Last weekend, the Oregon club ski team experienced something none of the current members have ever had the chance to do while in college: train on a mountain.
The past few years have not been kind in terms of snow, leading a sport that relies on the whims of weather to be left preparing for races on dry land. With the snow came a historic practice on the slopes of Hoodoo Ski Area.
“When we got up there last weekend, it was like, ‘We’re doing it, we’re training,’” club captain Megan Ganim said, laughing. “It doesn’t usually happen.”
2016’s snow numbers are already well above what was accumulated during last year’s unusually dry winter. On Jan. 1, the snowpack was 138 percent above normal across Oregon.
“Showing up last year to races without any training was fun,” Julia McInnis said, “but I am excited this year to see the progression.”
Being able to ski on a mountain allows for preparation of the unexpected. No two courses are the same, but tackling the difficulties of one run can help set up success on another. It’s something that can only be accomplished by making runs.
The plan is to squeeze in a practice every Thursday night between weekend races, which run through March with just one break coming midway through February. The night practices are beneficial because they fit in better with schedules, the slopes are relatively empty and it’s a nice hit of nostalgia for the members who grew up skiing during those hours in middle and high school.
All together, it makes for a busy schedule.
“I took a less intensive course load this term to help balance out the workload,” newcomer Chris Casaceli said. “But there is time while we are driving to get your homework done. I think if you work hard enough, it’s possible to do it well.”
Every team member finds ways to sneak in homework sessions between races.
“One year we didn’t have Wi-Fi at the house we were staying at for regionals,” Ganim said. “After every race kids were in the coffee shop downtown just finishing up chemistry homework.”
It’s easy for the members to be dedicated to the sport because of how much they enjoy spending time with each other.
“The reason I am still at the University of Oregon is the ski team,” McInnis said. “You get so close, so fast.”
An added bonus is that winter term becomes your favorite — an unusual opinion.
“No one you ask says that they like winter term,” freshman Luci Charlton said. “So we have a completely different experience.”
People see Oregon as an underdog because it features a smaller team. But last year, the results were positive, and with the additional training, expectations are as high as ever.
“Honestly everyone shreds,” McInnis said. “I’m really excited to see where our team can go.”
The start of the season comes this weekend as the team travels to Mt. Hood Meadows for the first race of the year.
Follow Christopher Keizur on Twitter @chriskeizur