With the huge shortfall of snow thanks to Michigan weather, there is nobody who wants that white fluffy substance more than skiers and snowboarders and more specifically the Alpine Ski Team. The Alpine Ski Team is composed of 20 competitive skiers from Portage Northern and Central with or without competitive experience, for all grades. Between the months of mid-November and February, they compete in 5 conferences, regiona ls, state final, and invitational races. Although, thus far they have only been training in the weight rooms and actual competitions cannot start until there is an adequate amount of snowfall. “We’ve been doing a lot of weight training: core strength, leg strength, agility,” says head coach, Linda Kozacki.
“I have been coaching for over 25 years; I enjoy the high school kids because they want to get better,” says Kozacki. Each teammate has his or her personal goals for this season that they wish to achieve. “My personal goal this season is to improve my times from last season and to grow in my technical skills. I know there is always room for improvement,” says Grace Wunderlich (9). There are also several team goals to accomplish. “The boys team needs to win conference this year; I am expecting them to, they won last year,” says Kozacki.
“I’ve sort of grown up skiing [since the age of two], my parents and brother have skied, it was a family sport that we all did together,” says Sarah Price (10) . Students on the ski team have been skiing since they were children, many taking on from their parents. “My role model is my dad, he grew up skiing in Michigan, and it kind of rubbed off on me,” says Aly Gregory (10).
Though they have been skiing for years, it is most of the kids first or second year competing on a high school level. “Competitive skiing is very different from skiing; it is extremely technical (especially slalom). Also, the course that you race on is often the most direct line down the hill that you must take so you can go faster,” says Wunderlich. “ It is very social; when you go to the races and everybody is at the top of the hill together, it is not individual teams, they all hang out together,” says Kozacki.
“There is the fear factor; at practice I try to push their comfort zone a little bit, and there is a lot of potential injuries,” says Kozacki. A big difference between skiing and other sports is the environment they compete and practice in and having to stand out in the cold for hours. “The hardest part of skiing for me is knowing how long I have been out and when I need to go in and warm up,” says Ryan Gilmour (11).
“I think we are a bit overshadowed, I pay a lot of money to be on the team but none comes back to us, and we work hard and play hard,” says Gregory. Here at Portage Northern winter sports are often overshadowed by popular crowd going events such as fall football. Skiing is labeled as easy and considered less vigorous. “ I think that people who say it [skiing] is too easy don’t ski enough to say that, it depends where and how you ski. You can say it’s easy but you don’t actually ski properly,” says Price. “Ski racing I think is almost like an art. You have to get the timing of your turns perfect, and be able to dig your edges into the snow for maximum speed,” says Wunderlich.
“ Skiing has just made winter easier because you have something to do with friends that is active and fun,” says Gilmour. Just like any other sport or activity that skiing is a way to ease out of reality for a bit and do what you love. “I tend to be a quiet, more reserved person, so when I started racing, it really taught me that it’s good to take risks and to push the boundaries of what I thought I could do. Ski racing is one of the best things that has happened to me,” says Wunderlich.
“It is a true family sport, they all work together, you’ll ask them ‘what do you think about the team?’ and they say ‘well we aren’t a team, we’re a family’,” says Kozacki.
Best Location Spots to Ski/ Snowboard in Kalamazoo
Timber Ridge (Gobles)
Swiss Valley (Jones)
Pando Winter Sports (Rockford)