In the Beatles' 1965 film "Help!" director Richard Lester sent the Liverpool boys down a ski slope with no more instruction than a push and a smiling, bald nod. They were lucky, after all, as all they had to do was ski a bit, fall over and writhe on the ground in rhythm to "Ticket to Ride."
If Harvard skiing only had it that easy.
But it doesn't, and despite having many years of experience over the British superband, the Harvard Crimson could not manage the same graceful falls that made us all laugh when John wound up on his rump.
For the second straight year, Harvard failed to send a skier to NCAAs. In both the 1996-97 and the 1997-98 seasons, at least one skier had represented the Crimson at the national tournament.
But without a home hill to carry on a steady practice regimen, Harvard's Nordic and Alpine ski teams again found themselves at the bottom of the 12-team Eastern Intercollegiate Ski Association (EISA) while posting some impressive but scattered individual efforts.
The unavailability of steady practice space put Harvard at a great disadvantage in comparison with the top teams in both the EISA and the nation. With little time actually spent on the slopes, Crimson skiers often had to wait until competition to loosen up on the skis.
Dartmouth, Vermont and New Hampshire (UNH), regularly the top three teams in the EISA carnival circuit, all have strong local skiing and a rigorous practice schedule.
On the national level, teams from the University of Denver and the University of Colorado continue to dominate, as they step out their back doors onto the Rocky Mountains for the afternoon practice.
In addition to the lack of practice, a late, light winter stymied the Crimson's preseason preparation for its first carnival at UNH on Jan. 29.
Following UNH, a quick nonstop schedule forced Harvard to make adjustments in competition. With five carnivals in five weeks, the season was over before the end of February.
Despite the handicap, the Crimson teams continued to work hard throughout the season and were rewarded with stronger results at the end of the season.
"It's all a matter of training, and we don't have the advantages that other schools have in being near hills every day," freshman Ryan Myers said earlier this year. "We've been training on Sundays after races, and we've just been working with what we have."
Myers seemed to work well with the makeshift practice facilities. The newcomer continually led the Crimson's downhill effort towards the end of the season.
At Dartmouth he led all Harvard skiers with a time of 2:00.81, good enough for 56th place in the field.
The next weekend at Williams, Myers again led the Crimson Alpine skiers in the slalom with a 45th-place finish, and skied to 46th place in the giant slalom, also a Harvard best. At the Eastern Championships held at Middlebury in late February, Myers' 59th-place finish in the giant slalom put him at the top of Harvard's finishers list for the third straight week.
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