NCAA Ski Racing 101

<p>The sport began in the 1860's in the California Sierras Nevada's, not the Alps of Europe. The Alturas Snow Shoe Club of La Porte, California, held the first races in 1867.</p>The events were called winter sport, held every Sunday as long as there was snow. The ski racers, (miners), filled themselves full of "hooch" or "remedy", & carrying wooden skis from 10 to 12 feet in length & one long wooden pole for steering, headed for the world's first ski lift... ore buckets on a steam-powered cable.

In they loaded and up they went, to the top of the mountain for a wild uncontrolled schuss to the bottom.

American college ski racing began in the 30's at the east coast schools of Harvard and Yale, Dartmouth, New Hampshire, and Vermont. The sport was more social in those days. In fact the teams were called Outing Clubs.

Dartmouth was the first college to organize a team, the Dartmouth Outing Club. The year, 1909. The purpose, to promote the sport of cross-country skiing and ski jumping. In 1914 the first United States Intercollegiate Ski Championships were held. Dartmouth was the host. Soon the sport became more intense. In 1922, to keep ahead of the competition, Dartmouth hired the first alpine ski instructor to teach ski techniques in America. The form remained the same. Ski competitions remained a Nordic event.

In the winter of 1929-1930 the techniques of the sport experienced it's first major change. A new ski instructor, Otto Schniebs, arrived at the college. He brought with him the Arlberg Skiing Method created by the famous Hannes Schneider. The Dartmouth skiers took to the new technique, and it quickly replaced the old traditional methods. Otto Schniebs became their first permanent coach and unofficial spokesman for college ski racing. Dartmouth, known as the Dartmouth Outing Club, developed into America's racing power. Lake Placid was the center of skiing and ski racing. The Rocky Mountains and the Sierras were undiscovered.

Almost over night, everything about the sport began to change. The tiny mining camp of Alta, in the Wasatch Mountains close to Salt Lake City, opened for business. Hollywood discovered the snow in the San Bernardino Mountains near Los Angeles. American ski jumping records were set at a hill near Wrightwood. Walt Disney was building Sugar Bowl, near Donner Pass in California's Sierra Nevada's. In 1937, Union Pacific, and the Harriman family, began construction of America's first destination ski resort in Ketchum, Idaho. The finished product became known as Sun Valley.

Skiing became popular in the fifties and by the sixties the sport exploded. No longer did the East have a lock on the sport. The deep reliable snows of the west took control. Ski resorts popped up everywhere. Common names now, Sun Valley, Aspen, Jackson Hole, Vail, Park City, Mammoth, and Squaw Valley.

Ski Racing was an integral part of the explosion. Where ever there was snow and a college there was a ski team. Most were club programs, but as the larger schools became more organized, more serious competitions were held. The early meets were known as Winter Snow Carnivals. The University of Nevada-Reno held one of the largest. Nevada's competition invited the skiing powerhouses of the west. Then they were Utah, Colorado, Denver, Nevada, San Jose, Stanford, and UCLA.

Five disciplines were listed on the schedule. Alpine skiers raced slalom, giant slalom, and the always dangerous downhill. Nordic skiers competed in ski jumping and classic cross-country. (Americas Bill Koch had not yet invented the skate-ski technique now known as cross-country free style). Many competitors competed in four of five events, and there was a combined event called the Skimeister Championship, the best skiers competing in both alpine and Nordic disciplines.

In the 50's and 60's the NCAA became involved. Soon they were in complete control. Competitions spread from the east coast (East Div.), to the mid-west (Central Div.), and the west (Rocky Mt. Div.). The NCAA held their first National Championships in 1954, a men's only event. In 1983 that the first women's championships was offered.

By the end of the 60's the sport format was beginning to change. Some of the traditional events were too dangerous. The liability to schools and ski resorts was too great. The NCAA eliminated the downhill discipline in 1976 and ski jumping in 1981. The skimeister alpine-Nordic combines also became history.

Schools began to drop ski racing from their programs. But the desire for college competition did not die. Another level of collegiate racing was evolving. This one included women from the beginning. Non-sanctioned university club teams began to flourish.

In 1967, the United States Collegiate Ski Association (USCSA) was created. Many of the big name NCAA schools became members. Today the Association represents more than 75% of the colleges and universities in the nation, has five regions, eleven conferences, and more than 220 schools participating.

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