Ski and board attends nationals, battles harsh weather conditions


Senior Meghan Gillis races down the slope during women’s alpine at nationals, where she finished 11th. (Photo courtesy of Meghan Gillis ’23)

The ski and board team attended nationals in Mammoth, California the week leading up to spring break. The women’s alpine team came 12th out of 26 teams, with senior Meghan Gillis finishing 11th individually and making second-team All-American.

Hazardous weather marked the trip, as a record-breaking amount of snow blanketed the West Coast over the course of the competition.

“We were scheduled to compete both with our freestyle teams and our alpine teams throughout the week, and [Mammoth] got insane storms, they were getting so much snow,” senior alpine skier Tate Gordon said. “This year, the East Coast isn’t really getting any snow, so our race experiences over here have been pretty lackluster, whereas … in the town of Mammoth you couldn’t see anything because it was so snowy.”

The athletes had registration on Monday, March 6. What was supposed to be a training day turned into a “powder day” because there was multiple feet of snow.

“There was all this fresh snow and everyone was navigating the mountain. Everyone was so excited to be exploring this new area that we didn’t really know a lot about,” Gordon said.

On Tuesday night, there was an opening ceremony. The women’s giant slalom competition, which was scheduled for Wednesday, was ultimately canceled due to the extreme weather. Senior club president Sebastian Wallach said that the women were ready to compete, but they got to the top of the racecourse and the conditions were too dangerous.

“It was a full-on whiteout. You couldn’t see the features in front of you,” he said.

Thursday was both the women’s and men’s slalom competitions. In addition to competing in slalom, senior Anna Boggess competed in boardercross, a snowboard competition.

The team left California after those races because another incoming snowstorm caused cancelations for the rest of the week.

Although it was disheartening for those who did not get to compete after sacrificing a lot to be at Mammoth – including missing the week of classes before spring break – the team kept a positive attitude and remained grateful for the experience.

“We were frustrated, but at the same time … you really can’t do much about all that snow,” Wallach said.

“I think we could have been discouraged with the schedule changes, but everyone took it really well and we just had so much fun as a team,” Gordon added.

While Lafayette has historically done well in its region – with the women’s alpine team boasting a back-to-back-to-back regional champion title – the competition at nationals was especially strong.

“It was definitely a different field than we’re used to just because it’s all the best teams in the nation,” Gordon said.

“The western schools are basically varsity-level ski teams in some cases,” Wallach said.

Nevertheless, Gillis still managed to be a standout in the women’s alpine.

“Gillis ended up coming in eleventh overall out of like 130 female racers, which is unreal,” Gordon said.

This finish was good enough to upgrade Gillis from a regional champion to second-team All-American status.

Wallach said that his favorite memory from the trip actually came from when the team was having transportation issues.

“We landed in Bishop, California … it’s this tiny little town. There was just mountains everywhere, it was a beautiful blue sky day. With our transportation delays because of the storm, we ended up hanging out at the airport for like two hours,” he said. “There was like barely any room inside, there was no food … So we ended up hanging out in the baggage claim … We were playing good music … just looking at the surroundings like, ‘We actually made it to Nationals.’ And that was a really good feeling.”

Unfortunately for the seniors who have put so much time and effort into this club, nationals concluded their ski racing careers.

“I’ve been skiing since I was two, racing since I was five or six,” Gordon said. “Freshman year, the ski team just made my Lafayette experience so I’ve been doing it ever since. Overall, it was a really fun experience. It was probably one of the coolest mountains I’ve ever been to. It’s definitely bittersweet, but we went out in a good way.”

Wallach, who has been on the ski team since stepping onto campus, echoed Gordon’s comments.

“I’m sad to see it come to an end, but I’m also happy to have been a part of it,” he said.