To ski 300 days out of the year seems like a meteorological impossibility, but for Stephan Shenk, it was a reality.
The junior construction management major and member of the CSU Alpine Ski Team, a competitive club team, took a year off between high school and college to ski competitively on a European circuit.
“It was intense,” Shenk said of the fierce competition he encountered on his year-long travels around the world. “That was a little too much for me. I kind of got burnt out.”
Once Shenk, who is originally from Winter Park, decided he no longer wanted to race at such a competitive level, he came to CSU to study and to find a more relaxed way to ski – the Alpine Ski Team.
The Alpine Ski Team and the CSU Snowboard Team recently combined to become the Alpine Team. Though both groups hold practice separately, they have decided to join together as one club sport.
For the snowboard team, the competition will be a little different this year. This is the first year they will be competing on the collegiate level like the ski team, with the U.S. Collegiate Ski and Snowboard Association, taking on schools from around the state.
“I’d like to see a lot of our kids go to nationals this year,” said Buzz Benes, a junior landscape horticulture major and president of the snowboard team. “We’ve got a pretty strong team.”
The ski and board teams have equal investment in getting their teams qualified, as nationals will be held on their turf at Winter Park.
Though the competition is on a club level, both teams say they’ll be going up against good competition in their respective events: slalom for the ski team, slopestyle and half-pipe for the snowboard team.
“There’s a lot of kids that we compete against that are good enough to race NCAA, they just don’t want that intensity,” said Caitlyn Welle, senior business administration major and president of the Alpine Ski Team. “Our competition, it’s high competition, but it’s a relaxed atmosphere. It’s a lot more fun.”
Relaxed and fun are two words that could describe the ski team’s annual Loveland race, which Welle said is always a costume race.
Two years ago, she was looking up at the gate, where the men’s team was waiting to come out, and they all had a more aerodynamic costume: Speedos.
“They were all up in the start gate and all ripped off their clothes,” she said, laughing. Welle explained that the slalom race, where the skier weaves between poles, can get messy; snow is flying everywhere and you can hit the pole. “It wasn’t a pleasant experience from what I’ve heard.”
But with these competitions, there can be more unpleasantries than that.
At a competition last year, Benes fell on a rail while riding slopestyle, where the rider goes through a series of different jumps and obstacles and is judged based on his or her ride and the tricks performed.
“I was in and out of the hospital for five or six days,” he said.
He lacerated his liver as a result of the fall.
Shenk also has taken some falls that have landed him in the hospital and under the knife. He has blown out his knee twice after falls while slalom racing.
“The second time (I did it) there was nothing left to fix,” Shenk said of his knee injury, but even after the surgery and physical therapy, his love for the sport and the competition remains.
“I always keep coming back.”
News editor Sara Crocker can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Alpine Ski Team competitions:
Jan. 20-21 Beaver Creek
Jan. 27-28 Winter Park
Feb. 3-4 Loveland
Feb. 10-11 Telluride
Regionals – Feb. 23-25 Red Lodge, Mont.
Nationals – March 5-11 Winter Park
CSU Snowboard Team competitions:
Jan. 13-14 Copper Mountain
Feb. 10-11 Winter Park
Regionals – Feb. 17-18 Copper Mountain
March 3-4 Copper Mountain
Nationals – March 5-11 Winter Park
To learn more about how to join the ski team, e-mail email@example.com, or the snowboard team, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Teams are open to all levels.