Behind the Alpine Ski Team


Emily Kehoe, Staff


The freezing temperatures seemed to have no effect on the hundred-plus skiers standing at the top of the hill. The feeling in the air was electric, with laughs and cheering as each person pushed off from the start. A group of people in navy blue coats stood out against the white snow, along with a multitude of different colored helmets. Little bits of color showed from the skiers’ speed suits, and their shin guards gleamed in the overhead lights. This was the Blaine Alpine team standing near the start, and they were looking down at the course that would soon give them a first-place title once again. 

Ski racing is often lumped together as one big sport, but there are, however, two completely different sports that fall under this category. Nordic or cross country skiing, and Alpine or downhill skiing. Nordic raced across flat ground, covering long distances and the way you place is crossing that distance in a fast time. Alpine is going around the poles, or gates in the fastest time.

Alpine ski racing is sorted into four categories. Slalom (SL), Giant Slalom (GS), Super Giant Slalom (Super G) and downhill. All of these categories include gates or the red and blue poles you see sticking out of the snow. You have to go around each gate, and if you miss a single gate, the run you are doing won’t count and you will be disqualified.

Slalom racing is fast rapid turns, usually about forty plus turns around the gates to get to the bottom. Giant Slalom is where the gates are spaced farther apart, meaning you have wider turns. Super Giant slalom is, you guessed it, even wider turns around the gates. Downhill is what it sounds like, racing downhill with an occasional turn. 

The Minnesota High School League (MNHSL) will only allow the team to compete in slalom races. This means all the practice time on the slopes is dedicated to the sharp fast turns that come with a slalom course. However, many of the skiers on the team do extra training that allows them to train in a giant slalom course. In the midwest, it is extremely hard to do super giant slalom or downhill courses simply because the hills aren’t tall enough here. 

The Blaine Alpine team often refers to themselves as a single team, as the boy and girl teams train, fundraise, and ride the bus together at a minimum, three times a week. Many people on the team do extra training outside of the team, with some skiers out training six nights a week, and clocking in more than twenty-five hours, not to mention the commuting time to the hills and back. All this extra training pays off because when it comes down to race day, the boys’ and girls’ teams know how to dominate the hill.

There are two runs that each skier must complete, whether they are on varsity or JV. These two runs last roughly thirty seconds each, but it takes almost four hours for every skier to get through from all the schools. But when it comes down to speed, both the teams can do it without thinking. Time is everything in this sport, so how fast you are at everything is crucial. How fast you push off at the starting ramp, to your technique to get around the gates, through the tight turns, to your finish can impact the hundredths of a second, which can determine who won first from fifteenth.

Every skier has their own little tricks and ways of getting through the course the fastest, whether it be turning earlier to get around a gate faster, or leaning slightly more back in the starting position. It’s the details that matter. That being said, this sport is not only taxing on your body, (a common trait is constantly being hungry, no matter how much you eat,) but it is hard mentally. 

If you allow your mind to keep telling yourself that you are bad, and allow yourself to get frustrated, it’s easy to start running through the course badly. This then starts the cycle of doing badly both in practice and mentally. It is hard to break the cycle, but it’s super easy to prevent it. When the coaches say to have a good mentality and a positive attitude, they mean it because of how easy it is to get into that endless spiraling cycle. 

The record for both the boys’ and girls’ teams is stellar, to say the least. The boys’ varsity team has had one of the best years on record. Through four conference races and two invites, they have won first in all but one, absolutely destroying the competition. With the final race of the season, they are hoping to get one more win to make it two seasons in a row undefeated in conference races, as well as claiming the conference title. The JV boys have constantly scored the top five spots in races, easily beating the competition despite having less than ideal conditions to ski in. 

The girls’ varsity season started out a bit shaky, scoring tenth in the opening invite at the beginning of the year. But they quickly came back, scoring first in the opening conference race, two back-to-back second places, and scoring first once again in race four. They are hoping with one more first-place title at the final race, they’ll win the conference title.

JV girls have had an incredible couple of races, especially with six new skiers joining this year, they have accomplished so much in the short month and a half, taking the top five spots easily as well. The entirety of the alpine team, however, will tell you that there is so much to be improved upon, despite those incredible rankings. Always being able to practice and run the gates is what makes all the difference.

Alpine skiing is a very intense sport, both physically and mentally. But with it, comes a family that understands exactly what it’s like. The cold, the worries, and the seemingly endless amounts of homework all fade away when you cross the finish line after an incredible run to cheers and hugs.