I recognized my interview subject right away by the gray “Alpine Ski” sweater she was wearing. I was in my rugby get-up, she and her companion casually dressed. From the beginning to the end of the interview, second year Biomedical Sciences major Stephanie Beneduci and I had made several connections as avid members of club sports: Beneduci is the secretary of the Alpine Ski Club. Finding an empty and unreserved classroom in the Gordon Field House, the conversation commenced.
Racing through the snow in a mad dash towards victory, RIT’s Alpine Ski Club is a coed group made up of 27 mixed-age members who gather together to slice through the slopes of various mountaintops. This number is comprised of 10 Recreational Ski/Snowboard Club members and 17 RIT Alpine Ski Team members. Recreational members only participate in practices together — and even then travel elsewhere on the slopes away from the ski club — whereas team members actually travel to compete against other schools.
“We’re never on campus,” Stephanie Beneduci. With her was Vice President and Applied Network and System Administration fourth year Tim Swierad. “We’re always at ski mountains,” Beneduci continues. For weekday practices, Swierad adds that the team generally leaves for Swain Mountain around 4 p.m., and does not return until 10 p.m. Of course, this only applies to winter quarter, when there is a good chance that there will be snow in any of the five regions the club competes in.
Five energy-consuming weekends during winter quarter comprise the ski club’s regular season. The RIT Alpine Ski Team is a member of the Mideast Conference of the United States Collegiate Ski Association (USCSA). The five mountains they compete at are: Swain, Greek Peak, Toggenburg, Bristol, and Labrador. Each weekend, there are two events: Slalom, and Giant Slalom. Slalom involves shorter turns and is raced at a slower pace, whereas Giant Slalom is at a quicker pace and involves wider turns.
The way the competition works is, first and foremost, that races are not co-ed, right along with most sports and club sports. The top three competitors from each gender-based race have their times combined, and the team with the slowest total time wins for their division (gender). All competitions in that manner are strictly time-based, and do not account for individual victories. The Alpine Ski Club at RIT ranked in the top 12 in the regional competitions last year. And, if they compete and place high enough, they also have the opportunity to face Division III teams.
When not practicing until all hours of the night, such as in fall and spring, the club holds casual meetings, which include working out in RIT gym facilities and a general aura of close team bonding. Beneduci says that not much gets done during casual practices, due to the teammates spending most of that time talking to each other.
The team has considered doing fundraising events in the spring quarters, and to this end set up a successful bake sale last year. But what these passionate skiers look forward to every year is their annual Fun Race, which is the last race of the year. The club members get dressed up in silly costumes and race against each other in a hectic ski match.