By Guy Middleton, Northwood School’s Alpine Program Director from 1993 – 2014.
College selection may be one of the most important decisions a Northwood student has to make. There are a number of important factors to consider, one of which is whether or not the student-athlete wants skiing to be a part of his/her college life and if so, to what extent.
There are two organizations that govern collegiate skiing, NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association) and USCSA (United States Collegiate Ski and Snowboard Association).
NCAA skiing is divided into three regions, East (EISA), Central (CISA), and Rocky Mountain (RMISA). Approximately 30 colleges participate in NCAA and are Division I, II and III institutes. With a few exceptions, primarily Central, NCAA Alpine teams are very competitive. NCAA competes in Alpine and Nordic disciplines. NCAA schools participate in FIS (Federation of International Skiing) sanctioned races and have an individual qualification process for competition at the National level. The National competition alternates from the West to East region each year. In 2009, Northwood had 7 students participating in NCAA skiing. Furthermore, two of these athletes qualified to the NCAA Nationals.
- NCAA: www.ncaa.com/sports/c-ski/ncaa-c-ski-body.html
- NCAA East: www.eisaskiing.org
- NCAA Central: www.ccsaski.com
- NCAA West: www.rmisaskiing.com
USCSA governs approximately 90% of collegiate skiing and has more than 180 college teams in 20 different states. The nation is broken into nine regions. There is a wide variety of talent and ability competing in USCSA. Skiers range from former National team members whereas others have never raced before. USCSA compete in alpine, Nordic, and snowboarding disciplines. Schools are Division I, II, and III NCAA and NAIA institutions. Some USCSA teams are considered varsity-level while others are club teams. Varsity programs typically offer full funding to the athletes including coaching, race entry, travel expenses, etc. The club teams often receive less funding and the coaching ranges from student driven, school advisors to professional coaching. USCSA has both a team and an individual qualifying process from conference to regional to National championships. The Champions alternate from East to West each year. Northwood has had numerous athletes in past years compete at the USCSA Nationals. There are a surprising number of schools that offer USCSA competitive skiing.
We can easily see how Northwood skiers stack up against collegiate skiers and prospective teams by using National USSA and International FIS points. Skiers can simply locate team rosters from the college of their choice, look at the school’s athletic website, and compare point profiles on the USSA or FIS web site.
It is not uncommon for Northwood skiers to compete against collegiate skiers head to head throughout the season, especially on the FIS or Eastern Cup circuit. This is another opportunity for our skiers to see where they might stand.
Participation at the elite college level can be challenging. For example NCAA schools in the east may only have one or two openings per school for freshman each year. When you consider the total number of prep schools and ski academies trying to place skiers into college, it can be quite competitive. Often these openings are filled by older athletes who have chosen to PG, to gain more experience in order to make the team.
Regardless of the level of ability, all Northwood skiers can participate at the collegiate level if they so choose. Whether it club or varsity team, with some research, Northwood college guidance and coach’s direction, there is the right school for you.