Ride, compete and save money with the Winter Sports Club
Kelsey Middleton reports on the ways that the Winter Sports Club at the University of Nevada, Reno helps students save money going up to the mountains and the competitions the best members can attend.
Saving Money and Having Fun
The Winter Sports Club is one of the largest on campus, having about 500 active members, with plenty of avid skiers and snowboarders. There are two options for members, the recreational and competitive pathways. The recreational pathway is when the club goes to ski for fun. Members can also choose to compete for the club’s Alpine Ski team or freeride team.
The cost to go up to local mountains can be pricey depending on where you go and if you need to rent equipment. The club helps students to get a low price on the high costs of skiing and snowboarding.
“The main thing with the club is like skiing and snowboarding is expensive,” said Elsie Childress, Social Co-Chair and fourth year double majoring in environmental science and rangeland management. “So we try to make it at least a little bit more affordable. So you know, we get pass discounts. And the other thing is just making friends to ski with because sometimes, especially in this year, sometimes skiing alone isn’t always the best or safest option.”
The pass that is sold is the Ikon Base pass, originally $769, which is owned by the Alterra Mountain Company. The club is able to get multiple passes for a discount, at $469, because it is through the Ikon College Club Program. As long as they are able to show proof that they are a real college club, the discount stands.
The more passes the club is able to sell, the more free passes they can earn. The free passes are used in giveaways the club holds. The pass includes 23 mountains. The ones in driving range from UNR are Palisades Tahoe, formerly Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows, and Mammoth. Mount Rose, although close to campus, is too expensive on its own and not included in the pass.
The club starts in September but fees are due at the beginning of November. The deadline for fees is strict because the pass discount codes expire and the club wants its members to get their money’s worth. It also takes time for the club to give out the specific individual discount codes online.
Close to 300 students have used the code this school year. A group chat was made so that members can talk to each other and plan to carpool up to the mountains.
“We also allow, like, if there are students who go to other institutions that don’t have a club, we can get past that we can give discounts to those students,” Childress said. “Mostly community colleges like TMCC and some of the Cal community colleges.”
There are only a few days in the semester when the whole entire club plans a day to go shredding. It is usually on dead day. This year it was canceled due to no snow, but they hope to make it up in late March or April if there is new snow.
Making the Alpine Ski Team
The Alpine Ski Team is one of the competitive branches of the Winter Sports Club. Members compete in alpine racing such as giant slalom and slalom. The athletes can compete in the national championships both in individual and team competitions.
The team practices at Boreal because they have night skiing. Usually they practice in the morning but a couple of days a week they train at night.
Since 2011, the team has made it to Nationals every year except 2013 and when it was canceled due to COVID. The men’s team got second place in the conference this year and the women’s got third. Both teams qualified for Nationals which are in Lake Placid, New York. It is a six day tournament that includes giant slalom, slalom skier cross and dual slalom.
Anyone can join the team but it is recommended that they are at least an intermediate skier because it is dangerous. It is more expensive because there are training and travel fees on top of the pass and other things. A booster program helps out the cost for the athletes.
“For national championships, it’s only the top five racers on both men and women team [who go],” said Tanner Harvey, Alpine Co-Chair and third year engineering physics major. “We also have a snowboard Alpine team also, which is usually smaller. I think this year we had, I think we only have three snowboarders, two men’s and one women. Only the female made it to Nationals this year.”
Both Harvey and Childress have been to Nationals.
“I mean, it’s a super fun time out there,” Harvey said. “This will be my second time competing, because I’m a third year student and it was canceled last year. So we don’t have the opportunity to even go. But the times I went, so my freshman year, we went to Lake Placid and we ended up getting, the men’s team ended up getting second place and skier cross. So that was a good experience to stand up on the podium.”
A Special Event
There are about 500 athletes who compete at Nationals. There are opening ceremonies, award ceremonies every night after the events and the end ceremony. A banquet is held at the end where everyone is dressed up and eats dinner.
“I have gone twice, including the one in 2020,” Childress said. “And then I also went to 2019 champs which were in Jackson, Wyoming. I think, personally, like from where I’m standing, my Nationals experiences have been very atypical. I think just because 2019, like the world, was normal, but I crashed on my first run. And I tore my ACL and had to go home.”
The 2020 Nationals were hectic for the team. It happened when everything started to get shut down because of COVID. The school called the club and wanted them to change their flight earlier to come home, although they did not due to money problems.
Social Media Presence and Giving Back
The Winter Sports Club has an Instagram and Facebook page where they give information about the club and do giveaways. Childress believes that even though the club is large, it is not an accurate representation of how many students are interested in winter sports.
A variety of students join the club, but what stands out to Childress is the amount of graduate students who participate.
“There’s a guy, his name is Zach Minaker,” Childress said. “He is a PhD student in physics. And he still comes to all of our events and stuff. And he’s really cool. He’s actually been a really, really great, hard working volunteer for Learn to Ski. He’s taken multiple students out and taught them how to ski, which is really cool. And the other thing is, he’s like, totally fearless. Like, I’ve got videos of him crashing and you’re like, how could a physics student make that mistake?”
Learn to Ski is a program to provide free ski days to low income youth and students. Childress went through about 150 applications and randomly picked a certain number that the club could afford to pay for and provided them with 17 ski days.
Before 2011, there was an NCAA ski team and not a club due to the recession. Now that it is a club, they compete at the US Collegiate Ski Association Nationals. The booster organization is still in place for the club as it was before 2011.
The club has had trouble with funding for all of the participants. They are split between ASUN and Fitness and Recreational Sports. Childress asked for money from ASUN for the Learn to Ski program and all they could offer was $500 when each pass costs $1,100.
“It’s been kind of frustrating just because, you know, Tanner and I just recently, a few weeks ago, had to go to this thing like Title Nine training that was about privilege,” Childress said. “It’s like, yes, I know, I’m trying. I’m trying to, spread my privilege in use it to provide these free ski days to low income students. But it’s really, really hard. You guys don’t give us money. So it’s like they tell us to be inclusive. But it comes at a cost.”
The Fitness and Recreation Sports has a full time staff compared to ASUN where there are student employees. They also have more direct help for the club since ASUN has every other club on campus to monitor.
Childress and Harvey both like the help they have received from Fitness and Recreation Sports and are planning to continue with the club next year.