5 Lessons Learned From Collegiate Skiing

Photo By: Matt Power

We asked former SYNC Team athletes and current NCAA SYNC Team members 5 things they learned from their experience in college, and here is what they had to say

1. Teamwork Makes the Dream Work

Ski racing may traditionally be viewed as an individual sport, but the moment you become a part of a college team, you're no longer solely skiing for yourself.

Photo From DU Skiing

Ski racing, traditionally seen as an individual pursuit, takes on a whole new dimension when you join a college team. In the world of skiing, you may have been part of various race teams, clubs, or academies, but the moment you push out of that start gate, it's a solo journey where your performance directly impacts only you. However, when you step into the world of college skiing, everything changes. College uniquely transforms this individual sport into a collective effort.

At its core, college skiing employs a point system akin to the World Cup scoring system to determine which team emerges victorious during race weekends or championship events. Each finish position garners a specific number of points, but what makes it a true team sport is that only the top three men and women from each team contribute to those points. The Alpine team isn't alone in this endeavor; the school's Nordic team plays an equal role in the outcome. This is where ski racing becomes a true team effort.

If your team relies on you to be that crucial 3rd finisher, you'll go to great lengths to secure those points, which might involve pushing your limits or hiking. This collective effort is what determines whether your team wins the Uni, Carnival, or National Championships. Katie Vesterstein, a former SYNC Team Member and University of Utah alumni, stated it best, "I learned the importance of teamwork and celebrating everyone’s success. It's about working together to achieve a common goal. We all want our team to succeed, and we're willing to put in the hard work to make that happen. We worked together to develop training plans, strategies for races, and support each other during the tough times."

2. You Become a Role Model

When you're a member of a college team, a wide range of individuals – including younger athletes, teammates, classmates, coaches, and alumni – are all looking to you as a role model, so it's important to put your best foot forward

In the realm of college skiing, being a role model is more than just a duty – it's a privilege and a powerful tool for personal and team development. You stand at the center of a wide audience, including younger athletes, teammates, classmates, coaches, and alumni, all of whom look to you to set a positive example.

Many aspiring young athletes dream of racing for college teams and view collegiate athletes as sources of inspiration. It's essential to set a high standard as their role models. When you join a college team, your role extends beyond racing for yourself; you become a source of inspiration for your teammates. By dedicating yourself to rigorous training, offering unwavering support during races, and maintaining a positive attitude even in the face of adversity, you become a source of motivation for your fellow athletes. You quickly grasp that your actions carry the power to shape the culture of the team, lifting your peers and fostering an atmosphere of growth and camaraderie.

Being a role model in college skiing means leading by example, not just on the slopes but in all facets of life. This encompasses attending classes, fulfilling academic responsibilities, collaborating with classmates on group projects, and reaching beyond the academic sphere to volunteer and engage in your community. The lesson of being a role model transcends the boundaries of the sport, equipping athletes with the skills and mindset to make a positive impact in their future pursuits

3. Hard Work on and off the Slopes

College racers are not only faced with working hard on the slopes but also in the classroom and gym

Photo By: Tucker Marshall

College athletes quickly discover that their commitment to hard work plays a dual role in shaping their success. On the slopes, it's about pushing physical and mental limits, conquering setbacks, and striving for victory as a cohesive team. Off the slopes, it's the dedication to countless hours in the library and gym that fuels the pursuit of academic and physical excellence.

College life can be a whirlwind of activity, demanding diligence in all aspects to achieve success. As current NCAA SYNC Team Member and Harvard College athlete Luke Kearing wisely observed, 'Mastering time management has been a crucial skill for me during my time at Harvard. This skill becomes particularly vital during our sports season when we spend a considerable time commuting to and from the mountain in our team vans. Balancing academic responsibilities with athletic commitments necessitates careful planning and strong will.'

In college skiing, the importance of hard work extends beyond athletic endeavors. It serves as a valuable lesson that reaches into academic and life pursuits because, as much as we'd like it to be, ski racing isn't forever.

4. Lifelong Connections

During your college journey, you'll forge connections that extend far beyond the campus. These friendships will become lifelong bonds, enriching not just your college years but also the entirety of your life

Photo By: Ian Beckley

College racing not only molds athletes into well-rounded individuals on and off the slopes but also fosters deep and enduring connections. These connections extend far beyond the collegiate years, shaping the athletes' personal and professional lives. Former SYNC Team athlete and University of Denver alumni, Serina Kidd captures the essence of this fourth lesson in her quote, "We will all move on one day from ski racing, but the experiences and friendships that are cultivated during your time as a collegiate athlete will last a lifetime." 

Participating in college racing exposes athletes to a diverse range of experiences and individuals, all sharing a common passion. The shared journey of early morning practices, intense competitions, and academic challenges forges a unique bond that transcends the confines of a racing season or a college campus. These connections aren't merely about shared interests but also about shared growth. Athletes learn to support each other through triumphs and setbacks, and this support system becomes the cornerstone of their lifelong network.

In the world beyond college, the relationships formed during those formative years become invaluable. Former teammates often become lifelong friends, standing by each other through various life stages. They are not just companions in athletic pursuits; they are confidants, mentors, and a source of inspiration. These connections are not confined to the world of ski racing; they extend to professional endeavors, as the lessons learned about teamwork, perseverance, and leadership find applications in careers and personal lives. College racing, thus, leaves athletes with an enduring gift – a network of friends and allies who continue to uplift and inspire them, long after the last race has been run.

5. Perseverance

Throughout your time in college, you will inevitably encounter setbacks and challenges that will put your perseverance to the test, ultimately leading to personal growth and development.

Photo By: Tucker Marshall

One of the most valuable lessons that college racing imparts to athletes is the power of unwavering perseverance. Over the course of their collegiate journey, students face a multitude of obstacles, both in their athletic pursuits and academic endeavors. It's during these challenging times that they learn to dig deep, find their inner strength, and overcome adversity. Whether it's a series of poor race results, the demanding academic load, or the ever-present pressure to excel, the collegiate athlete quickly realizes that quitting is not an option. Instead, they cultivate a mindset that embraces challenges as opportunities for growth.

In the face of relentless training sessions and demanding schedules, college athletes learn to develop the resilience needed to push through their physical and mental limits. They discover that success is not measured solely by victories but by the ability to rebound from losses and setbacks with determination. This spirit of perseverance extends well beyond the ski slopes and classroom, becoming an essential life skill. The ability to persevere and remain steadfast in the pursuit of their goals serves as a valuable asset in their professional careers and personal lives, long after their college racing days are over.

College racing teaches athletes that setbacks are not roadblocks but stepping stones towards greater achievements. They realize that even in moments of doubt or defeat, the path to success is paved with perseverance. The ability to keep moving forward, learn from mistakes, and remain resilient in the face of adversity becomes a defining characteristic of their collegiate experience, shaping them into determined, tenacious individuals ready to conquer life's challenges head-on.

Lessons Learned

College is a transformative time in a ski racers journey. The lessons of teamwork, being a role model, hard work on and off the slopes, lifelong connections, and perseverance are shared amongst all current and former collegiate athletes. These lessons extend far beyond the realms of the racecourse and the classroom, serving as a blueprint for success in their future careers and personal lives. College racing not only refines athletes' skills but also shapes their character, preparing them to navigate the complexities of life with determination, camaraderie, and an unshakable commitment to their goals.