Contributor: Teddy Katz
Take a closer look at the Canadian athletes on the World Cup circuit, and you’ll notice a new trend when you pore over their bios. Several are balancing post-secondary education at the same time as their skiing.
Years ago, this wasn’t seen as a path to success on the World Cup. But Erik Read, who graduated with a 4.0 grade point average and a degree in Finance from the University of Denver in 2018, says after he saw other athletes like his teammate Trevor Philip continue to ski fast, he was sold.
“Once people realized it was a viable pathway, and it was possible to ski at a high level while getting an education, there’s been a steady flow of athletes,” Read says.
Read himself broke into the top 30 in the world rankings in slalom and giant slalom while still in school.
Roni Remme followed a similar path to the University of Utah. She had never been to Utah but after speaking to coaches there, she decided the mountains and school would be a perfect fit. She helped the university win the NCAA team championship.
She says before the NCAA route was seen more for athletes in traditional sports like football or basketball.
“Skiing is unique in that the NCAA route is almost seen as the "rebel" route, it isn't conventional, and often times it isn't even encouraged. However, I bet you would have a hard time finding any current or past NCAA skier who isn't encouraging others to go the NCAA way.”
Reece Howden is studying at the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology. With the Canadian Ski Cross Team based in Calgary, he says it made it easy for him to go to school here.
“The Canadian Ski Teams are promoting student athletes more because they are seeing that athletes are still producing good results.”
Laurence St. Germain is currently at Polytechnique Montreal hoping to get into the Biomedical Engineering Program, her second degree while on the Canadian team.
“As an athlete and a technology lover, being able to combine the engineering side with the body seems like the best of both worlds,” St. Germain says, adding her dream job would be to work in robotics for a medical company.
St. Germain graduated in 2019 with a degree in computer science from the University of Vermont.
“They had a great team with girls I could watch and try to catch up to, but also they offered flexibility to be able to leave for races and camps.”
Her best memory there was winning the NCAA championship.
All the skiers say juggling the sport and school is a real grind. There are times when the schoolwork piles up, feels overwhelming and it seems impossible to do both.
“It’s definitely not for everyone, but it is possible,” Read says. He adds, “It requires late nights, and a lot of work on planes and car rides. I always made sure that when I was on slopes, I was 100% committed to skiing.”
Remme says the first few years can be extremely difficult. She’s learned that she has to sit down with coaches at the beginning of the year to see which races she might have to miss. She also had to communicate with her professors.
“More than once I have had professors tell me before a class started that based on my schedule there's no way I could pass their class, and now I kind of laugh when I get that message and think to myself, "not only will I pass, but I'm going to be at the top of your class."
Reece Howden says the hardest part for him has been missing races.
“Watching your teammates racing and doing well while you are sitting in a lecture hall is not easy.”
St. Germain says she recently had a flight booked to go to Europe to join the team on a Sunday and was scheduled to write a physics exam two days later on a Tuesday afternoon.
“Our flight got cancelled so we were now arriving Tuesday morning in Europe! By the time we drove to the hotel, it was already 3 pm so I had to take my exam right away.”
Read says for one of his projects at university, he missed the first five weeks of the winter term because of skiing. When he went to his first class and met his groupmates, they had to make a presentation within the first 15 minutes.
Remme says even though it can be a logistical nightmare, having something other than skiing to focus on really helped her.
“It is a little bit counter intuitive, but in a way having the stress of school helps to alleviate the stress that is brought on from skiing. I think it helps me ski more freely and enjoy my time on the hill because it feels like an escape from the work I have to do at school.”
Remme adds, “I have become a better student of the sport and learned how to appreciate the journey and process a lot more than just the results.”
Read says being a student athlete taught him important soft skills such as time management, discipline and focus. He encourages other young skiers to perhaps write their SAT after finishing high school and to reach out and message the ski coaches at the school they are interested in attending.
“You’ll always hear about all the hard work that’s required, but it’s also a ton of fun!”
“I encourage all young skiers to consider pursuing an education while they also pursue their athletic dreams! It won't be easy, and at times it may not even seem possible, but I promise it'll be worth it.”