The Colorado Mountain College Ski Team is putting itself on the map
With a growing list of former national team skiers and athletes springboarding to D1 teams, CMC kicks off a promising 2023-24
This story by CMC freelance writer Shauna Farnell was published on Jan. 17 in Ski Racing.
By Shauna Farnell
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS – After a childhood of ups and downs in competitive ski racing, Matt Macaluso arrived at Colorado Mountain College physically and emotionally worn out.
Macaluso, who grew up at Ski and Snowboard Club Vail before attending Burke Mountain Academy and doing a stint with the U.S. Ski Team’s National Training Group, believed that his race days might be over after suffering a knee injury and severe back pain.
Then, he enrolled at Colorado Mountain College (CMC). Now he’s writing a whole new chapter in alpine racing.
“Initially, I had given up on skiing because I was so injured. Also, I hadn’t done school in a while,” says Macaluso, 24, in his third year at CMC and the men’s team captain. “It was kind of a nice distraction, having school to think about. That first year I was trying to get back to being healthy. Last year, I spent a lot of time tweaking what I was doing. It’s the same this year but with a little more edge. This can definitely be a place where you can figure some things out for your first year or two.”
While many CMC skiers indeed build back confidence and speed at the small college campus in Steamboat Springs and tend to earn a spot and transfer to bigger universities, Macaluso is content to stay put.
“I recognize how much freedom and flexibility I have and chose that over going to a bigger school,” he says. “That’s what separates us the most. It’s five to 10 minutes to the hill. We have the option to train every day of the week if we want to.”
Macaluso finished top five in the Rocky Mountain Intercollegiate Ski Association’s overall giant slalom standings last season and kicked off this season with a strong showing on the Nor-Am circuit, including a ninth place in Super-G at Copper Mountain in December.
“What will be eye-opening is when we begin the Uni circuit,” Macaluso says. “We have quite a new team, a new set of freshmen. I think it will make them realize why we’ve been doing so much work going into the season. There are some really good skiers at these other schools, a lot from other countries, a lot of ex-national team skiers. But there’s one thing we can do here — work harder than anyone in our preparation.”
Another former SSCV and U.S. Team protégé, Nicola Rountree-Williams, arrived at CMC with her confidence shaken, similar to Macaluso’s.
Growing up in North Carolina, Rountree-Williams learned to ski in Deer Valley, Utah, and became “obsessed” with the NASTAR course as a young child. When her family moved to Colorado, she poured her passion for skiing gates into SSCV and made the U.S. Ski Team’s development squad at age 15. She was on and off the team, landing a spot on the C Team when COVID-19 hit in March 2020. The following season, with Nor-Ams canceled, Rountree-Williams was foisted onto the Europa Cup circuit. Ranked among the top 100 in the world, she managed to pop into the top 30 a couple of times in slalom, but with only three completed races the following season, she was off the team again. So she decided to look at colleges.
“I hadn’t been in school for a while,” she says, adding that with a childhood diagnosis of autism and ADHD, she’d always struggled in school. “I knew the head coach at CMC — Scott Tanner. He reached out. If I didn’t stay on the U.S. Ski Team, I imagined myself going to a D1 school. Then I started considering where I would thrive. Looking at CMC, it’s very small. The classes are small. Teachers are hands-on. I toured the campus. It’s very pretty, with a view of the mountains. It has the best college training in the United States. With the exception of MSU, all the teams in the West have to travel to get on the hill. In the East, the issue is there’s not enough snow early in the season. With CMC having access to both Steamboat and Howelsen Hill as early as November, it’s unbelievable.”
In her second year at CMC and the women’s team captain, Rountree-Williams has, like Macaluso, regained her confidence.
She started racking up top 10s in university races last season. She kicked off this season explosively, winning back-to-back FIS slalom races in Jackson Hole in December before dominating the slalom events against a stacked field at Steamboat’s Holiday Classic FIS races, taking second in the first race and winning the second, beating all but the runner-up by more than a full second.
“The most rewarding process for me at CMC was learning to have fun again,” she says. “To have two races in a row happen exactly how I wanted was like a dream. It made me very happy.”
Building up skiers to move on to a bigger college with a more prominent alpine program has been one of Scott Tanner’s key focuses since starting as head coach at CMC in 2018.
“Through 25 years of coaching, I was seeing fewer and fewer American kids get spots at D1 schools, especially in the West,” says Tanner, whose coaching resume includes Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club, Team Breckenridge and The U.S. Team. “When I started here, I was like, we can do this. We can provide that stepping stone for athletes to either transfer or mature to their full potential before they are able to leave the sport.”
Led by Tanner and assistant coach, CMC Staff Member of the Year Brian Gudolawicz, in addition to Macaluso and Rountree-Williams, the 2023-24 CMC Eagles Ski Team features junior Gunnar Barnwell, sophomores Will Untendorfer, Appollo Powell, Isaac Mozen, Theodore Kim and Filip Krota and freshmen Samuel McDermott, Gerrit Kursh, Everett Dooley, Jessie Ferguson, Rylee McLouth and Anastacia Stocker.
In recent years, CMC has springboarded athletes such as Harrison Goss, who, in 2020, became the North American Race Manager for Volkl, Dalbello and Marker. In 2022, CMC skier Ainsley Proffit transferred to the University of Alaska Anchorage Ski Team, Jack Reich transferred to the University of Colorado Ski Team and Nicholas Unkovskoy transferred to the Middlebury College Ski Team.
The RMISA University race season kicked off on January 16th with the University of Utah at Utah Olympic Park.