When Arnold Melani competed with the CSU Alpine Ski Team in the early 1950s, chairlifts hadnâ€™t quite caught on yet. Instead, the teamâ€™s seven members pulled themselves up the mountain via rope tows and would ski down runs that no longer exist, carving turns on clunky wooden skis.
â€œWe were absolutely terrible,â€ Melani said. â€œWe all skied every single event, and we werenâ€™t particularly good at any of them. We were an unorganized, unprofessional production, but it was a great group of guys, and we certainly had a fantastic time.â€
Today, the CSU Alpine Ski Team has swelled to 15 members, with its seven women and eight men competing in collegiate events throughout Colorado. Though the team has grown more competitive in recent years, it has retained the laidback philosophy tracing back to Melaniâ€™s days on the team.
â€œWe try to have a fun time while still maintaining that competitive spirit,â€ said Luc Chaney, a senior health promotion major and the captain of the ski team. â€œItâ€™s a great opportunity to get on the mountain, and the team has a phenomenal sense of camaraderie which makes it a really great thing to get involved in.â€
The team competes in four regional meets occurring each weekend in January, racing against a conference that includes CU-Boulder and the Colorado School of Mines. They also participate in regional and national championships across the country, with team members racing in the slalom and grand slalom. These events require quick turns through gates placed strategically down the course.
Though most team members have prior competitive skiing experience, the team is open to anyone who loves skiing and wants to give competitive racing a shot.
â€œI had to join the team. I love skiing, so there was pretty much no other option,â€ said Chelsea Fretz, a junior international studies major and member of the Alpine Ski Team.
Despite the challenge of operating a ski team out of Fort Collins, which is an hour and a half from the nearest resort, the team manages to squeeze in off-mountain workouts throughout the year, which involve rigorous spinning classes, strength training and plyometric workouts â€“â€“ exercises that involve quick muscle movements to increase reaction time and overall strength.
The team participates in an optional training camp the last week of winter break, but for some members the first week of competition is the first week where they have the opportunity to be on the mountain with their teammates.
â€œItâ€™s pretty tough to fund the team with hotel stays and the cost of lift tickets and competition,â€ Chaney said. â€œWe canâ€™t afford a coach. The lack of funding certainly presents us with a unique challenge.â€
In order to pay for some of the teamâ€™s expenses, the Alpine Ski Team will be tuning skis and snowboards for all interested CSU students outside of the brick building next to the intramural fields on Dec. 3 and Dec. 8. Gear can be dropped off at 5:30 p.m. and picked up by 9 p.m.
â€œWeâ€™ve all been waxing our own skis for pretty much forever, so we definitely know what weâ€™re doing,â€ Chaney said. â€œItâ€™s been a pretty successful venture in the past, and we try to make our services as cheap and convenient as possible.â€
It costs $7 for a basic ski wax, $15 for a tune-up and $20 for a wax and tune. All proceeds go toward funding future Alpine Ski Team events.
â€œItâ€™s amazing to see how far the sport of skiing and the CSU program has come,â€ said Melani. â€œI canâ€™t imagine where it will go in the future.â€
Outdoor Life Beat Reporter Allison Sylte can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.