Supporting the slopesPublished 11:42am Thursday, January 24, 2013
With such a focus on basketball and hockey every winter, other local sports teams face being overlooked. Along with their focus on the slopes, the Lakes Area Alpine Ski Team is looking to put the word out on their building success this season.
A consolidation of five area high schools, LAAST brings together students from Fergus Falls, Alexandria, Chokio-Alberta, West-Central and Wheaton-Herman-Norcross. As a fully recognized sport by each high school, each skier has the opportunity to earn varsity letters.
The difference for LAAST compared to other sports teams, however, is their funding. As an independent provider sport, each family is responsible for funding their athlete.
With the team traveling to hills like Powder Ridge in St. Cloud and Welch Village in Red Wing, not to mention equipment costs, the sport can become expensive.
Kim Neuleib, mother of junior skier Madi Neuleib, knows how quickly that can add up. “We have to pay for our own bussing, our own hotel room and for the coaches, so it can be expensive. But you do what you have to for your kids.”
But with the success the team’s skiers have had this season, the effort has been worth it.
“We’ve had many racers place in the top 10 at different meets, so they are doing very well,” said Neuleib.
Along with individual success this season, the sport has brought together athletes and their families and friends.
“We didn’t start out as a skiing family, but the kid’s interest has made us interested. Other families are as well,” said Neuleib.
The team hopes to spread this enthusiasm to the community when they host a D-Team race on Jan. 26 at 10 a.m. The race will be hosted by Andes Tower Hills.
Their only fundraising event of the year, LAAST will display a banner at the race with a list of businesses that donate to the program. Along with the money from businesses, the team hopes a showing from the community will also raise funds.
Most of all, parents and athletes alike wish to share the excitement of their sport with fans and interested newcomers.
“People are aware that we have a cross country team,” said Neuleib, “but I’m not sure people realize we have a downhill team. We’d like people to know what we have in the area and that it’s a great sport to come out and watch.”