And just like that, final exams have come and gone. Didrik, Olav, and JC have graduated, and our returners are now busy with summer plans and recharging at various locations world-wide. The UAA Ski Team wrapped up a successful 2022 campaign with a fifth place finish at NCAA Championships, hosted and won by the juggernaut University of Utah. A list of usual suspects rounded out the final four with Vermont, Denver, and Colorado all lifting trophies. Alaska-Anchorage can claim to be the best of the rest.

Spring is a time for reflection. Looking back on the season, the ghosts of What If’s mingle with the specter of Suspicion. Could anything have been done differently, been done better, that would have made the difference? My well known and sometimes tired end-of-the-season mantra is: “next year begins right now.” It’s broadcast each year when the last competitor reaches the finish arena. Immediately the quest begins, but not before also recognizing all the things we did well. This year, that list was substantial.

In Alaska, you recruit athletes who are used to skiing into the ocean. Incoming freshman Carmen Nielssen on the shores of Norway.

For starters, we celebrated some amazing finishes at the championships. Five All-Americans combined with strong performances from all ten of our Skiwolves to score enough points to beat the likes of Dartmouth, Middlebury, University of New Hampshire, and Montana State. Notably, JC Schoonmaker found the podium on the final day of competition with a 3rd place in the mass start 20 km freestyle race. Espen Persen pushed into the top 10 with an 8th in the 20 km freestyle and a 9th in the 10 km classic. Rounding out our All-American crew was Astrid Stav with a 9th place in the women’s 15 km freestyle, and Leon Nikic with a hard fought 9th in the men’s slalom. Didrik Nilsen, Ashley Alexander, Alyssa Hill, Pascale Paradis, Tuva Bygrave, and Magnus Noroey all had solid performances and amassed valuable points to lock up our NCAA top five team result.

While fifth in the country is no joke, it’s not an outcome we’re remotely content with. When you get this close to the summit multiple years running, you catch a scent of the peak. Our team is scrappy. Their work ethic is unmatched. We’ve had to overcome an extreme amount of adversity and seek a focused path through the static of 2020, where our very future was tested and pushed to the limit. Ultimately, we are a much stronger and determined group than ever before. As Obi Wan said to Darth Vader, “If you strike me down, I shall become more powerful than you can possibly imagine.” Indeed, what doesn’t kill you…

Ainsley Proffit, about to punish some plastic.

It is an exciting time for the UAA ski team. With the help of our many 314ers, we are on solid footing and looking past the immediate horizon. I was able to sit down and talk with the families of our Fall 2022 incoming class with confidence. Our athletic program and our university showcase strength, optimism, and opportunity. Adding to an already stellar group of returning student athletes, I’m thrilled to announce the signing of US Ski Team alumni Ainsley Proffit, rising Norwegian star Carmen Nielssen, Swedish slalom standout Ella Bromeé, and talent laden Olivia Carrier from Quebec. Our men will add the much hyped Caeden Caruthers of Alberta and a wonder from down-under, Will Cashmore of New Zealand.

Carmen Nielssen, pushing off that bent ski.

Ella Bromeé, full send.

I would like to take this time to thank each and every one of our Friends of UAA Skiing, who show up course-side to ring cowbells in Colorado, who participated in our neck-saving philanthropic campaign, who follow us on live-timing, and who continue to help us meet our goals of providing incredible opportunities for our amazing student athletes. As we approach the summer solstice, enjoy the abundance of light the season brings and celebrate, because…Winter Is Coming.

Olivia Carrier. Not thinking about winter…yet.