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Skiing on a Shoestring

From the Stretch

By David A. Wilson

Okay, let's have a little Harvard sports quiz.

Which Harvard intercollegiate sports team has to travel at least one and one-half hours to practice?

Which team never has a home event?

Which varsity-status sports squad has to pay $3000 a year to 60 Boylston St. in order to keep its program funded?

Which varsity team is not provided with either a coach or transportation and has to rent both?

As Art Fleming so often said, "The answer is..." the ski team.

Both the men's and women's ski teams regularly finish in the bottom three of the ten Division I schools in the east. Now that may sound unimpressive, but consider the fact that Vermont, Dartmouth, Williams, Middlebury and New Hampshire, schools for whom skiing is as big as football is at Ohio State, are also in Division I. UVM recruiters regularly journey to lure so-called "squareheads" to their squads.

Most of the skiing powers have adopted a 4-1-4 academic system which enables the competitors simply to take skiing in the winter semester. One story goes that Sverre Brott, a Norwegian jumper for Dartmouth, was asked what he was going to study in the spring after last winter's season and replied in a heavy accent: "I sink first I learn a leetle English." The Scandinavians obviously are not at these schools for the intellectual experience, although I understand Sverre is making good progress with his new language.

Harvard's skiers, on the other hand, are largely men and women who happen to have fun with the sport and ski well in spite of geographical and financial obstacles.

The Crimson practice site is at Pat's Peak in Henniker, N.H., where the squad takes part in a cooperative coaching program with several other schools. This is necessary because the team's budget is not sufficient to allow the hiring of a coach. While this has led to a lack of contact with a coach and the expenditure of time and money simply getting to and from infrequent practice sessions, the major drawback is that it puts a lot of the team's administrative burden on the captains.

Because of changes in the team's budget, the load has become even greater in the last two years, according to alpine captain Tim Hofer. When the team's last coach left in April 1977, the new guard at the Athletic Department called in the captains and presented them with a $21,000 debt that they had accumulated over the previous seven years. During that time there had apparently been an unwritten agreement between the squad's coaches and former Athletic Director Robert Watson that the team could run up a small deficit every year. The team found out it had to pay back $3000 per year. In addition, the combined budget for the men and women was reduced from $17,000 to 9600, which only translates to a $6600 outlay because of the payback. All but $600 of this goes to the Pat's Peak program.

The captains have gone to work raising money from alumni and last year paid back almost $6000, but the team is not happy about it. "We can't afford our own van, and I've put 8000 or 9000 miles on my car every winter for the ski team," Hofer said.

"I must have spent $100 of my own money when I was training over intersession," said nordic captain David Rand.

Yet the hassles of carpooling and fundraising are forgotten when the skiers take off for weekend carnivals. "It's meant more to me than anything I've done at Harvard," Hofer said.

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