Big Green skiing reemerges as preeminent skiing power in the east

by Sabena Allen | 2/6/17 2:20am

Last season, the Big Green ski team turned a corner. After a nearly four-year carnival drought, Dartmouth snagged a win at the Colby Carnival in late January 2016. The team won again the next weekend at the University of Vermont but was held winless for the remainder of the season. Still, hopes remained high, and the team managed to place fifth at the 2016 NCAA Championships, its best performance since 2013.

Then 2017 began, and Dartmouth came flying out of the gate. Big Green skiing has dominated the first half of Eastern Intercollegiate Ski Association competition. The team, comprised of men’s and women’s Nordic and alpine squads, won overall at St. Lawrence University on Jan. 20 to 21, at the University of New Hampshire on Jan. 27 to 28 and at UVM on Feb. 3 to 4. The most recent margin of victory was a whopping 195 points.

The team is very strong on all fronts this year, according to director of skiing and women’s Nordic head coach Cami Thompson Graves.

“Each one of us have had a day or weekend where we have really put it together,” she said.

Maintaining four strong teams is difficult, according to Graves, but this year’s team has athletes who can top the podium and also those who can place in the top five or top 10 in order to attain good overall scores. Depth is key in collegiate skiing, as team scores are determined by the team’s top three skiers in each race.

“Speaking in terms of [the women’s alpine side], we are very, very strong right now,” said Foreste Peterson ’18, a former U.S. Ski Team member who won the giant slalom at the UNH Carnival. “Our team has a lot of depth to it, so every single girl on the team is super competitive, and I think on any given day any one of us could be the fastest. I think we all are just pushing each other to the next level.”

Kelly Moore ’18, Alexa Dlouhy ’19, Steph Currie ’20 and Audrey O’Brien ’19 have also notched podium finishes for the Big Green. Dlouhy won the slalom at the UVM Carnival by more than a full second.

“All of us are just very motivated,” Peterson said. “Dartmouth skiing has such a long legacy, and I think we all feel pretty excited to be racing and representing Dartmouth. I think that positive energy just feeds off of each other.”

Dartmouth was closely associated with skiing even before it became an NCAA sport. From 1935-1939 alone, the College graduated four Ski Hall of Fame members. When the NCAA officially adopted skiing as a varsity sport, the Big Green was runner-up in the second- and third-ever NCAA championships in 1955 and 1956. The Big Green remained a presence on the national podium until the late 1970s, but after sharing the national title with the University of Colorado in 1976, Dartmouth’s hold on the national stage slipped. The Big Green did not post a top-two finish until 2007, when the team won just its third-ever NCAA title.

Before the remarkable 2007 season, Graves said, it had seemed unlikely that Dartmouth could be nationally competitive against large public schools that give scholarships. One of those schools is the UVM, the 2012 NCAA champions. UVM has the most recruiting power in the East, according to Graves, and Dartmouth and UVM often vie for the same athletes. The 12-team EISA has historically been dominated by UVM and Dartmouth, who nearly always finish first and second in regular-season carnivals. Although Dartmouth won the EISA Team Championships from 2007 to 2010, UVM has won every title since then. The Catamounts’ recent run of success was fueled by a 20-carnival win streak, which began in 2012 and was only snapped by the Big Green last year.

With three consecutively strong performances from the Big Green in 2017, and three sub-par outings from the Catamounts, Dartmouth has displaced UVM as the top team in the East.

“They have always been a big competitor,” Peterson said of UVM. “I think it really just stems from having really strong skiers on their team, and we have very strong skiers on our team. So it sometimes just comes down to battling it out between a UVM skier and a Dartmouth skier to get the top spot of the podium.”

This season, the Dartmouth skiers have consistently beaten out the UVM skiers. The Catamounts’ average carnival points have fallen across three of the four disciplines. Only women’s alpine has improved, averaging 21 more points per carnival. UVM’s men’s Nordic team has suffered the most as its average carnival output has dropped 71 points.

“They’ve got some good skiers, but maybe not an enormous amount of depth on each side,” Graves said about UVM’s Nordic team.

The Catamounts’ alpine team has seen mixed results compared to last season. The women are averaging 21 points more than the previous season, while the men have slipped by 31.

Peterson regards the Catamounts as strong opponents, improved by the addition of freshman Paula Moltzan, who competed for the U.S. Ski Team.

“She is definitely a force to be reckoned with, and then their whole men’s team lineup is just totally stacked,” Peterson said.

But through the first half of the season, Dartmouth’s team has been stronger.

“[We are] building on our strengths, and things seem to be going our way,” Graves said.

The Big Green’s carnival numbers have increased across the board, though not as much as UVM’s have fallen. The women’s Nordic team leads the way. Propelled by a trio of strong sophomores — including ­Lydia Blanchet ’19, who has claimed multiple podiums this season — the women have improved their carnival average from 215 to 242. Women’s alpine, averaging 246 points per carnival, continues to be the strongest Big Green squad. The men’s teams have also made gains behind Nordic standout Fabian Stocek ’17 and alpine stars Brian McLaughlin ’18 and Tanguy Nef ’20.

“[The] team has been changing week-to-week, some people have been getting sick, but it seems every week, no matter who we put on the team, we’ve been getting good results,” men’s Nordic member Gavin McEwen ’19 said.

“Right now our consistency and overall performance is just better than last year,” Peterson said. “And I think it [can be attributed] to each part of the team, so men and women’s alpine and men and women’s Nordic. Each individual part of the bigger team is just really strong.”

This year’s NCAA Championship will be held from March 9 to 11 at Cannon Mountain and the Jackson Touring Center, the site of the UNH carnival two weekends ago. After traveling cross country to compete in Steamboat Springs, Colorado for last year’s NCAA Championships, the New England location has Dartmouth skiers confident.

“Having done well on that hill gives me confidence if I go back there to compete for NCAAs,” Peterson said.

The Big Green’s strong start has already stirred echoes of 2007. That season, Dartmouth won all six EISA carnivals en route to the national crown.

This year, the team is three for three.