Brenna Egan’s voice carried through the room on this snowy January night in Bozeman, Montana, “This isn’t about you. There are twenty other people expecting you to go out there tomorrow and absolutely kill yourself.” We all gazed around the room at each other nodding in agreement, a contract not on paper though it might as well have been. This sport we ended up in, it hurts. It’s fucking grueling and some days that pain goes down easy. On other days though, that pain stings a little extra, or it hits you in an unexpected way. On those days you need something else to race for, because racing for yourself is never enough. Brenna finished her speech that night with three words, “Lobo’s don’t quit.”
That next day, the men’s team finished 1st, 2nd, 4th, and 5th. The women finished 13th, 14th, 16th, and 23rd. Seven of these finishes were personal bests. The conditions were tough and every single one of us absolutely gutted ourselves on that race course. Brenna’s speech that night perfectly embodied who we are as a team. Nobody cares who ends up in what place. It isn’t a numbers game. What matters is that everyone finishes the race looking like a severely less alive version of themselves. Essentially, that is the ticket earning yourself a place in the van for the drive home. Here, we race for each other because that is how respect is earned. I'm learning that this kind of culture, it’s powerful.
Next weekend the small quaint town of Red River, New Mexico will host well over 100 alpine and nordic skiers from all over the world. There will be no live stream, very few spectators, and hardly a glimpse about it in the news. In many ways and to many people it will be unremarkable. However, this may be the state of New Mexico’s silent farewell to high level skiing. After this winter, the University of New Mexico ski team will be cut. It will cease to exist.
I will forever cherish getting to be a part of this team. I will also forever be saddened by the countless young men and women who will never get to experience being on the University of New Mexico ski team. Many years from now I will look back upon my time here with a certain nostalgia. All the sunburns, the hot afternoon rollerskis in September which seemed more like death marches than training, the looks people gave us through their car windows on those same rollerskis, our long commutes to training filled with jokes and laughter, all the cards games, listening to music, hearing about my teammates lives back in their countries, and all the terrible grammar- bears are pronounced “beers” and beers are pronounced “bears”. Surely there are amazing years ahead, but this, nothing could quite equate to it.
I grew up with a hatred for team sports. I learned that in team sports, I could only control so much of the outcome. I fell in love with skiing because of its individuality. It separated me. It gave me full control. I think it’s only fitting that in my final year, my last hurrah- it’s being a part of this team that has reignited my love for skiing.
It’s crazy that not so long ago we were all awkwardly meeting each other for the first time, in mostly broken English. I keep wishing my time here would slow down. Surely, I must be the outlier as most college seniors can’t wait for it to all be over. I’ve been incredibly greedy with my one year here. I greedily latch onto these good times because I know the clock is ticking. In May, goodbyes will be spoken and we will all go our separate ways. Kornelius will go become a doctor, Johan will help run his families vacation cottages, Ricardo will go on to ski in World Championships and hopefully Olympics, Julie will become an Instagram model, Brenna and I will move back to Utah in pursuit of single track switchbacks and powder days, Dasha and Savanna will get recruited to new schools and continue college skiing.
College skiing will exist without the Lobos. However, it will not be the same. College skiing will be without twenty weird kids from the desert. Twenty Lobos who don’t ski a lot, but who ski for each other. That right there, that seems to make all the difference.