Ski team faces monetary trials
Published: Thursday, October 4, 2012
Updated: Monday, November 5, 2012 20:11
Last year, the UB’s Alpine Ski Team sent five varsity men and five varsity women to the conference regional qualifiers at Bristol Mountain Winter Resort in Bristol, N.Y. The women’s varsity team placed well enough to get an invitation to the national qualifiers.
That’s where their glorious run screeched to a halt. The women’s team was never able to compete. In fact, the athletes never set foot on the bus. They had no money for gas to go to the competition.
They couldn’t afford to go.
The Alpine Ski Team, an officially recognized SA sports club, receives an annual budget for club expenses and event feeds. That monetary compensation has been in steady decline over the past four years, according to senior secretary and four-year club member Josh Wohlfeld.
When Wohlfeld was a freshman, the club’s budget was set at $12,000. Still, the club was having money problems. The amount decreased by $1,000 during Wohlfeld’s second year. This year’s budget is at $6,500.
It’s strange, according to Wohlfeld, because the club’s fundraising numbers have gone up and its membership has increased, but money coming from SA has still gone down.
“They give our budgets arbitrarily based on what they think you need, not based on how much the sport actually costs to do,” said senior president and two-year club member Dan Die.
Two members of the women’s varsity team that was unable to attend the national qualifiers – Alexandra Opiel, a junior biochemistry major, and Monique Mitchell, a sophomore biological sciences major and the club’s vice president – were disappointed.
“We just worked so hard, and last season we totally came up as underdogs,” Mitchell said. “Our competition didn’t expect it at all, and we killed it, and then we couldn’t go on. It sucked.”
While other clubs have extra money to spend on T-shirts and pizza, according to Opiel, the Alpine Ski Team doesn’t even have enough money for gas to get to its events.
“One of the biggest issues is that unless you’re in a club or as dedicated to the sport as we are, you don’t realize how expensive it is,” Opiel said.
There is an extensive list of mandatory equipment each individual needs to have before they can compete. This essential gear ensures top safety for participants and peak performance.
The total cost for all of their essential gear is approximately $3,400 per person.
“That’s a fair estimate of equipment costs, that is, for your stock, standard products, not top-of-the-line stuff, and that will just get you to the bottom of the hill,” Opiel said. “But that doesn’t include any clothing gear, tuning equipment, travel expenses, food, lodging, training sessions or our $400 annual club membership fees.”
Club members pay out of pocket for all of their personal gear and equipment, Die said.
Going into this new season, the team looks back at its missed opportunity as motivation for this year.
There is only one thing you need to become a nationally ranked competitive ski team other than money, according to Die: unyielding dedication to the sport.
The club practices at Kissing Bridge every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, according to Die. The members compete in the Niagara Adult Racing heats and then spend Friday nights at competitions.
“We’re definitely better than we were last year, and competition for the top seeds is always prominent,” Die said.
Last year, the team was forced to miss competitions because it couldn’t afford the trips. Yet it still received an invitation to the regional qualifiers. With their prospects looking even better this year, according to Mitchell, only one question remains: Will they be able to go?
“We’re really dedicated and driven to succeed and we’re pretty damn good, too,” Opiel said. “We just want a chance to go as far as we can with our sport. We can totally prove ourselves – we have proved ourselves – and now we just need a little more support from our school.”