Alex Barounos called representing the university the high point of his racing career. PHOTO: Courtesy of University of New Mexico Ski Team
Like a feel-good closing scene of a Disney classic, the University of New Mexico Ski Team announced May 12 their program would be reinstated after the 47-year-old ski program was cut in mid-April.
The announcement to eliminate the program, which includes men’s and women’s alpine and nordic skiing, made by University of New Mexico vice president for athletics Paul Krebs, was met by public outcry. The “Save the University of New Mexico Ski Team” petition has received more than 10,564 signatures accompanied by a number of personal cries for support from current student-athletes and alumni of the program on the team’s Facebook page.
“Many of our students wouldn’t have the opportunity to keep skiing if it weren’t for college programs. This program is a great tradition for the Lobos,” said head coach Fredrik Landstedt. “The community support, combined with support from the ski industry, and even international support was amazing. The athletes speaking out also showed just how great these student-athletes are and we’re glad to have the program back for what I hope is the long-term.”
An athletics department press release said the ski teams were being cut “due to impending budget cuts and rising costs,” and added, “The decision will save the department approximately $600,000 per year in operating budget, scholarships, and salaries.” The university’s website stated there are now less than 35 ski programs in the country that compete in the NCAA, with just six other NCAA programs in the West.
"This has obviously been a very emotional and difficult month, but I'm extremely happy that something was able to be worked out," Krebs said of the reinstatement. “The members of our ski program have been model student-athletes, and no one wants to see opportunities taken away from any students. I’m very happy for them they will get to compete this upcoming season."
Founded in 1968, the UNM Ski Team has 17 Individual NCAA Championship Titles and was the first team in UNM’s history to win an Overall NCAA Team Title in 2004. Another 13 times, the Ski Team finished within the top-4 at NCAA Skiing Championships, making it the single most successful athletic program in UNM’s history.
According to the petition website, the UNM Ski Team also excels in academics. In Fall 2015, both Women’s and Men’s Ski Team set new Department GPA records with 3.95 and 3.65, respectively, while also finishing 5th at NCAA Championships the same year. --SIERRA DAVIS