Creating Community in the Mountains

The temperature is about four degrees Fahrenheit, but the wind whips across everyone’s faces making the air feel even chillier. Visibility is low and the sky is gray and dark. It could not be a more miserable Saturday for a Giant Slalom race at West Mountain in Saratoga Springs. Yet, another SoundCloud remix is pumping through the speaker at the top of the race course, everyone is smiling and there is a cacophony of voices as different teams cheer on their racers.

A loud beep, followed by a few seconds of silence is broken with the continuous beeping sound of a racer leaving the start gate, pushing and skating as fast as they can towards the first gate. The red and blue gates stream by as each racer pushes themselves to get down the mountain faster than everyone else.

As the bottom nears, the sounds of the Colgate team cheering each other on echo over the hill. Regardless of whether or not someone fell, had a bad run or wished they were faster each and every one of the Colgate Ski Team members are raising their voices to encourage their fellow teammates to ski faster.

After a brief bout with COVID-19 following preseason that prevented Colgate from skiing in the first race of the season, the Colgate Ski Team is back and better than ever. The team’s preseason, often quoted as the team’s favorite week of the year, happens during the last week of winter break when the team comes back to get in some training before ending the week with a race at the team’s home mountain, Song.

“During preseason I heard from the upperclassmen that they considered ski team to be a family and nothing could be more true,” first-year Colleen Mackey commented. “Joining the ski team has been the best decision I have made at Colgate so far.”

Mackey noted that even outside of practice this camaraderie continues.

“Everyone is so outgoing, supportive and kind, which makes the team really fun to be around. Running into ski team members on campus makes my day.”

This team has brought together people of all ages, abilities and interests, to form a group of people who will always have each other’s backs. The team captains sophomore Richard Casey, senior Madelyne Leibinger and junior Nick Scott all expressed the same sentiment.

“The team is so supportive of each other,” Casey shared. “This past weekend was my first official race with the Colgate team and it was amazing to come down from my run to hear the whole team cheering me on.”

Leibinger, a native of Aspen, Colo., expresses her love for the team as transformational.

“I honestly thought about transferring if it wasn’t for the ski team,” Leibinger reflected. “I’ve met some of my closest friends, including my roommate and suitemate my sophomore year. I’ve been skiing since I was two years old, and to find people who love the sport is something I found so special being all the way across the country from home.”

The team practices every Tuesday and Thursday at Song Mountain, alternating between Giant Slalom and Slalom, followed by a race almost every weekend from January until the beginning of March. Twenty athletes attend the races each weekend, with five varsity and five junior varsity racers for women’s and men’s.

“The Colgate ski team was actually one of the reasons I applied here,” said Casey. “Ski racing has been my biggest passion throughout my life and I’ve always wanted to continue racing as long as I could. I saw that the Colgate team was really competitive, having made it to nationals for a few years in a row, and that made me want to be a part of it.”

For Scott, traveling for races is one of the best parts of the ski team.

“We get to proudly represent Colgate as we compete against various other schools in the state. There is always a great deal of school pride on the line; placing well tastes that much sweeter.”

From the first-years to the seniors, no one has anything but positive things to say about this team, and the captains want to encourage anyone who has any interest in skiing to consider joining.

Scott commented, “I did not realize how much of a positive impact this team would have on my Colgate experience. While continuing to do what I love, I have made lifelong friends and numerous memories.”

“Being a captain, I wanted to give my all to a team that means so much for me,” Leibinger continued. “Not being the speediest of racers, this team has my whole heart and I want everyone to feel the way that I feel, that ski team is a home away from home.”

Whether or not one is the best racer or just a beginner, the love for the mountains has the power to bring this group together. It is clear that the ski team has a deep sense of camaraderie and considers each and every member to be a family.