Skiing community speaks out about UA cut to sport

Published: Oct. 27, 2016 at 8:41 PM AKDT
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It came as a shock to the local skiing community; the University of Alaska’s announcement to cut the sport is being felt across the state.

“It’s interesting, of all the sports they pick one that speaks so much to who Alaska is and what we stand for,” said Erin Beam with the Nordic Skiing Association of Anchorage.

The non-profit produces hundreds of young athletes, some hope to continue onto the collegiate level.

“Kids in our programs aspire to be like those kids across town, the student athletes,” said Beam.

Beam fears that if the cuts go into effect that will drive local athletes to the lower 48.

The decision saves the university $640,000 and effects more than 40 student athletes.

Olympian Kikkan Randall says she’s sad to see administrators take this route. “I just think we’re going to miss out on some really big contributions to the community, our ski teams are all out there working with kids and helping to take care of trails,” Randall said. “I think the community is really going to take a hit.”

Alumni Tamra Kornfield skied at UAF, she calls the elimination disappointing. “I would not be with the Nordic Skiing Association of Anchorage had I not grow up skiing and taken it to the next level and realize it was my lifetime sport,” Kornfield said.

Both UAA and UAF are requesting a NCAA waiver that will enable both schools to continue competing below the minimum number of teams.

UAA would go from 13 to nine teams and UAF from 10 to eight.

Under that model, the ski programs at both institutions would be eliminated effective next year in addition to Seawolf indoor track.

UAA is starting at a $1.9 million slash, dropping skiing and indoor track saves about 43% of that number.

If the waiver is granted, the university’s plan still must be approved by the Board of Regents. If denied, UAA will move on to a consortium model in which UAA and UAF could combine forces to reach 10 or more teams.