Alpine ski team at nationals: Fun on and off the hill

The Wisconsin Hoofer Alpine Ski Team last week competed in the U.S. Collegiate Ski and Snowboard Association National Championships at Mount Bachelor in Oregon, after qualifying at a regional competition. The Weekly caught up with team members to reflect on a thrilling season.

Team members are part of the Hoofer Ski and Snowboard Club, one of six clubs that make up the Wisconsin Hoofers. Hoofers is UW-Madison’s oldest and largest student organization, with more than 2,500 members.

University Communications interviewed team members from Hoofer Ski and Snowboard Club to discuss their passion for skiing and the future of the team. Answers have been edited.

Q: How long have you been doing this sport?

  • Megan McMahon (Team Captain): I have been ski racing since I was 5 years old! My whole family races, so I didn’t really have a choice to not!
  • Erica Engstrand: I’ve been skiing since I was 4 and started racing when I was 6.
  • Carly Rogers: I have skied since I was 5, but I started racing in high school.
  • Chris Johns (Director): I didn’t start racing until my senior year of high school, but I’ve been skiing since I was about 8.

Q: What initially drew you to this sport? What made you interested in joining this particular club?

  • Johns: I always liked skiing for fun, and some friends of mine in high school were on the team and suggested I join. Honestly, as a freshman I never intended on joining the team, but a friend of mine made me come with to the info meeting. One thing led to another and now I’m the director. I guess somewhere along the way I fell in love with the sport and the people.

Q: What makes alpine skiing (or snowboarding) unique from other sports on campus? And what do you enjoy most about it?

  • McMahon: What makes the sport unique is that it is mostly an individual sport.  There is a team aspect to it, but you are racing against your teammates.  It is also fun because it is very easy to get to know other teams.
  • Engstrand: I agree that it’s unique because it is individual, but my favorite part is that you aren’t just racing for yourself, your individual placement goes towards how well your team does against other teams. It was different for me growing up racing because it is an individual sport.

Q: Where is your favorite place to ski and why?

  • McMahon: Alta in Utah. I love it because there is a lot of fun terrain!
  • Engstrand: Breckenridge, Colorado. My family has been going to vacations there since I was little. I learned how to ski on that hill. There’s a variety of terrain so you can take people of all levels and still apres ski after!
  • Johns: I love Big Sky Montana — it’s stunning and the hill is huge and never crowded. It feels like you have the mountain to yourself.

Q: What are your goals for the future? Personally or for the team as a whole

  • Engstrand: It’s my last year on the team and I’m pretty proud to have been on a women’s team that has qualified for nationals each year. The most exciting this is that the guys qualified this year and for the first time in a long time our team all got to go to nationals. I hope that the team can keep up the good work and qualify as a whole!

Q: What is one of your favorite experiences with the team/club?

  • Rogers: One of my favorite memories was at Marquette this year. At the end of the race almost everyone rode to the very top and took a “shirtless run.” It was a huge mob of Wisconsin racers cruising down the hill in the sunny, warm weather.

Q:  Is there anything you would like people to know about the Hoofers and the Alpine Ski Club?

  • McMahon: Everyone should join because it makes winter my favorite season!
  • Engstrand: It’s a great group of people who know how to have a good time on skis. You can’t beat car rides and weekend getaways with your friends. If you’re looking to make some memories in college, join the ski team!
  • Rodgers: I think it important to know that it is not always all about the racing. We have so much fun on AND off the hill, so it does not matter how good of a racer you are.
  • Johns: Hoofers is like a hidden gem at the university that everyone should know about. They offer so many great resources for students, literally anything outdoorsy you can think of Hoofers probably has a club for or offers rental/lessons to students for cheap. You can sail/ski/bike/camp and climb for cheap and meet great people along the way.
  • Members of the UW-Madison alpine ski team, from left to right, include Carly Rogers, Shelby Orcutt, Zoey Rugel, Caroline Maahs and Matthew Munts.

    Members of the UW-Madison alpine ski team, from left to right, include Carly Rogers, Shelby Orcutt, Zoey Rugel, Caroline Maahs and Matthew Munts.


  • For the women’s team, Juliana Damberg placed 12th in the Giant Slalom, Kristen Johnson was 37th, Berit Thorson was 41st and Megan McMahon was 63rd. In the team Giant Slalom, UW-Madison was 10th out of 20 teams. In the slalom, Damberg placed 26th, Erica Engstrand was 28th, Thorson was 32nd and Johnston was 54th. In the team slalom, UW-Madison was 8th out of 20 teams.
  • For the men’s team, Josh Liberko placed 34th in the giant slalom, Eric Stine placed 47th and Jens Mellby 57th. In the team Giant Slalom, UW-Madison was 12th out of 20. In the slalom, Mellby was 56th, Liberko was 63rd and Will Kirkpatrick was 67th, In the team slalom, UW-Madison was 18th out of 20.

— Kelsey O’Hara