Skiing like a girl
FLC's Women's Ski Team heads to Nationals

FLC’s Stacy Falk runs the gates at Regionals last month at Red Lodge, Mont., en route to the team’s 4th place victory./Photo by Ashleigh Tucker.

At a school where fall sports like mountain biking and soccer reign supreme, it may be easy to pass off winter as down time between training seasons.

But the nine women who make up the Fort Lewis College Women’s Ski Team would beg to differ. Fresh from a 4th place finish in Giant Slalom and Slalom at Regionals in Red Lodge, Mont., the tight-knit group is poised to make a name for itself, not just across campus, but across the country.

“We beat CU and DU,” said Sarah Baskins, a 21-year-old racer originally from Vail.

Coach Chris Cowan, a member of the FLC Men’s Team who was sidelined earlier this season with a torn ACL, expands on Baskins’ modesty.

“We spanked ’em,” he said.

In fact, the team did so well this season, that five members are headed to Nationals, held this week in Maine.

For the team, which ranges in age from 18-25, the victory at Regionals over their fellow Coloradoans and ensuing trip to Nationals is especially sweet on several fronts. For starters, there’s the revenge thing.

“They beat us all season,” said Stacy Falk, 19, of FLC’s win over CU and DU.

Then, there’s the pride thing. Despite the strong showing this year, the team has faced an uphill struggle with budget woes and injuries, not to mention a little image problem.

“Most students don’t even know FLC has a ski team,” said Baskins. “When I tell them I’m on the ski team they say, ‘We have a ski team?’”

According to Cowan, the team, which technically is a club sport, has had its budget dramatically slashed over the past few years.

“We get bare bones for funding,” he said. In his five years with the program, Cowan has seen the budget drop from $30,000 to $5,600. And although the school picks up the tab for trips to regional and national competitions, the team must come up with some money on its own. Part of the difference is made up through local sponsors (Carvers, Hassle Free and Ski Barn, to name a few) and part comes from good, old-fashioned cold calling.

“We had a phone-a-thon where we called alumni,” said Cowan. “We made four grand from that.”

Still more comes from the skiers’ own pockets, or more often their parents’.

Nevertheless, the team has found that the adversity, instead of being divisive, has brought them closer together.

“We’ve stuggled – we lost our coach right off the bat,” said Baskins. “I think that brought us closer together, having to reorganize. We have one of the closest teams. It’s awesome. Everyone’s friends. Everyone gets along.”

She said the team also has been brought together by the hard work of Cowan, who despite the bum knee, has instigated weekly meetings as well as impromptu potlucks.

“Chris has held the team together more than any other coach,” she said.

The team’s small size was also cited as an advantage. Although it does not receive the funding and esteem of teams at bigger universities, the FLC team fosters a unique camaraderie and attitude.

“The difference with us is that after a race, everyone stays out and uses their tickets and skis till four,” said Cowan. “With other teams, they drive to the ski area, and once their second race is over, they leave.”

Sometimes they have so much fun skiing together, they forget all about racing, a welcome change for some of the racers who have suffered form burnout in the past.

“It’s not as serious, it’s not as competitive, it’s a nice break,” said Baskins. “We can enjoy the skiing. What happens, happens.”

For Falk, who grew up skiing Vail, such an attitude has helped her rediscover her love of racing, which had been sullied by years of grueling competition.

“It takes the fun out of it,” she said of competitive racing. “I grew up racing and had to quit because I hated it.”

However, she was persuaded to join the FLC team by Baskins, a decision she is glad she made.

“I am just glad I have had the opportunity to ski with such a great group and make some lifelong friends in the process,” she said.

And some of the women agree that the laid back attitude has actually helped them to perform better.

“I’ve actually skied better,” said Baskins, who excels at giant slalom. “It’s just fun.”

Nevertheless, she knows the team will have its work cut out for it in Maine, where it will face World Cup athletes from around the globe.

“We basically get it handed to us,” she said.

But the team sees it not so much as a chance to bring home the gold as a chance to rub elbows in the big leagues and sample some East Coast skiing.

“Either way, it’s just going to be a great opportunity,” said Falk.

As for Cowan, he’s already looking ahead to next season.

“Next year, the team will be even stronger.”







News Index Second Index Opinion Index Classifieds Index Contact Index