After a demanding offseason, UAA skiing returns to competition in Colorado
ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Before the University of Alaska Anchorage ski team left for their first races of the season, head coach Sparky Anderson was clear about his goals: win a national championship.
“Were always a dark horse to land on the podium,” Anderson said.
Getting back to racing is a relief for Anderson, who’s spent the past four months focused on fundraising.
“It was every day,” Anderson said. “From the time you woke up to the time you went to bed.”
The ski team raised the $628,000 in donations and pledges needed for reinstatement and is waiting for the money to be certified before reinstatement can be decided.
“We’d like to put this chapter behind us, and not be in that position again,” Anderson said.
The ski team’s long offseason began in March of last year when their season was cut short due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Then the former UAA chancellor Cathy Sandeen announced plans to eliminate the ski program along with hockey and gymnastics to save the school money. The UA Board of Regents voted to eliminate the teams, but allowed them to raise two years’ worth of pledges and donations for an opportunity at reinstatement.
Given everything they went through in the offseason, the program is happy the conversation surrounding their team is getting back to skiing and not fundraising.
“It’s been quite a while we are getting to over 200 days since we raced,” UAA senior skier Mike Soetart said. “For most of us is quite a long time.”
The long layoff has left the team leaning heavily on local ski areas like Hilltop, Arctic Valley and Alyeska to train. The ski team will also be the only UAA winter sport to compete since they’re outdoors.
“I’m really excited,” UAA sophomore skier Nicole Mah said. “We are really fortunate, we are one of the few sports or the only sport at UAA that’s going to be able to compete this season.”
Their season began this week in Colorado at the Spencer James Nelson Invite hosted by University of Colorado followed by the University of Denver invite wrapping up with Utah in February for regionals.
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