Cole Sher-Jan, ‘20, had hopes to join a ski team when he arrived at Lehigh in 2016.
But, after visiting the club fair, he found there was no team or club that existed.
Adam Knuckey, ‘18, successfully organized a team during Sher-Jan’s sophomore year. There were only eight members.
When Evan Chinman, ‘21, joined the ski team in 2017, he was expecting a bigger and more involved team, which he had observed from his older sister’s experience skiing at her university.
The team eventually grew to 20 members and continued to expand in 2019.
“After recruiting super hard at the club fair, we got about 70 interested students, and we had a meeting to talk about the ski racing aspect of the team,” Chinman said. “And then, we downsized to 40, which has been really amazing to watch, since the team was so small my freshman year.”
On Feb. 9, the men’s ski team won the league competition after competing in the Atlantic Highlands conference of the United States Collegiate Ski and Snowboard Association.
The team is made up of individuals with different skiing abilities, which Ethan Forster, ‘20, can attest to.
Forster grew up skiing in Vermont and had not participated in ski racing prior to joining Lehigh’s team.
“It’s been an awesome learning experience for me to go train twice a week and go to races, and see a lot of improvement over a couple years of racing,” Forster said.
With partial funding from Lehigh, the team has been able to train with Blue Mountain Resort’s ski team in Palmerton, Pennsylvania, and has also been able to race in competitions in New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania.
After organizing the team for this school year and experiencing competitions, Sher-Jan began to feel hopeful for the team’s future.
“We just had a good time and did pretty well, and I thought, ‘Next year, if we really focus and try, we can win the whole league,’” Sher-Jan said.
Now in the third year of competing, the team is preparing to compete in the conference’s regional competition on Feb. 28-29 at Blue Mountain.
This is the closest to Lehigh that the regional competition has been held in a long time, Sher-Jan said. Because the team works off club funding, the close proximity of the race is preferable for team members to provide their own transportation to competitions.
With discounted tickets for the regional competition, the ski team hopes to have attendance from the Lehigh community at Blue Mountain.
“I grew up ski racing, so when I think about it, this is the last feasible opportunity for me to race,” Sher-Jan said. “These are my last races, and I really want to do well and help the team succeed.”
Though he hasn’t raced before, Forster said he feels his time on the team has been rewarding because it gives him something to work toward.
“I played sports in high school, but didn’t plan on doing something of that nature in college — so it’s a good balance of working hard at something and not having a ton of pressure,” Forster said.
After the regional competition, the next competition that the team will be eligible to compete in is nationals, which is at Whiteface Mountain in Whiteface, New York.
The competition falls during Lehigh’s spring break, so if the team moves on, only three members will be available to compete, including Sher-Jan.
With practice twice a week and frequent competitions, members have time to develop relationships with fellow teammates.
“What’s really special about this team is that the people come from different circles,” Chinman said. “A lot of times at Lehigh, people like to stay within their own circles, so being able to meet new people and have more connections has probably been the best part.”