Sac State ski and snowboard team anticipates the arrival of winter

Team has a new president in senior Justin Tran


Nigel Rayyan

Members of the Sac State ski and snowboard team pose for a photo at the weekly Thursday meeting. The team participates in both alpine and slope/freestyle events.

“It is about feeling free and expressing yourself, it really is an art,” said Justin Tran, Sac State ski and snowboard team president, about the two sports.

“The feeling of frolicking in nature and gazing out at the serene snow-covered mountains is perfect therapy,” Tran said. “It’s its own lifestyle, getting up before the sun, stretching, and then taking a nice slash on the fresh powder, it’s like riding on air.”

Tran, a senior political science major, has taken the reigns as president of the Sac State ski and snowboard team this semester. Though it’s only his second year on the team, Tran said he has over a decade of experience snowboarding and proved himself worthy through his activity in the group.  

From participating in philanthropy events to spending weekends with the team at their cabin by Lake Tahoe, Tran said he showed both the passion and organizational ability to reinvigorate the ski and snowboard team. The team has been competitively dormant for the last two years due to a combination of unfortunate weather and logistical setbacks according to Tran. 

Tran described the ski and snowboard team as the more competitive counterpart to Sac State’s Ski and Snowboard Club, which focuses more on the social aspects of snow sports. 

According to Tran, one of his major goals is to establish a formal relationship between the two organizations. The relationship would include attaining the same discount passes from resorts for both the team and the club. 

Trans also wants both organizations to work together on events such as the Ski Swap, a fundraiser that takes place every year before the start of the ski and snowboard season. At the swap, club and team members sell their older gear to raise money and allow newcomers to either sport to get equipment at a discounted price.

Courtesy of Justin Tran
Senior political science major Justin Tran gets some air during last year’s ski and snowboard season. Tran is in his first semester as team president.

The ski and snowboard team practices and participates in both Alpine and Snowboard & Freeski style events under the United States Collegiate Ski and Snowboard Association. The members take part in local, regional and national competitions, all under USCSA.

Alpine events include Slalom, Giant Slalom and Dual Slalom.  Alpine events are characterized by racing down tracks and around poles or through gates called slaloms as fast as possible.

Slopestyle courses, part of the Snowboard & Freeski category under USCSA, are littered with different types of ramps, rails, jumps and other obstacles. Instead of racing toward a finish line, competitors compete to perform as many tricks as possible while going down the slope and scoring points based on the difficulty of the tricks and other criteria.

The team boasts access to its own cabin during the season, which starts in early November and ends in July depending on snowfall. The cabin is conveniently located by resorts covered under the Ikon Pass ticket bundle, including Squaw Valley, Alpine Meadows, Mammoth Lake and many others.

The team travels to the mountains every weekend. Team meetings are held every Thursday night to get a headcount of which members plan to take the trip that weekend and organize carpools. The team meets at Sac State and drives together on Friday mornings, rides the mountains all day Saturday and heads home late Sunday afternoon.

During the week, the team meets on the third floor of the library to relax and do school work together. Tran said this gives the members a chance to help each other out in both sports and academics and allows them to just hang out together and build camaraderie.

Tran said he recognized there’s a stigma surrounding the team that they take the sport too seriously and a misconception that it’s intimidating and exclusive.

“Anyone can join,” he said. “There’s no tryouts. Everyone is encouraged to compete, but there’s no pressure. (The team is) primarily snowboarders, but there’s some skiers too. The sport is naturally diversifying, so we’re seeing more female participation. We try to keep a welcoming vibe and encourage everyone.”

Cutting down the barrier to entry by offering discounted gear during the Ski Swap is one of the ways the ski and snowboard team is working to foster a more inclusive atmosphere.

RELATED: Longest-running club about more than snow

To put the cost into perspective, a new member starting with nothing can expect to spend $600 on their snowboard, bindings and boots. The team also requires $400 for yearly dues, which include unlimited access to the team’s cabin, any competition fees and team swag. There is an additional $399 cost for the discounted Ikon Pass which typically ranges from $600 to $1000.  

The team does its best to offset these costs by providing lender gear while supplies last and offering payment plans so costs can be paid over the course of a semester rather than all upfront. The team also does its best to hook members up with winter season jobs by the cabin.

Nigel Rayyan
From left to right, seniors, Max Arnold, Julian Matocq and Brady Gardner pose for a photo with their gear at a meeting. The trio said they look forward to “cutting some fresh powder” at the start of the snow sport season.

Justine Lamb, a sophomore Psychology major, is no stranger to competitive snow sports as she competed in alpine skiing during high school. This semester, Lamb is in charge of the team’s philanthropic outreach. 

She says the work is important to building connections with the wider community as well as reaching out to younger students.

“(The team) is a great starting point for snow sports,” Lamb said. “You can come from LA and have never seen snow before. We’ll help you find cheap gear. We have a lot of talented members to help you out.”

Ellen Bezanson, a freshman political science major recently joined the team after meeting them at a Move-in Day event.

At 18, Bezanson has been skiing for over 10 years. She recalled being encouraged to approach the team by her mother. Bezanson said the team represented her first opportunity to compete in snow sports, which wasn’t possible growing up in the Bay Area.  

“I was intimidated at first,” Bezanson said. “But talking to them, they were inclusive and really care about your comfort level. In these last two months, we’ve become close friends and I’m even closer friends with my girlfriends from high school who joined at the same time I did.”

RELATED: Snow club students manage school time and competitions in the weekend

Bezanson said that she’s excited about the team’s cabin and said its proximity to several resorts means that she’ll be able to ski much more often.

“It’s almost like flying,” she said of skiing. “The wind rushing against my face while I’m going down the mountain. I feel smooth, like a force of nature. It’s an adrenaline rush, but it’s not quite to the level of skydiving. It’s an awesome sport that doubles as a hobby.”

The ski and snowboard team meets every Thursday at 6:30 p.m. in the University Union, though the room the meeting is held in changes from week to week. Anyone interested in joining the team is encouraged to visit their Instagram or locate and attend one of the meetings.