up for ski team. Senior captain Ted Marrinan recalled in an emailed statement, “I joined the ski team my very first activities fair, because Anna Been (then captain) was walking around with a ski, and I thought that was pretty cool.”
Junior Gabby Pollack had a similar experience. She explained, “I first joined the ski team my freshman year at Vassar. I got involved at the club fair when I saw really cool people with lots of energy telling everyone to join the ski team!” In fact, many experiences of joining ski team seem to revolve around the positive energy and the laid-back attitude of the team. As freshman Allison Breeze exclaimed, “It’s one of the closest-knit groups I’ve ever been a part of. Regardless of class year, it feels like everyone is there to look after one another and make sure everyone has fun.” This thought is echoed by many other members of ski team who are grateful for the different opportunities to connect across ages. “Being on ski team gave me my first opportunity to interact with people in different grades in a setting other than on campus,” wrote freshman Vanessa Rosensweet.
However, ski team is more than just bonding and trips to snowy lodges. The team also competes in the McBrine Division, along with schools like Wesleyan, Yale, Marist, Springfield College and University of Rhode Island. In a typical racing weekend, there is one day of slalom racing and one day of giant slalom racing. Sophomore Theresa Law explained, “You get one run down in the morning and one run down in the afternoon. Whoever has the fastest combined time of those two runs wins.” The typical racing day is a whirlwind in which both the men’s and women’s teams compete and cheer on their teammates. Marrinan added, “We arrive at the mountain at some ungodly hour, like 7, races usually start around 9 with either men’s or women’s heats first, with the other group standing at the gate keeping track of the mechanics of the race. Then we switch, finish racing for the morning, ski a bit, grab lunch, and repeat.”
Although other teams in the division are competitive and train to win their races, the Vassar ski team takes a more relaxed approach to race days. Senior captain Marya Pascuito joked about the team record, “We’re probably 0-500…We’re here to have fun!” “I like to tell new recruits that we’re the least competitive team in the least competitive league in the country,” Pascuito wrote. The Vassar ski team appears content to relax on race days and just enjoy the team aspect. Marrinan added, “The Vassar team usually turns up to 2 or 3 of the season’s 8 or so races.” Pollack agreed, “We have even had people who have never skied before race! The brewskis are more about spirit and happiness than about competition.”
One race in particular is a team favorite. “Our most special race is probably the alumni costume race at Magic Mountain at the end of the season; we dress up with themes like ‘denim’ or ‘space robots’ and have a blast for the goofiest race of the year,” Pascuito wrote. Although the Vassar ski team has an intense focus on accessibility, as a sport skiing has a history of being financially straining. Pascuito commented, “Our mission statement is mostly about our commitment to making skiing a more accessible sport, and I think we’ve done a particularly good job of that this year.”
Law added, “Ski team gets a lot of funding from the VSA. I’m not sure exactly how much, but enough that we only have to pay $440 for 5 days and 5 nights in nice condos and lift passes that are good for 5 days of skiing.” Although the team’s focus seems to mostly center around fun and accessibility, some feel there is little support for the group as an athletic team on campus. Marrinan wrote, “We fall somewhere in the gray area between sports team and org., so we don’t get the athletic press we deserve, and we don’t have regular club meetings like many other groups.”
Despite the lack of an athletic campus presence, some ski team members see the benefits of ski team having a different vibe than other athletic teams. Breeze wrote, “I don’t think that ski team is necessarily one clique, as it is with a lot of other sports teams. It’s more of a conglomeration of a bunch of different types of people, some who only come for one year, others who go to every race.” She continued, “However, that’s not to say they don’t have a presence on campus; there is definitely an underlying bond between everyone on ski team, just a different dynamic than would be expected.” As Pascuito wrote, “Ski team is probably the best thing I’ve done at Vassar, and I feel so lucky to have been a part of something so genuine and fun for the whole time I’ve been here!”