Alpine Ski Team Reflects on First Full Season in Recent Memory

This year, thanks to prolonged efforts to secure funding, the Amherst Alpine Racing Team was able to have its first full season in recent memory. The team's captains reflect on a successful six weeks — full of early mornings, long bus rides, and high-speed runs.

This past Sunday, Harrison Lundy ’25 slept in for the first time in six weeks. Every day since the beginning of January, he’d wake up at 6:30 a.m., stretch a little bit, and methodically wax his skis. Finally, he’d arrive with his teammates at Berkshire East, a ski resort an hour's drive from Amherst, in an AAS van, by the time the lifts began moving at 8:30 a.m.

A year prior, Lundy, now captain of the men’s alpine ski team, could only have dreamed of this exhausting routine. Because of last year’s late start to the semester due to the sudden rise in Covid cases, the team participated in only one out of their three scheduled races. They didn’t even come back for the second day of that one race, nor did they have a single practice. The ski team, mostly composed of graduating seniors, had fun that day, but it was a casual atmosphere. In addition to Lundy, the five other freshmen (now sophomores) on the team at the time were James Knowlton ’25, Jack Dunham ’25, Sam Maynard ’25, Ziji Zhou ’25, and Nikash Kathuria ’25, and they all imagined a more rigorous future for the ski team.

“I remember having this discussion after the race, we were all kind of standing around. We were saying how cool would this be? What if this was more serious, a more put-together group, more of a team,” Lundy said. “And that was sort of like the beginning.”

Lundy was on skis only a year after he learned how to walk. His parents, avid skiers themselves, go skiing every year. Lundy’s father, an alum of the college, was a prominent member of the Amherst ski team when it was a Division II varsity sport, before the college cut funding for the team in the late 90s.

“I had always grown up with stories of the Amherst ski team and its community and of all the great times that he had when he was here. I also had the privilege of meeting a number of his friends who were also on the team,” Lundy reminisced. “[Skiing] has always been a part of my life, something that's been a happy place.”

From the moment they left the mountain, Lundy and Dunham were on a mission to restore the ski team’s previous glory —  to spearhead a ski team renaissance.

“For like, two hours, we're just talking about like, well, how can we do this? What is preventing us from getting to the place that we want to be?” Lundy reflected.

After the seniors graduated, they named Lundy the new captain, and he brought Dunham on board with him. By partnering with the UMass Amherst Ski Team, they selected Berkshire East to be their practice mountain early in July, but Lundy and Dunham came upon many obstacles regarding the financing of the team.

“Skiing is an implicitly very expensive sport … And Amherst has funding policies that aren't very conducive at all to us operating,” Lundy noted. “[The] AAS has a long-standing policy that [denies] fund[ing to] any clubs during academic recess, which means that for all of January, we were unable to access any money from [the] AAS and also from student activities; they follow the same policies. AAS paid for our season-long expenses like season passes, our mountain’s training fee, tuning kits, and other communal equipment.”

In order for the team to have a chance of petitioning for alternative avenues of funding, they had to show they had dedicated interest. Their first meeting brought over 30 interested students, and as they got closer to the season they ended up having 22 dedicated athletes.

“After we didn’t really have any success going down the student activities route for the January only expenses” they had to find an alternative route. “[Student Activities] suggested the athletic department and the president's office. So we contacted both of them, and discovered that there was an account available at the athletics department for us. And then with a lot of back and forth ended up ended up submitting a formal application to request funding from the President’s Office for like special circumstances.”

The team was able to secure funding that covered all of the team’s January expenses including race fees, lodging, and gas. While Lundy is unsure if they can maintain funding from the office in the future, it proved to be the perfect resource to support a high-caliber season this year.

Men’s Team Captain Nikash Kathuria ’25 commented on the palpable excitement the first time the team arrived at Berkshire East for practice. “It felt exhilarating. I could tell the atmosphere was set up for a much more competitive season than last year,” he said. Lundy agreed, adding, “It was beyond any expectations Jack and I had only a year prior.” While getting a season was already in and of itself a success, the team proved to be extremely competitive.

Both the men’s and women’s teams secured second place in their division, made up of 11 other teams. Women’s Team Captain Sam Maynard ’25 secured 1st overall individual in the division. While another women’s team captain, Lauren Dinhofer ’23, and Ahanu Youngblood ’25 each secured first overall individual in snowboarding — they will both be attending USCSA National Championships. Lundy suggested this was the first full season that the team has had in probably 10 to 15 years.

After a long year, Lundy not only set up a season but an extremely successful one. His first Sunday sleeping in was bittersweet: “I'm exhausted right now. I know it's gonna be nice for like a week to have that weight off my shoulders, but as soon as that's over, I really don’t know what I’m going to do.”