Being a UVM Catamount

Today I went skiing. I ski twice a year, one day around Thanksgiving and one day around Christmas. It is a far cry from my 17 year skiing career (yes I count my Nastar days as part of my career). I raced out of the Mt. Mansfield Ski Club at Stowe for most of my life as that was where I grew up. Yes, I was one of those rugrats terrorizing the mountain, almost hitting everyone in my path. Freshman and Sophomore year of high school was spent at Green Montain Valley School in Waitsfield, Vermont while Junior and Senior year I was at Stowe High School and just skipped school way too much in order to ski. When I graduated high school I took two years off to pursue my dream of being a World Cup skier and to my surprise I actually made the US Ski Team right out of high school. My ultimate plan of being a World Cup racer didn’t pan out but it was the best thing that ever happened to me because I got to be a UVM Catamount.

For me to become a Catamount after my ski career seemed to completely fall to pieces was a God send. I grew up watching the Catamounts training at Stowe and I knew at some point in my life that I wanted to be one, I wanted to race for my state college, I wanted to experience that Catamount pride. And that is exactly what I did.

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This was my very first home carnival as a Catamount. The red bib indicates the leader in the collegiate standings and I think that was the only time that I wore it, but it was the perfect time to be leading. I grew up racing at Stowe so I was not only representing UVM but I was representing my town.  I felt a lot of pride that day, hell I felt a lot of pride the entire time I was racing at UVM. I loved my team, my coaches and my mountain. Seriously, how could you not be in love with a team like this…

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I think the best way to explain how I felt about being a Catamount is to watch this video from my senior year….

I look back at my ski racing career with a serious case of nostalgia, especially being up there today. When I graduated college I HATED skiing so I took  a lot of time off even though I lived 45 minutes from the mountain. Last year I kind of fell in love with it again, but today, I REALLY fell back in love with it and I documented it through some pictures.

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Father daughter ski day. My dad was my biggest supporter. When I got serious about ski racing he was right by my side for every race. He was my travel buddy, my technician, my motivator, my verbal punching bag, my shoulder to cry on and my sometimes much needed slap in my face. He built a hot box so that he could make my skis as fast as possible. He would stay up all night prepping my skis so that I would have the best equipment I possibly could. The sacrifices he made to support me were endless. He even tuned my skis to perfection for today.

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Hayride. My true stomping ground. This trail separated the women from the girls, the men from the boys. It was a gnarly hill that was unforgiving. If you fell on Hayride, you fell hard. It was the type of hill that if you didn’t give it everything you had, you would regret it forever. The picture at the beginning of this post was on Hayride. Every time I raced on this hill, I left it all on the hill. To come down from a race run and know that you gave it all you had is one of the best feelings in the world, even if you aren’t on the leader board. Looking down at that trail that hasn’t been raced on since 2008 and that I haven’t personally skied in 3 years, I knew I had to ski it.

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Start position. Fully focused.

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What we stared down at in that start gate. Deceivingly flat but let me tell you that you pick of speed FAST and get going even faster when you hit the headwall.

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The beloved head wall and death trap. I can’t tell you the number of times this took my breath away, the number of times I muttered “Oh Shit” under my breath. Again, it doesn’t look steep but anyone that’s raced on it, knows how treacherous it can be, especially if the snow was particularly terrible and the light flat…kind of like today. Good thing I have NO problem sliding my turns now-a-days.

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The finish hut and scoreboard where we anxiously awaited our times to be posted and for the other racers times to be posted. Ya never knew if you were going to be elated or seriously let down. 🙂

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I had to stand on that board. Giving a shout out to my girls that raced that with me: Kate, Lyndee, Bry, Jill, Val, Ashley, Chelsea, Tania, Amanda, Hannah. I can’t tell you ladies how much I miss throwing myself down that hill with you.

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My senior year when we absolutely dominated our new race hill Main street on Big Spruce. We went 1, 2, 3: Meg, Lyndee, Me. This was one of the happiest days of my ski racing career. I hadn’t been skiing well previous to this race which meant I didn’t have a ton of confidence and was insanely nervous given it was my last time racing on this hill for a team I took pride in and was blessed to have been able to race with for 4 years…I wanted to throw up. I was hesitant in my first run because I was a senior and wanted to make sure I finished my final race on my home hill. I was really far out from first which meant I had to absolutely destroy my second run in order to move up the ranks.

I made a promise to myself that I would go all out no matter what and that’s exactly what I did. From the start I was pushing it, so much that I came very close to falling, so much that I almost skidded to a stop. At that very moment it was like a switch was flipped and I went into an even higher gear. I remember it clearly. I remember how mad I got, how I swore under my breath, gritted my teeth and told myself there was no way I was going down without a fight. I came through the finish line expecting to not take the lead…I was wrong. To come in 3rd on my home hill for the last time was spine-tingling. I can still feel it as I sit here envisioning it. I can still feel my skis on the snow. The cutting of the edge, the gliding of the skis…gosh I miss it.

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This was from that race. My last run on my home hill as a Catamount. So proud.

I knew that the rest of my year was going to rock. My team was crushing it and I had finally figured out my skiing again. But life didn’t work out how I thought it would. The next day I suffered a concussion at an Eastern Cup at Middlebury Ski Bowl that took me out of racing for all but one race…the Middlebury Carnival. There was a very rare chance that I could make NCAAs at this point. I had to win if I wanted to even be in contention. This race was my first race back and I sucked, truly sucked. That was why I hated skiing so much right after college. To end my career like I did was heart breaking. Looking back on it almost 4 years later, I don’t even remember that part so much. Instead I remember that last UVM Carnival. I will never forget that day, ever.

I am thankful that I still even get to ski, albeit with a hip that hates me! So today I decided to relive my moments on Hayride – I would have gone to Main Street but I don’t know if it was even open and I take more pride in Hayride as it was such a skill defining hill. At the score board I decided to jump…

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…because I wanted to celebrate all my accomplishments, all my good runs, my bad runs, my diggers, my concussions, my good days, my bad days. I wanted to remember those moments I shared with my teammates that I will forever have a strong bond with, even if we rarely see each other and rarely talk.

I look back on my life as a ski racer and am thankful for every training run, every race run, every person I ever interacted with, every happy moment, every sad moment, all the bad training hills, all the good training hills, all the hard work we put in during our workouts in that Catamount gym and I smile. The elation I felt today was insane. I can only wait with impatience until I get to do it again next year.

I leave this post with something that Meg brought to UVM that I still do today and that makes me smile every time…jumping shots. 🙂

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