Picking a College – East vs. West

FasterSkierJune 22, 2004

Picking a college as a young nordic skier can be a tough choice. Plenty of factors must be considered; one of the first decisions to be made is location. Where do I want to spend four years of my life skiing and studying? While there may be no need to intensify the east vs. west dispute (my respects to Notorious B.I.G. and 2Pac), but to choose a college or university wisely, one must know the facts about the areas. What follows is a forum from the perspective of two NCAA skiers, each stating the case for attending college in their region. I suppose for the sake of fairness a central skier should be allowed to put in their 2 cents worth too, but it’s not included here.

The Best Head out West
By Josh Smullin

Let’s face it, there are basically two reasons to go to college out East.
1) There is much more oxygen than the West
2) The Boston Red Sox

After 4 years of competing for the Universtiy of Colorado at Boulder, I admit that those are two very valid reasons to head east, but believe me, the Western circuit has a very unique, rewarding experience to offer.

To begin with we have mountains, consistent snow and sunshine. (Authors note: For those readers from the east coast unfamiliar with these terms, the sun is a flaming ball of gas that rises everyday providing light warmth and happiness. Mountains are similar to a hill, but bigger.)

Ski teams are generally much smaller in the West than the east and have a true international flair to them. The upside of competing for a smaller team is that you can receive more attention from the coaches and better treatment because the smaller the number of athletes, the more money that can be spent on each of them.

Most schools on the western circuit recruit from Europe. The ethics of international recruiting are debatable, but personally I have benefited from this practice, both as a person and a skier. The rewards of training with and befriending foreign athletes are unbelievable. A skier can learn a lot from skiing and training with these foreigners, many of which are world cup level skiers. It has also been fun to learn from and integrate international perspectives on life in to my own philosophy. I was lucky enough to be able to travel for over two months in Europe last summer visiting past and present team members from Switzerland, Czech Republic, Sweden and even my “Squarehead” roommates up in Norway. The connections and friends that I’ve made over the last four years have benefited me and will continue to grow in the future

The downside of international recruiting is that it makes it very tough for an American to earn a scholarship in the west. The upside is that unlike the east, there are athletic scholarships offered at all of the western schools. With hard work, dedication and maybe walking on to the team for a season, there are scholarships available for Americans. You just have to prove yourself.

Skiing is not always a short drive away in the west and the closest skiing can be more than an hour drive. Regardless, teams find ways to get in shape and be competitive. Many teams also fly to competitions, so the amount of road time logged is tolerable for the coaches and athletes.

What the east coast skiers lack in “squareheads”, they make up for with round minds provided by their liberal arts ivy league education. Needless to say, a well rounded person has no point (pun intended). While the west does not have any “ivy league” schools, the quality of education is far from lacking. The west offers both small and large institutions of higher learning. It is important to look at how certain fields of study are ranked at the universities when assessing program quality. Many majors at the western schools are ranked top ten in the country.

The universities in the west offer a variety of social, educational, and athletic experiences. I highly encourage anyone looking to elevate their athletic and academic experiences to the next level to take a little trip out to the wild west. If you do, you’ll win in one way or another, just like the western schools have done at NCAA championships for the last ten years

For Education and Rain: Come East
by Marshall Greene

A couple of week ago I graduated from Middlebury College and thus would like to plead the case for attending school in the east. Having grown up in the west, I know that the snow cover can be a little thin in the east. Likewise I know that it's been a few years since the east won a nordic race at NCAAs. That said, there are some excellent reasons for attending college in the east.

For one, the east competes in carnivals not just races. What's the difference you say? It means that the host school for that carnival has a whole weekend devoted to partying, revelry, and generally celebrating the ski races. Large crowds of students, many of whom have never previously witnessed a nordic race, gather to cheer on the races occasionally with their enthusiasm supplemented by the drink. This makes for loud and exciting racing. Furthermore, the carnival spirit is really one of friendly competition. It's certainly aggressive while racing, but over four years, I've made many friends on rival teams. I've eaten other teams food after races, partied with other teams, and even shared wax tips with them. One great tradition in the east is Carni(val) Crush. Each year the Dartmouth Carnival coincides with Valentine's Day and so all the teams make cards, poems, etc for members of other teams. Sounds childish I know. But I don't remember anyone ever getting a thong for Valentine's Day back in elementary school. We have a little fun in east.

Equally as important, it's easy to get a good education in the east. Now, I fully realize there are some few exceptions to what I'm about to say about “good” schools being in the east. I'm just looking at other people's published stats-don't kill the messenger. According to US News and World Report's rankings, the eastern ski circuit has two national universities and five liberal-arts colleges ranked in the top 30 for academics. Western ski schools…have none. Rankings aren't everything but that's a pretty large discrepency. After graduating from college in the east, one can take pride in their education. I worked hard academically through the whole winter. Occasionally, I went to practice late due to class or labs and after a Sunday OD ski, I spent the whole afternoon and most the evening catching up on weekend homework. While racing at NCAAs this spring, I took three mid-terms: two by email and one via fax. We work hard academically and athletically and both are really satisfying. Of course, college in the east doesn't come cheap. I donated a kidney and sold my sister in order to pay for college. And I still have thousands of dollars of loans. Given that my post-collegiate income as a nordic skier is $0, everything I own will soon be repossessed by the man. That's what it takes to go to school in the east.

Which brings me to sacrifice and toughness. Skiing in the east makes one hard. There's no sunny days, fresh deep powder, Blue Extra conditions. No, the east is gray-for a long time. The snow is thin and usually we ski either ice or in freezing rain. The biggest weather threat to western skiers is forgetting to put on sunscreen. Even the trees in the east are a depressing gray with no leaves on the branches. Somehow, despite the barren branches, the leaves still manage to end up in your klister creating a nice whizzing sound much like your old no-wax as you (slowly) glide down the next hill. Conditions like these make a skier tough. I have endured more pain and frustration, tough waxing conditions and sunless skies than any western skier can imagine. In the east, we pride ourselves in training when we know that most people wouldn't dare leave the house. Come race day, I'm sure it helps. So if you want to be tough like nails, well read like Chomsky, and broke like a Daewoo, come to college in the east. You'll ski fast I promise.

Josh Smullin skis for the University of Colorado and loves his Rossignol gear.

Marshall Greene now skis with XC Oregon, an elite-development program in Bend, Oregon. He is sponsored by Madshus skis.

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