While the majority of you were cursing under your frosty breath this past week, a corps of athletes at Harvard couldn't have been happier. Because of one of the earliest snow dumps in recent memory, the Harvard Ski Team has started their season, and started it strong.
Perhaps you have never heard of the Ski Team. Few people ever have. They can be found gathering off-season dry land training afternoons by the Winthrop Tree. Perhaps your first experience with a snowflake was just this past week, as you trudged to class wearing your L.L. Bean boots for the first time. Chances are, that same day, they were in front of Widener loading the van for tryouts a little further north, home of snow-making equipment hard at work.
There are four divisions within the ski team: a men's and women's nordic and a men's and women's alpine contingency. The nordic team, lovingly called "nordies" by their downhill compatriots, perform the cross- country distance events including diagonal and skating style. Known for their outrageous lung capacity and fine charm, the nordic team is captained by Wendy Svatek '92 and Paul Dufays '93. Sergei Vinogradov comes from the Soviet Union to coach, and several strong skiers round out the team, including Yardlings Molly Vale and Greg McCormick.
The alpine team competes in the slalom and giant slalom at races (the famous downhill, sensationalized by national television, is not run due to unkind insurance premiums. Nordic jumping has fallen to the same fate). Seniors Rana Dershowitz and Andrew "The Alien" Holleman captain a strong alpine contingency. John Laserte returns from Vermont to coach for yet another year (the fella just won't go away) and Johnathan L. Shefftz KSG '92 stands close by his side, serving as assistant coach.
On campus, you can tell an alpie by their monstrously powerful legs, a nordie by their huge lungs. They're from all parts of the world, and they're always happy to talk about their favorite pursuit to anyone asks. But sadly the chances of seeing your favorite skier in the yard are slim during the winter. The season is short and intense. Both teams train all week long, usually far north where the snow is, after classes. They leave for the weekend Thursday nights to compete and don't come back. Ever. (O.K., they come back at the end of the weekend, but I had you fooled, didn't I?)
The National Collegiate Athletic Association welcomed Harvard back to Division I play after a ten year stint in Division II. But if Harvard wants to keep its place in Division I it must win some tough matches against Dartmouth and other fierce competitors. Unlike the rest of the competition, the Harvard Ski Team has no local mountains or trails at which to train. Competition, however, has proven to bring out the best in all 36 men and women who have given their lives to bring outside in the worst of weather. Says captain Paul Dufays. "Its a tough sport, but we like it." There is, after all, no better reason to do anything, is there? That is for only you to decide for yourself.
S.J. Klein is a member of the Harvard Ski Team
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