Among Dartmouth skiers, skiing is a family affair

by Evan Morgan | 2/19/18 2:15am


Cate Brams (left), a senior at Middlebury College, cheers on younger sister Leah Brams ’20 (right) as she competes in a classic race.

Source: Courtesy of Leah Brams

When men’s alpine skier Tanguy Nef ’20 was finally home in Switzerland for Christmas — during a long winter break that saw him complete 18  races across three countries — he knew he needed to relax. So Nef strapped on his skis once more and headed out with his family for a weekend of fun in the Alpine village of Saas-Fee. The sport has a peculiar hold on those who practice it. Skiing pulls you in. If you ski, there’s a good chance your brother skis as well. Maybe you grew up racing against your sister. More than likely, your parents put you on snow before you were 10 and you never left.

“It’s definitely a family affair,” alpine skier James Ferri ’19 said.

This is especially true among skiers at Dartmouth, with its talented ski team and deep roots in the American skiing scene.

An abbreviated list of current Big Green skiers with family connections to the sport includes Peter Fucigna ’21, whose four older sisters raced in college, three for Dartmouth; Lauren Jortberg ’20, whose sister won the 2014 NCAA Championship with the University of Denver; and Foreste Peterson ’18, whose mother was a member of the first class at the Stratton Mountain School and whose sister raced at the University of Colorado. Sisters Meg Currie ’17 and Steph Currie ’20, both on the alpine team, are the latest pair of siblings to race together at Dartmouth.

For Ferri, who grew up spending weekends at his grandparents’ house in Killington, Vermont, ski racing was a natural pastime. He started racing when he was six. He and his two brothers attended Killington Mountain School, a Vermont ski academy. Today, his older brother Michael Ferri races for Colby College, and Paul Ferri is set to race for the Mules in 2020.

A back injury kept James Ferri off the slopes during his first two years at the College. His first-ever race for Dartmouth was the giant slalom at last weekend’s Dartmouth Carnival. James Ferri wore bib 36, while Michael Ferri wore bib 56.

“I saw [Michael Ferri] in inspection and rode the lift with him before I went,” Ferri said. “It was really nice to race against him again because that was actually the only the second time this year that we raced against each other.”

Nordic skier Leah Brams ’20 and her older sister Cate Brams, a senior at Middlebury College, also racing against each other last weekend. The two have been competing together since they were junior skiers on the Cambridge Sports Union Nordic team.

“Skiing is great because it is such a family activity,” said Leah Brams, adding that because the Cambridge Sports Union team took winter training trips, “it evolved into being all of our family vacations were going somewhere to ski for a week.”

Leah Brams said college has brought a different tenor to her relationship with her sister.

With Leah Brams at Dartmouth, a perennial powerhouse in the East, and Cate Brams at Middlebury, which despite a talented roster generally ranks below Dartmouth and the University of Vermont, “there’s an underdog dynamic,” Leah Brams said.

At the same time, Leah Brams noted she and her sister have grown closer together during college. They lived and trained together in Bend, Oregon this past summer, along with a host of other Nordic skiers, including Jortberg and Nordic women’s captain Zoe Snow ’18.

Leah Brams has been able to cheer for her sister as she has turned heads in 2018, finishing in the top-10 six times this season, including a pair of podium performances.

“[Cate Brams] really threw everything she had into [skiing] this year and really blew up in a good way,” Leah Brams said. “It’s so great to see her do so well.”

For Sam Morse ’20, one of several of U.S. Ski Team members that attend Dartmouth, the family connection to skiing goes back three generations.

“My grandfather ... came up to Dartmouth when he was a kid, and [the College was] doing ski camps for kids,” Morse said. “He learned to ski on the Dartmouth golf course.”

Morse’s grandfather went on to attend Dartmouth and built a house in Okemo, a resort area in south-central Vermont. Morse’s father became a skiing junkie in turn, settling in Carrabassett Valley, Maine, home to Sugarloaf Mountain. Sugarloaf, Morse said, is a deep, icy and challenging mountain that molds talented skiers by necessity.

Morse and his older brother were Sugarloafers from birth.

“Skiing is just what you did,” Morse said of growing up in Carrabassett Valley. “The mountain was our playground. Even when we were pretty young, they would just let us go out on the mountain by ourselves.”

Older brother Ben Morse ’14 was an outstanding skier in his own right, a member of the U.S. National Team, four-time competitor at the NCAA Championships and three-time captain of the Dartmouth team.

When Sam Morse got his turn to race, he said his brother’s success made his own career easier. Each took a similar path from Carrabassett Valley Academy to the U.S. Ski Team to Dartmouth. Ben Morse guided his brother in many of the finer aspects of skiing, from tuning skis to navigating corporate sponsorships.

“He was kind of the test dummy,” Sam Morse said. “I wouldn’t be anywhere close to where I am today if it wasn’t for him.”

Nef, a member of Switzerland's national team, is the only member of his family to race at a high level. But in one way or another, his family is invested in the sport. All are capable skiers. Nef’s father is a former ski instructor. His older brother Laszlo Nef is currently a ski instructor and an expert technician who Tanguy Nef consults to help improve his racing.

Tanguy Nef’s younger brother Arsène Nef never took up ski racing, but the two speak every day on the phone and Arsène Nef follows his older brother’s career intently.

“My little brother is my number one fan,” Tanguy Nef said.

A few Dartmouth skiers will go on to race after college. Most will hang up the race bibs and move on to other careers. But that doesn’t mean they will put away their skis. Ski racing is often just the most exciting chapter of a lifelong relationship with the sport.

“Long after I’m done ski racing I look to teach my kids how to ski and go out and enjoy the mountains every day, always out there looking for the perfect snow, the perfect turn,” Sam Morse said. “Every time I come home it’s what we do — we go for a family ski. That’s how I know I’m back home.”

Correction Appended (Feb. 19, 2018):  The original version of this article incorrectly stated that Tanguy Nef skis for the Swedish national team, when in fact he is a member of the Swiss national team. The article has been updated to correct this error.