The decision of the Regents of the University of New Mexico to cancel the ski program is puzzling and warrants a second look.
The ski team is, firstly, a justifiable point of pride in the athletic program, the only team to finish consistently in top tier of college competition nationally. Secondly, it represents a shoe-string investment. Unlike basketball and football, it has no physical facility to support. The majority of its modest budget is tuition, which goes right back to the university, and it amortizes a significant portion of its expenses by money it raises independently of the university budget. The Ultimate Ski and Snowboard Challenge and the annual golf tournament alone raise around $30,000, and local ski area support (ski passes, free use of area training facilities) is conservatively estimated to run in excess of $50,000.
Furthermore, the ski team is virtually the only promotion that New Mexico skiing — a $400-million industry — gets out of state. When I was a ski patroller in Michigan and regional advisor for Nordic skiing, the only reason the skiing public was even aware that people skied in New Mexico was the UNM Ski Team. (In the Mid-west it is widely assumed that the Rocky Mountains stop abruptly at the Colorado border.)
Finally, cancellation of the ski program will have a significant impact on local economies. The Lobo Invitational in Red River hosts teams from Alaska, Wyoming, Utah, Colorado and Montana. The loss to restaurants and the hospitality industry of more than 300 competitors, coaches and support staff will be substantial.
Harry Frank, Enchanted Forest Nordic Ski School