The last few weeks in South Bend have been filled with snowy days and near-zero temperatures. Student skiing groups on campus are embracing the winter weather.
This past weekend the newly-reinstated Notre Dame ski and snowboard team traveled to Gaylord, Michigan, where 18 athletes competed at the Otsego Club in two types of alpine skiing races, the slalom and giant slalom. The races were spread out between two days of competition. The women’s team placed second, and the men’s team placed fourth in slalom. In the giant slalom, the women and men both placed fourth.
This is the team’s first winter back as a University-sanctioned group. The team was suspended for the last four years after getting in trouble for partying, but the team is now up and running for the second semester of the school year.
Junior Macy Hopkinson, the team’s president, said it already has more than 300 members, ranging from students with ski racing experience to those who are just starting out. There are 37 students on the racing team, and Notre Dame competes in the Midwest Division of the United States Ski & Snowboard Association.
“It’s definitely been a lot of work,” Hopkinson said about getting the team started. “But it’s super fun, and I definitely want to have a ski team. So I’m just happy to be running it and bringing it back.”
Hopkinson explained that the members of the racing team compete in two types of races, the slalom and giant slalom. Slalom is the most technical event in alpine skiing with the shortest course and the quickest turns, while giant slalom, a longer race, has characteristics of both the slalom and the downhill. Each skier gets two runs on each of the courses and the top three racers on each team “score.”
Alpine skiing takes place on downhill slopes, while Nordic skiing — also known as cross-country skiing — involves skiing over hills, down hills and through valleys.
“Nordic skiing and downhill skiing are completely different sports with different skis, different boots and different forms,” Joe Thuente, the president of Notre Dame’s Nordic ski club, said.
Thuente said Nordic skiing is a “niche sport” and that most of the current club members had never tried cross-country skiing before they joined.
“It’s a good way to enjoy winter,” he added. “It’s always cloudy here, so you have to make the best of what you got.”
Both the ski team and the Nordic ski club have a variety of trips planned during the winter to take advantage of the snow. The ski team offers free day trips to Bittersweet Mountain in Otsego, Michigan, and the Nordic ski club organizes weekend trips to Love Creek County Park in Berrien Center, Michigan.
In addition to these free ski trips, the teams are also participating in higher-level competitions. The ski team will be racing at the Midwest Division regional on Feb. 17 and 18 at Marquette Mountain, and the Nordic ski club will compete at the American Birkebeiner on Feb. 24. The American Birkebeiner is a 50-kilometer race held in Wisconsin, and it is the largest ski race in America with over 10,000 participants each year.
The alpine and Nordic ski groups are not the only ones on campus that have been enjoying the recent winter weather. Campus Ministry also held a ski retreat last weekend, which combined retreat programming with time on the slopes. Interim coordinator of spirituality Meg Hunter-Kilmer said that many of the students were first-time skiers and snowboarders, but that it seemed like everyone had a lot of fun.
“It’s a beautiful thing to see Notre Dame students do a new thing that they know they will be bad at because it’s not something that we typically do,” she said. “I think that’s just a really beautiful metaphor for spiritual life — that we’re entering into something that we can’t make perfect, and we can’t achieve and accomplish on our own. We’re going to need grace, and we’re going to need the Lord to work in us.”
The theme of the retreat was freedom, which related to the idea of trying something new like skiing and not being afraid to be seen trying, Hunter-Kilmer said.
“It felt like it all really came together — just talking about the freedom that we experience as we’re going down the slopes, the experience in nature and the freedom that comes with a relationship with Jesus.”