By Molly Matthews ’22
In the Fall of 2021, Hobart and William Smith Colleges announced that there would be an addition of twelve new varsity sports over the next five years. Two of these will be Varsity Alpine Skiing teams for both Hobart and William Smith.
The school currently has a very successful club Alpine ski team with both men’s and women’s teams currently being run as one fully student-led program. They hold practices twice a week at Bristol Mountain Ski Resort in Canandaigua and compete in 14 races each season––for members who wish to compete––and continue on to USCSA National Championships if they qualify. However, it is not required that you compete in order to be on the team. In fact, some don’t race at all but still regularly attend practices and races to cheer on their teammates. This team is one of the most successful ones at the Colleges, having collectively qualified for the National Championships 11 times with the women’s team placing third in the nation during the 2020 season––the last one they were able to compete in until this year due to COVID-19.
The team has four captains: two on the men’s team and two on the women’s. The current captains are Camila Goclowski ’22 and Caraline Gray ‘23, joined by Hobart captains Sean King ’22 and Alex Hesketh ‘22. These four students are responsible for all aspects of the team including but not limited to: organizing ticket packages, training logistics, team meetings, transportation organization, race registrations, applying for and managing team funds, as well as communicating and making decisions with the coaches of other teams in the league.
A senior on the team, Alicia Quarterman ‘22, spoke about her experience as a student who does not always choose to race. She shared, “The HWS ski team does a really great job of creating an inclusive environment for those who may have raced in the past, those who enjoy skiing, or even those who are just starting out. I really enjoy the team because it’s as competitive as you want it to be.”
Quarterman added, “We’re pretty unique because you don’t even have to race to be a part of the team. We do a really good job of capturing team comradery and even having a little ‘spirit squad’ waiting at the end of the race.”
Noel DeBruyn ‘22, another senior on the team and currently elected social chair, spoke about her experience, sharing that “I love the ski team. It’s one of the only opportunities I have had in my time at HWS to connect with people outside of my immediate friend group. We all mesh so well as a community and I am so incredibly excited to be back”.
The team works to bring people together in a variety of ways. The preseason takes place the week prior to spring semester classes start and before their first race of the season. The team spends their days on the mountain skiing and training, and then focuses on team building activities once they return back to campus from the mountain. This idea of team building is continued past the ski season and into the later half of the spring semester when the team continues to organize activities and games such as kickball. They also have a formal each year, which is a highlight for many members of the team. Each year, the team openly welcomes new people to come to the races, to learn about skiing, support their friends, or just to share a good time.
While the current William Smith team, as well as senior captain Sean King as an individual, have already qualified for this year’s national championships (taking place the week of March 7th in Lake Placid, NY), there is still a question of what will happen with the start of the new varsity programs. There are some clear benefits that come with this change including expanded funding opportunities and a coaching staff who can take on the roles currently being carried about by the student captains. With the start of the new teams, some questions have arisen most specifically about if the club aspect of the team will continue and, if so, how it will change.
With the current way that the team is set up, there is not a real difference between the men’s and women’s teams other than when it comes to qualifications for national events. Quarterman touched on this by explaining, “Something I really enjoy about the ski team is the fact that we are one team, not Hobart or William Smith, but one group. We practice and race together, which creates a really great team atmosphere.” This is something that could possibly change with the new teams being created.
There is already a big-time commitment for the current team that will likely increase and become more strictly monitored with change to the varsity level. Questions have arisen including: Will there still be room on the team for students who do not race or are not planning to race in upcoming seasons? Is there still an opportunity for a club team that these skiers may be a part of and how will that club interact, if at all, with the varsity teams?