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Ski and snowboard teams sliding off the slopes?

High school snow-sports struggle to stay
By: Sara Seyydin Journal Staff Writer
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Students in the Auburn-area may soon find their snow-sport options are limited at local high schools. Placer and Colfax High Schools have already started fundraising to save their ski and snowboard teams. Bear River High is evaluating whether they will offer the sports at all this season, according to athletic director Duwaine Ganskie. Funding shortages and the more strict enforcement of pay-to-play practices have made it increasingly difficult for all athletics programs to stay viable. More expensive sports, like ski and snowboard, face even more challenges. Bear River re-evaluates Bear River High ski coach Janis Serrano said she is waiting to see if the school decided to keep the team. “We are currently waiting for the school to tell us if the team is being cut,” Serrano said. “They don’t want to pick up the cost if parents can’t afford it. I don’t even know if we have a team yet.” Ganskie said that while all athletics programs are under review, it is not the cost of running ski and snowboard programs that would put it on the chopping block. It’s the resources needed to keep the teams running versus the amount of students that participate. “It’s a little early for me to comment on that. Obviously all athletics are under review. There is an evaluation process going on,” Ganskie said. “Are we able to offer that program safely? Are we best serving the kids?” Bear River offers so many sports currently, that it may not have the managerial resources to maintain them all, according to Ganskie. “We have girls and boys water polo. We are the only one that offers a full array of sports,” Ganskie said. “We are smaller than Placer and a little bigger than Colfax. We might just be spread a little thin.” At this point the discussion is at the administration level. Ganskie said the decision will have to be made by the time the winter sports season begins in November. Colfax springs into action Janet Goodrich, a Colfax High ski parent is helping to plan fundraisers to keep the Falcons team on the slopes. She said it would affect the Colfax and Placer kids as well if Bear River eliminated their team. “We really hope Placer and Bear River can keep their teams, too. It really adds to the fun,” Goodrich said. “All of these kids get to know each other and ski at the same races. It’s a good, friendly competition. A lot of these kids race against each other for their schools, but ski together on resort teams or for the Auburn Ski Club.” Goodrich said the team has already finished planning a Wine Tasting event next month at Basement Cellars in Colfax and may put on a ski-a-thon. She said the team has to have a certain amount of money before the school will allow them to proceed with a team. “It’s a huge concern. We are already starting to fundraise,” said Colfax ski coach Jeff Scott. “I’m trying to take a proactive role. You are a small fish in a deep pond. There is only so much our small community can do.” Scott said fundraising for athletics may be oversaturated in the area right now. Even still, he hopes the team will pull through. Funds are needed for race entry fees, transportation, mandatory coach stipends, season passes to practice resorts. That doesn’t include the cost of skis and gear. The Colfax Snowboard team is the reigning state champion. Colfax Snowboard coach Brian Kirkegaard said he isn’t sure he will be able to stay as head coach this year, but won’t leave the program unless he finds the right successor. Currently, he said the team doesn’t plan on fundraising. “We are trying to find the best possible solution,” Kirkegaard said. “It usually doesn’t help fundraising with all of the money we need.” Instead Kirkegaard is looking carefully at the budget and cutting wherever possible. For example, eliminating bus transportation and minimizing the number of resorts the team purchases season passes to. All systems a-go for Placer? Placer High Ski coach Matt Connley said at this he doesn’t foresee the team being cut or budget problems being insurmountable. Although, fundraising and participation will be crucial. Athletes like recent Placer graduate Karly Kenworthy, the reigning three-time skiing state champion, wouldn’t have the opportunity to compete for Placer, without a ski team. Connley said the problem may lie in the fact that ski and snowboard programs may be easier to eliminate than other sports because they are combined male and female teams. “Skiing is a male/female sport. Any sport that has both males and females is easier to cut because of Title 9,” Connley said. Title 9 regulations mandate there an equal amount of resources be dedicated to male and female sports. Overall he said the state should be able to find a way to fund athletic programs. “It provides so much more opportunity for youth and many young kids. You can’t take away an athletic program and say it’s not education. It’s part of a public education,” Connley said. “I’m sorry that the state can’t figure out how to pay for these programs. It seems like they can do it for a lot of other interesting things.” Reach Sara Seyydin at saras@goldcountrymedia.com.