By Devin Lachappelle – Contributing Writer
Although the Farmington area has yet to see significant snowfall, members of UMF’s Alpine Ski teams are already hitting the slopes and training hard as they look to get a strong start to the season. They hope to eventually make a run for the United States Collegiate Ski & Snowboard Association (USCSA) National Championships in March.
Jed Stevens, a Junior and a captain of the men’s team, is cautiously optimistic about this season. Stevens expects that both the men’s and women’s teams will put up strong performances despite a lack of upperclassmen racers.
“We have a very young ski team this year,” Stevens said. “Luckily for me, the majority of our team has an ample amount of experience in racing. My expectations for the team this year are high, but skiing is a tough sport, so we take on our season by going one race at a time.”
Jess Freeborn, a sophomore and a captain of the women’s team, agreed with Stevens, and noted that she appreciated her teammates’ energy. “The women’s Alpine team is a young but vibrant team,” she said. “The team [is] extremely excited and eager to hit the snow.”
Although her teammates have shown incredible enthusiasm about this alpine ski season, Freeborn said that she still likes to keep a careful eye on her fellow racers to make sure no one gets overwhelmed.
“I help make sure everyone’s attending practices and in a good place emotionally and academically,” she said. “I have been called the team mom more than a few times!“
Ben Higgins, a recent transfer student from Currie College and a new addition to the men’s Alpine Ski team, was a bit more outspoken about his goals than Stevens and Freeborn were. “We’ve had nationals on our Google Calendar all year,” Higgins said, in reference to the USCSA Championships, which are held in New York at the end of the ski season.
While the Alpine Ski teams don’t have official home racing venues, Stevens mentioned that he and his teammates train often at Titcomb Mountain, a small ski mountain located two miles from the school’s campus.
“UMF and its snow sports teams have an excellent relationship with Titcomb Mountain,” Stevens said. “In my own personal opinion, Titcomb has one of the best trails for slalom races in the state of Maine.”
Stevens also noted that Titcomb is particularly accommodating to UMF students, both for those looking to watch races and those looking to ski. “[Titcomb is] only ten minutes away and provides free skiing to all UMF students, [so] if you want to come watch us compete, this is the venue to do it,” he said.
Stevens and Higgins mentioned that although it isn’t as close to campus as is Titcomb, Sugarloaf Mountain is a fantastic place to practice, given its substantial size and the difficulty of its trails.
“Sugarloaf provides us with an opportunity to train on a large mountain with challenging terrain, which gives us a major edge in races held on difficult slopes,” Stevens said. “Once the season gets into full swing, this is our preferred training space for giant slalom [races].”
Higgins agreed and said, “I would consider Sugarloaf to be part of our extended community here at UMF.” With laughter in his voice, Higgins continued, “It’s not too far away; if you give it a little bit of a lead foot you can get there pretty quickly.”
The full schedules for the men’s and women’s alpine ski teams can be found at http://athletics.umf.maine.edu/sports/malpineski/2017-18/schedule and http://athletics.umf.maine.edu/sports/walpineski/2017-18/roster, respectively.
Any UMF student interested in getting a free season pass to Titcomb Mountain should visit http://www.titcombmountain.com/.