For the UBC Ski Team, the anticipation of the race season is building as athletes meet for dryland training and count down the weeks until their return to snow.
A dryland tradition, the infamous Wreck Beach stairs are site of the Skibirds’ annual strength training exercises, and representative of the tough climb they have ahead of them this season.
However, this season will also mark their first under the new ‘competitive club’ structure after 80+ years as a varsity team, and there are still a lot of details to be confirmed during this transition.
2015/16 Goals: The team’s goal for the 2015/16 season is to field a full squad, continue racing in the USCSA league and to qualify for National Championships. Despite the loss of Varsity status and more than half of the funding previously received from the Department of Athletics, the ski team aims to achieve the same level of success as they did under the Varsity banner.
While regaining Varsity status will continue to be a goal of the team, the focus through this season, and during the transition time in which UBC seeks a new President and Director of Athletics, will be to perform to the highest level as possible, demonstrating that the team is as deserving as ever to have their Varsity status reinstated.
On the competition front, the race calendar will have the team travel to (3) races in the NorthWest Conference before heading to Regional Championships in Montana to qualify for Nationals in Lake Placid, New York. Returning student-athlete-coach Kayla Johnston hopes to be able to travel with full men’s and women’s teams through the Conference finals before determining UBC’s top 10 for Regionals and beyond.
The team welcomes back returning athletes Sandy Gerlich–gold-medal winner at last year’s Nationals in the dual slalom–Cameron Hale, and Lindsay Frame. These athletes have also agreed to take on roles within the team administration, partnered with ski team alumni in the same role. Sandy becomes VP Communications/ Social Media, Cameron Hale will act as Assistant Coach alongside Kayla Johnston, and Lindsay Frame takes on VP Fundraising and Social. Linsday is also heading up the team’s online petition called, “Reinstate UBC Alpine Ski Team to Varsity Status.” If you’ve yet to come across this petition, have a look now here and read what others are saying…and, of course, be sure to add your signature.
There are also several new student-athletes to UBC, and recruitment is underway to attract more ski racers and get them pre-season training with the team.
3 of these new athletes have solid ski racing backgrounds and are well poised to become part of this year’s squad. They are:
Maria Bjork, SWE
Maria Björk | Taking off the last couple of seasons due to injury didn’t necessarily slow down Maria Björk who looks forward to returning to snow and gates this season. Hailing from Bjursås IK Alpine, Sweden, she began racing at just age 5 and progressed to becoming a true slalom skier. While she doesn’t really have any recent results, her FIS slalom points were under 50 when she took 15th place in a FIS SL at Sunday River in 2012. That season, she also won a number of USCSA races, and her past experience racing in the league will be a real asset.
At UBC to study Business, she was drawn by the fact UBC is internationally recognized as a great school and perfectly located, “since I love the outdoor lifestyle.” Her goal for the season is to ski fast and have fun, ultimately making a successful come-back to the gates and qualifying to Nationals.
Lauren Hale | From Toronto, Ontario, Lauren Hale started out racing in Collingwood for Blue Mountain and the Toronto Ski Club before attending the National Ski Academy, also in Collingwood. Racing competitively for 8 years, her favourite discipline is GS, and she has a 22nd place finish at the National Junior GS at Mont Sainte Anne, Quebec to show for it!
Currently studying at UBC in the Faculty of Arts, she chose UBC because of the excellent academics, the beautiful campus, and the easy access to Whistler (a true skier at heart!)
Her goal for the season is to help the woman’s team qualify for Nationals in Lake Placid, and she’s excited to ski some hills she’s never been to before and enjoy competing in the USCSA.
Ontario’s Jordan Fitzgerald
Jordan Fitzgerald | Since moving to Sun Valley, Idaho at the age of 7, Jordan Fitzgerald has been ski racing, an alum of the Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation. Initially a fan of speed events, her focus has shifted more to GS as she’s transitioned toward skiing in college. With a few results last winter hitting around the 50 point mark, Jordan could potentially be a solid add to the UBC roster.
Currently in Arts without specialization, she first really considered UBC because she wanted to stay on the west coast, and wanted something different (from Idaho) but similar in the things she valued most, namely UBC’s academic options, ski club/team, and lifestyle in Vancouver.
Jordan’s over-all goal for the season is to definitely qualify for Nationals, hopefully as a team but if not, as an individual. She’s also keen to further improve her skiing across the board and discover what the region has to offer a skier, not to mention visit the hills south of the border!
Official team trials will take place in the new year to determine the travel teams for men and women. Athletes can look forward to the renewed partnership with the Grouse Mountain Tyee Ski Club, which will provide the team with hill space, gate training and coaching on the club’s new race centre terrain, plus lift access. Says Kayla Johnston: “We are so grateful for the contribution the Tyee club is able to provide us for access to elite level training, and they appreciate the mentorship our more experienced athletes can provide the junior racers as they train alongside. It’s a true community partnership that is so valuable to every athlete involved.”
In terms of team finances under the new team structure, Johnston will be working with some alumni members on securing funding for team operations through both internal and external means.
Team travel expenses–including transportation, fuel & accommodation– are estimated at approximately $6K through the (3) Conference events alone, after which Regionals and Nationals would need to be funded.
Immediate funding priorities are as follows:
1. Pay for league fees with both the USCSA and the NWCSC. These total $2300 and are due by November 24th.
2. Ensure athletes are insured for competition and travel in the US (in progress, estimated between $60-200 pp X 12 athletes)
3. Fundraise to ensure the team is able to travel with full teams to enough events they can qualify to Regionals and beyond.
The athletes will be seeing their sights on strong performances at the following events:
Conference Race 1: Mt Hood Meadows (Jan 17-18)
Conference Race 2: Mt Bachelor (Jan 23-24)
Conference Race 3: 49 Degrees North (Jan 30-31)
Regionals: Red Lodge Montana (Feb 18-20)
Nationals: Lake Placid NY (Mar 7-12)
Total budget for the season through Nationals is estimated at ~$26K, or $30K given the exchange rate by the time that’s factored against our expenses. The current reality is that the team will be hard pressed to fund competition through the Conference races.
Planned fundraising, including events, birdbacker dollars, and some carryover funding from the end of last year, will contribute some of the required finances, but the team will still come up short once they qualify for Regionals. It has yet to be confirmed whether additional UBC funding would be available should the team qualify for Nationals, as was the case as a Varsity team. The team is hopeful that the support they’ve received from alumni donations in the past will continue during this crucial season.
If you want to make difference to the UBC Ski Team this year by contributing your support, please submit your 2015 tax-deductible donation HERE. One-time or monthly donations can be set-up through this link.
Donate by Cheque: Download Alpine Skiing Edges of Excellence Pledge Form
Quick Links: Goals New Recruits Race Calendar