Utah’s Ski team begins its 2017 season as an NCAA favorite once again. The Utes, who finished third overall at the 2016 NCAA championships — with two individual NCAA Champions — boasts one of the strongest rosters in the field.
“On the Alpine side, we are pretty much the same,” said senior Chloe Fausa. “We have a couple of new skiers who are looking to make an impact for us this season.”
The alpine team has 11 skiers returning from last season’s team with strong leadership in the group including four seniors. Also in the Alpine leadership group are Endre Bjertness and Julie Mohagen. The junior and sophomore both finished at the top of the podium in last year’s NCAA Championships. Bjertness won the men’s Giant Slalom while Mohagen took the top spot of the women’s Slalom.
“We had a few injuries on the Alpine side last season,” said Director of skiing Kevin Sweeney. “It’s really encouraging to see those who have been battling injuries improve and make good progress towards peak performance this season.”
Sweeney, who is in his 12th season with the team, said that the Nordic side of the team will need the biggest growth this season.
“We had a lot of turnover on the Nordic side this offseason, which gave us a lot of good recruiting opportunities,” Sweeney said. “Nordic will be a big question mark for us this season as these young athletes look to prove themselves.”
The Utes will kick off their season Jan. 7-15 and will compete in 11 events between Nordic and Alpine events between Big Sky, MT, Midway and Snowbasin, UT. The Utes will then finish January and begin February in Alaska competing at the Seawolf Invitational in Girdwood, AK.
Following The Seawolf Invitational, the Utes will compete at the Rocky Mountain Intercollegiate Ski Association (RMISA) Championships in Beaver Creek and Minturn, CO. before heading to New Hampshire for the NCAA Championships March 8-11.
For the Utes, the pressure is always on. The 10 time National Champions are title contenders every year. With the youth of the team, especially on the Nordic side of the team, the early season will be crucial.
“With this group of new team members, and not a lot of experience, confidence will be key,” Sweeney said. “No matter how much you prepare, the NCAA’s are unique because of team aspects as well as individual competition. We have to have a good season overall to give us a chance in New Hampshire. The National Championship Alpine course is especially challenging so building confidence that we can win in all kinds of conditions will be key to competing well.”
Overall, Sweeney is extremely optimistic about this upcoming season and added that the team and athletes competing and winning competitions since there was enough snow to ski. Having winners in both Nordic and Alpine events before Christmas is encouraging for Sweeney and the team.
The Utes do have an advantage over many schools in the region, as well as the nation, having multiple ski resorts within 30 minutes from the University, and with the new Spence Eccles Ski Team Facility, complete with in-house ski tuning station and team locker rooms, currently under construction, the future continues to look bright for the Utah Ski Team.