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July 28, 2004

Uphill Battle For College Ski Team

FROM THE DOWNSIDE SOMETIMES ASSOCIATED WITH A DOWNHILL SPORT comes word from Colorado’s Western State College of a fiscal crisis involving its vaunted skiing team.

Western State--the smallest state school competing in NCAA skiing—is looking hard at cutting its ski program. The numbers have been bleak. State budget cuts have sliced $150,000 from the athletic department.

Losing a ski program would seem to be a ho-hum to most schools. But in the Rocky Mountain state, skiing approaches a religion. “[For] Western State [to] lose skiing would be more profound than if Notre Dame dropped football," said Phil Klingsmith, a former coach at the school, and a former gubernatorial candidate.

But Western is trying something different to save the ski program. It is looking into the possibility of being supported entirely by private money.

This self-sufficiency model is not a breakthrough concept. According to the NCAA, about three dozen university sports programs are self-supporting. However, these are all big-time schools with big time teams.

Funding individual teams with private donations is not a new concept either. In recent years, such schools as Fresno State (men's soccer, cross-country and indoor track), Dartmouth College (aquatics teams), Minnesota (golf, gymnastics) and Cornell (baseball) have successfully embarked upon successful fundraising program.

Skiing, however, is a rather conspicuous sport to be saved from the cutting block at a state institution. Never known for ever being the common man’s pastime, skiing has increasingly become a sport of the well-heeled.
Pleading poverty for such a perceived elitist diversion could be seen as hypocritical for a state institution.

Indeed, the cost-per-participant for college skiing is a sky-high $10,000 per athlete per year.

But if skiing can be presented as “mainstream” anywhere, then Colorado is the place. Schussing is Western State College’s signature sport--as well as part of the fabric of central Colorado culture.

More later . . .

(this 312 word excerpt—with accompanying commentary—was distilled from a 2015 word article from Westword.com of 7-22-04)