Alpine skiers balance races with demanding schoolwork



Alpine ski captains and juniors Kota Tsukada and Lucia Lobon have helped their teammates be productive with school work before competitions and practices.

Snow. It’s something most people dread, from having to clean it up to the cold weather it brings. But for skiers, it’s heaven.

Alpine ski racing is time consuming and requires a lot of preparation and effort to be successful.

Despite the large time commitment, skiers have to prepare for their race and be at the top of their game while still holding the responsibilities of a high school student.

Co-captain and junior Lucia Lobon said sometimes the team doesn’t come back to the high school from competitions until 11:30 p.m..

“Sophomore year, I had to start stepping up and being smarter about how I use my free blocks,” Lobon said. “After the second race, I just go into the lodge and do homework. This year, I might not be able to do that as a captain because one of us, Kota or I, will have to be at the top [of the mountain].”

However, skiers sometimes don’t leave for competitions until 5 p.m., so the captains encourage other athletes on the team to be productive with their work.

Alpine ski races are set up so that multiple schools compete against each other, with the more experienced skiers racing first and the less experienced skiers racing later.

Co-captain and junior Kota Tsukada said that in competitions, each skier races twice and each race is called a run. A school hosts every competition, so the fastest skier from that team races first. Then the fastest skier from the next school races, and it keeps cycling through the schools until 10 skiers from each school have raced.

Tsukada said ski competitions can be very long because of the number of schools at each competition and the number of people racing from each school.

“Only 10 or 11 people race [from each school], but there are eight, nine schools, so it ends up becoming like 90 people,” Tsukada said.

The coaches also play a large part in making sure races run smoothly. Coach Mayra Hernandez said her responsibility during the races is to critique the skiers and to ensure their safety.

“I am making sure that everyone gets to the race on time but also meeting with other coaches in the league and making sure that we’re talking about safety for the students and also just looking at different skiers as they’re coming down the hill and making sure they’re going on the correct side of the gate,” Hernandez said.

In addition to ensuring the safety of the skiers during the competition, Hernandez focuses on maintaining their health outside of competition.

“I approach my job not thinking about skiing being the only thing important in my skiers’ lives. It’s ski, it’s school, it’s family, it’s social life, it’s mental-emotional well-being,” Hernandez said. “My job is to make sure that their social, emotional, mental and physical state is always great. And if it’s not, how do I help them get there?”

When the team is not training on the mountain, they work on building leg strength and agility, two important aspects of alpine skiing.

“Dryland is usually either running, agility work and weightlifting. At the beginning of the season, it’s more agility and team stuff, and then while we get further into the season, we’ll do more weights,” Tsukada said. “I think the weightlifting will mostly help with having the strength in your legs to ski well.”

Additionally, they work to build endurance and play team bonding games to get everyone active.

“We run a lot which helps endurance. We used to go to the reservoir, but now that’s closed. We play a lot of games like capture the flag and flag football at Downes. We run to Downes, and we play and then we go home,” Lobon said.

Lobon said having agility in alpine skiing is important because mountain conditions can change for each ski run.

“Just being aware for anything because on the mountain, anything could happen. You never know. Even if you go through the course and get a feel for it, the second time the course could be totally different,” Lobon said.

According to Tsukada, although alpine skiing is a huge time commitment, it teaches skiers how to be disciplined, manage their time and be part of a team.

“Even when you think that you’re an individual, especially on a ski team, you have a whole team behind you and the teamwork is stronger than being an individual skier,” Tsukada said. “Having that team bond is really important.”