Speed racers

University of Nevada, Reno’s Winter Sports Club fosters friendship and competition on the slopes

“I’ve been skiing since I was like, 1 and a half,” says Wehan, pictured. “My parents were holding me up on skis.”

“I’ve been skiing since I was like, 1 and a half,” says Wehan, pictured. “My parents were holding me up on skis.”

Bryce Wehan is a senior biology student at the University of Nevada, Reno and the vice president of the UNR Winter Sports Club. He’s been a competitive skier since he was a child, and has competed in National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) and the United States Collegiate Ski and Snowboard Association (USCSA) races around the country.

Tell me about the Winter Sports Club.

It got started two years ago. It was a reaction to the NCAA team being cut from the university. … The winter sports club is a college league, but it’s a college league at a lower level. It’s not NCAA or part of any divisions of the NCAA, it’s USCSA. The USCSA league, for instance, Sierra [Nevada] College [and Sierra College in Rocklin. Calif.] is part of it, [University of California,] Davis is a part, I think [University of California,] Berkeley is a part.

Not bad company to be in.

No, it’s nice. We see Sierra [Nevada] College as the most professional one around. They have the best set up for a USCSA league in the Tahoe area, and we started this trying to create a secondary, high level group. And so that’s why we have NCAA members. But our time is coming up since we’re all graduating, and basically, it’s transitioning now over to non-NCAA members, to people who we’re trying to get to run the club for future years. So obviously, it will go down a skill level, but the whole point is to try to get the club sustainable.

Since you’re called the winter sports club, what sports does that entail?

Basically, it entails the skiing side of things—alpine racing, cross-country skiing, freestyle as in park and pipe, and ski jump, so for anyone who wants to ski jump for the league. On the snowboard side, we have alpine, park and pipe, and we also have boardercross. [Boardercross consists of four snowboarders racing on an incline course.] So we’ve got the skier and boarder side of things, and as a winter sports club, we’re trying to make it all-encompassing for everyone. So even if we are NCAA members who ski, and that’s our focus, we would like the winter sports club to be for anyone who wants to do anything involving the mountains during the winter. We want it to be a big gigantic club that can have a big gigantic community. So getting that word out and getting certain people to head up those tracks is the most difficult part.

So the skill level includes everyone.

Right. The skill level, it’s starting off really high, and sort of going down into a wide range. A lot of NCAA members who have spent a decade and a half racing and participating in competition, they’re going to be leaving. We’ll have less veteran athletes next year and thereafter, but the whole point is to hopefully get skiers from the community involved. We have, what, 13 mountains, at least? There’s a huge community of people here at UNR.

What’s competition like?

Competition starts at the end of January. Basically, we have four competitions that are in the area, in the Tahoe area—one at Diamond Peak, one at Squaw, Sugar Bowl, and another one back at Diamond Peak. For those four weekends, there’s a race each day, so eight altogether. The way the competition system works for points and ranking and all that, it doesn’t mean a lot until the regionals. It’s like go and have fun and race and just go out and do it, and you need to go to four of the races to make it to regionals. You don’t rank anywhere, you just have to start for those two weekends. At regionals, I think it’s like the top four or five people from the top two teams. Whoever makes it on the top two for that makes it to nationals. This year, our nationals are at Sun Valley. Last year they were in Maine. I did not go, but we had a few younger [students] that got the opportunity to go, which I preferred.

How well does UNR do every year?

For the first couple years, we were very competitive with Sierra [Nevada] College. And I think one of our cross-country members, Elias Bucher, he won nationals solo for cross-country. We have a couple other titles for the last couple years. There’s definitely some rankings at nationals we’ve acquired.

So we do pretty well.

Yeah. We definitely do pretty well.