Let it snow: Skiing lives on

Aaron Walling / Sun Star

Erin  Granger - 11-15-16 ski march3.jpg

Local skiier Karin Gillis (left) and Kristan Kelly, a member of the booster club and mother of a hopeful UAF skiier (right), talk before the march begins Thursday evening. Erin Granger/ Sun Star

The Alaska Nanooks men’s and women’s skiing teams celebrated the decision handed out by the Board of Regents not to cut skiing from UAF. After an announcement made by UA President Johnsen on the morning of Nov. 10, the Nanooks athletes came out for a celebration march.

“Fairbanks as a community not only offers many skiing clubs event and facilities for all ages but also is a big supporter of the UAF ski team,” senior Hannah Rowland said before the Board of Regents decision was made.

The board decided not remove skiing from UAF, or to remove any sports from either UAF or UAA for now. For the past few months college athletes have waited to find out if their sport would be affected by cuts.

A march to protest the cuts was slated for Thursday evening, but after the decision was announced, the ski team and members of the community marched to thank the administration for its decision to preserve the sport. Student athletes, coaches, alumni and members of the Fairbanks community came out to show support of the skiing community at UAF. The crowd cheered in the dark night holding signs of support.

“We just got word that there’s going to be no sports eliminated at UAF or UAA,” Nick Crawford, head coach of skiing and cross country, said. “A large part of this I guess was from the outcry support from our community.”

“It’s awe-inspiring, absolutely awe-inspiring to see how much support we have… that is what Alaska is,” junior Sarissa Lammers said. “Just knowing that these people came out to show us support. It warms your heart, you don’t see in other places. Everybody is just so loving here, they’re so excited to come out and show their support.”

Despite the chants of “Alaska skiing!” there are still some concerns on how the state legislature is going to tackle the budget. But in the moment, the skiing community celebrated.

“You see people, the community come out, and they’re bundled up,” Lammers said. “They might be going out for their ski trails, but they come out as you’re racing and cheer you on the trails. And they don’t know your name, but they still go and cheer for you.”

“This is great to see this many people come out, not unexpected. I am very hoarse from cheering,” Ross Wildemann, a member of the crowd, said. “Snow baby, just snow. That’s right, that’s what we’re about here. I am Nanook alumnus, from way back. There’s been skiing since as far back as I can remember, and I’ve been a resident since 1980.”

Wildemann was yelling into the night sky, along with many other student athletes and the skiing community.

Other UAF sports teams arrived to show their excitement. There was the rifle team, cross-country team and other athletes who came out for their comrades.

According to Assistant Head Coach Christina Turman, cutting skiing would have placed distance between UAF and the Fairbanks community.

“It’s pretty emotional for me, having grown up so ingrained in this community, and seeing them come together and rally behind us, it’s pretty phenomenal,” Turman said. “It sends a powerful message to the regents that it’s not just a few people on the team that want the team here.”

This all happened nine days before the season starts for the men’s and women’s skiing teams, as they will face UAA on Nov. 19 in Fairbanks. Even though they are rivals with one another, both sides can sigh a breath of relief with no sports being cut in the UA system.

“This shows how Alaska skiing is,” Crawford said. “We’re literally walking through four inches of snow right now on our way over to the Board of Regents gathering. It just demonstrates how critical skiing is, and how much of a great sport it is for our state.”

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