There are many different outlets for an adrenaline junkie, but for the University of Wisconsin Women’s Alpine Ski Team, only the ski slopes can quench their need for speed.
The Badgers, who compete in the United States Collegiate Ski Association, qualified for the 2012 National Championships by placing 2nd in a regional qualifier February 18 and 19 at Marquette Mountain in Michigan.
The qualification marks the second time the Badgers have made it to the National Championships in the last three years, as the women’s team also qualified in 2010. This year’s National Championships will be held in Sunday River, Maine, from March 5 through 10. Six women – Brenna Murray, Becca Frenz, Kelly Karnopp, Olivia Raedeke, Emily Duncanson, and Britta Gjermo – will represent the Badgers on their quest for a National Championship.
While the Badgers are excited to have qualified, they know that the competition will be fierce and winning at the highest level will be difficult, especially because many of the teams they will compete against have much more experience with the types of hills that will be used during the National Championship.
“The courses out there are two to three times as long as what we get to race on here in the Midwest,” head coach Dakota Dux said. “A lot of the racers from the east and the west are more acclimated to racing the longer course. The [Giant Slalom] out there will be over 60 seconds, which is a long time to be working that hard.”
At the collegiate level, the sport of alpine skiing consists of two technical events, Slalom and Giant Slalom. Both events require the skier to make sharp turns around poles, or “gates,” at great speeds, while at the same time trying to complete the course in as little time as possible.
“It’s all about the speed,” sophomore Becca Frenz said. “There are a lot of mechanical movements that go into the perfect turn, and so the people who are successful are the ones who can put it all together at one time, which is a lot to think about when you are going down a hill that fast.”
As of the 2012 season, the UW Alpine Ski Team, as a whole, consists of 39 men and women, a number that has risen steadily over the course of the last decade. The team also boasts skiers of all skill levels, from beginners to experienced veterans, as past experience is not a requirement for the team.
Meanwhile, many of the teams outside of the UW team receive financial support from their schools, allowing them to recruit athletes from all over the country and the world. They can even offer scholarships to some of their athletes, a luxury that the UW Alpine Ski Team cannot afford, as they only have club status at the University of Wisconsin.
As a result, the UW Alpine Ski Team is forced to rely on its members to fund its twice-a-week practices and its competitions throughout the season. On the team website, they estimate that each of their members pay approximately $25 per week once practice at Tyrol Basin begins in December to cover various costs.
Still, the team is happy to stay at its club-level status, as it allows them to reach a wider group of people and build a bigger interest for their sport.
“It’s part of the mantra of the team that we want to accommodate everyone,” Dux said. “It’s really important for our group to be able to teach to all skill levels, whether they are beginners or high-end racers, just because a lot of times you get a better, more complete team from that.”
When one adds together all of the competition, travel time, and practice time on top of their school work, it is easy to see that these student athletes are busy individuals, but they don’t seem to mind at all. In fact, they seem to thrive on it.
“Practice is probably the best part of my week, just to get together with the team,” Frenz said. “We’re always having a blast and helping everyone out with their skiing, or helping each other with schoolwork, or even just life.
“We have become a really close-knit group. We are a family.”