Ski & snowboard team gearing up for season on the slopes
This week’s snowfall throughout Virginia and much of the East Coast has put Liberty University’s ski & snowboard team in the right frame of mind for the start of its 10th season as a Club Sports program.
The team has earned top-five national finishes in the last few seasons and has high hopes in preparation for the 40th annual USCSA National Championships this March in Lake Placid, N.Y., site of the 1980 Winter Olympics.
Their season officially kicks off this weekend at Beech Mountain Resort in North Carolina, where the team will compete against skiers and riders from Appalachian State, Bridgewater, Duke, East Carolina, George Mason, James Madison, Leeds-McCray, North Carolina, North Carolina State, Virginia, Virginia Tech, and Washington & Lee at the spring semester’s first United States Collegiate Ski and Snowboard Association (USCSA) Southeast Conference competition.
Both the ski and snowboard squads have six travel-team members, led by senior snowboarder Garrett Long and four returning skiers — junior Jonathan Wong, freshman Cole Loomis, sophomores John Hunt and Chris Yablonski, and senior Andrew Garafolo.
“We have a very strong camaraderie on the team this year, with the new guys adding a lot of excitement and energy,” said Head Coach Isaac Gibson (’15). “The guys are very hungry to get better and they feed off each other and push each other to go for tricks they’ve never done before. Hopefully, they’ll be able to bring the same level of riding they’ve shown at Liberty Mountain Snowflex Centre (LMSC, Liberty's year-round ski and snowboard facility) out to the larger competition slopes, and we’ll be able to place well as a team.”
Gibson emphasizes the spiritual element of his riders’ development and encourages them to share their faith on the slopes.
“We have a lot of really strong-spoken guys with a lot of energy on the team, and I’m really excited to see them out on the hill being a light for His Kingdom, pouring out Jesus’ love into others’ lives on the slopes,” he said.
Flames fans will have a chance to see the home team compete on campus in February, when it hosts two competitions at LMSC — a USCSA Southeast Conference Slopestyle event on Feb. 17 and a Big Air competition on Feb. 18. The LMSC will also put on a Big Air and Rail Jam competition called “Air Dogs and Rail Hogs” on April 28.
“The Rail Jam will look very similar to the Snowflex Games that we’ve hosted in the past, but we’re going to make it a community event,” LMSC General Manager Ryan Leeds said. “It will be rider-focused with prize money involved, but we want to make sure it’s enjoyable to watch.”
The event will feature food trucks, live music, and games for children.
“We want to create an atmosphere where they can come with their families and see good riding and skiing," Leeds added.
LMSC offers children's lesson year-round. Last year, it started four-week freestyle-focused developmental programs on Saturdays in the spring, summer, and fall, with quality instruction from experienced riders and skiers and snowboard instructors. LMSC's Next Level Summer Camps continue to grown in popularity every year.
To follow the team's progress, visit the Club Sports webpage.
To view LMSC hours of operation and schedule a visit with your family, go to Liberty.edu/Snowflex.