University of Nevada, Reno NCAA skiing is back and collegiate skiing couldn’t be more excited. The Rocky Mountain Intercollegiate Ski Association, RMISA, lost a valuable partner when the University of New Mexico decided to eliminate its ski team after the 2019 season. Regrettably, UNM’s departure significantly reduced the number of skiing roster spots and available scholarships. Thankfully, UNM’s departure coincided with the entry of Westminster College. Their addition significantly contributed by adding a new team and providing valuable roster spots for athletes. Unfortunately, however, Westminster College doesn’t offer athletic scholarships. Therefore, adding the Division 1 University of Nevada, Reno means the addition of a team, roster spots and an opportunity for more skiing scholarships. The Wolf Pack’s return to NCAA skiing is, undoubtedly, one of the best things to happen to US ski racing in recent history.
UNR President and former Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval states, “We are very excited about the return of NCAA skiing to UNR.” Sandoval’s decision to bring back NCAA skiing to Nevada is wonderful for collegiate skiing and will also greatly contribute to the success of regional development programs.
The story began in 1936
UNR entered collegiate skiing in 1936 through the leadership of Palisades Tahoe founder Wayne Poulsen. In 1954 when the NCAA decided to include skiing among its sports, UNR’s ski team became a charter member. When considering NCAA skiing history, it is essential to note that UNR hosted the first ever NCAA Skiing National Championships. However, UNR eliminated its NCAA program after the 2010-11 season due to challenges that included Title IX compliance issues. With the announcement of the Wolf Pack’s return, everyone who loves college skiing is excited.
The return of elite collegiate athletes to the local area will also benefit the regional development programs. Access to higher-level racers and their competitions often inspires developing athletes to believe in what’s possible.
Travis Ganong is a two-time Olympian, World Championship medalist and multiple World Cup Downhill winner from Palisades Tahoe. Ganong says, “As a kid, I grew up training alongside top collegiate athletes from UNR. Certainly, those sessions helped elevate my skiing to where it is today. Bringing NCAA skiing back to UNR will inspire a higher level of competitive ski racing in our entire region. We have some of the best skiing in the world and produce some of our nation’s best racers right here. We deserve a top-level NCAA team.”
SNU and UNR merge to become the Wolf Pack
One of the catalysts for reinstating the UNR NCAA program came in 2021. It was then Sierra Nevada University merged with the University of Nevada, Reno. This merger inspired UNR to consider the future of their ski team.
Notably, SNU has a rich history of alpine racing. The SNU Eagles have consistently been among the best USCSA teams in the country. Additionally, the ski racing program has always attracted excellent students.
Consequently, the list of elite world-class racers who have skied for SNU is too long to mention. However, it would be a mistake not to acknowledge one, Uroš Pavlovčič. Notably, the 1999 graduate proved that after four years of skiing with SNU, it was possible to ski at a world-class level. In 2001, Pavlovčič finished third while competing in the Kranjska Gora World Cup GS.
UNR hopes to add to its history of collegiate skiing excellence by combining it with the legacy of the SNU Eagles. For the 2022-23 season, the team will be reintroduced to the NCAA as the UNR Wolf Pack alpine program. However, during the following 2023-24 season, the Wolf Pack hopes to reinstate its NCAA Nordic team.
Bill Hudson is another local Olympian and former World Cup racer who became a coach after his racing career. Hudson comments, “Bringing NCAA skiing back to UNR is a massive benefit for our local athletes. The opportunity to again pursue the highest level of athletics and academics in the Sierra Nevada Mountains will benefit many of our regional ski racers. It is going to be inspirational.”
Planning has been a collaboration of industry experts
The UNR athletic department provides excellent resources; however, they are turning to a group of industry experts for guidance. The advisory committee has already reached out to partner with six different regional ski areas to establish training agreements. The intention is to provide world-class training while significantly reducing operational costs.
Head coach Mihaela Kosi is excited to lead the team for a second year and guide the UNR transition to the highest level of collegiate competition.
Additionally, a group of boosters and alumni are being assembled to create the financial support that will allow the Wolf Pack to compete with the best collegiate programs in the country. Expect the return to NCAA skiing to include some missed steps. However, expect UNR to immediately attract some of the world’s best collegiate ski racers.
Without a doubt, UNR’s willingness to provide additional opportunities for student-athletes to pursue NCAA skiing is welcome news. The US ski racing community can’t wait to see the Wolf Pack competing with the Pioneers, Buffalos, Utes, Bobcats, Griffins, and Seawolves.