Family matters, at least for the University of Vermont, where the top-ranked men’s and women’s skiing team consists of three sets of sibling pairs.

As the eyes of the collegiate skiing community turn to picturesque Stowe, Vt., this week for the National Collegiate Men’s and Women’s Skiing Championships, five of the six siblings will suit up for the hosting Catamounts and make a run at the national title on their home slopes.

The Catamounts dominated the Eastern Intercollegiate Ski Association (EISA) circuit this season, claiming five carnival wins and their first EISA Championship title since 2006. With four 1,000+ point performances on the season, Vermont finished the regular season ranked No. 1 in Ski Racing Magazine Power Rankings. A few names begin to standout upon review of results from Vermont’s incredible season: Patterson. Ryley. Kelley. Between the six of them, the siblings made the podium 34 times this season, consistently contributing in both Nordic and Alpine competition.

“Having a lot of strength and depth on both the Alpine and Nordic sides has allowed everyone to feed off of each other,” said Bill Reichelt, head Alpine coach and director of skiing for the Catamounts. “We had a good first weekend and never looked back.”

Nordic Leaders
The first weekend was the St. Lawrence Carnival where Vermont scored 1,046 points, the most ever in a carnival by a collegiate team. Junior Nordic skier Caitlin Patterson began an almost season-long sweep that weekend, winning both the 10k free and 6k classic races. Patterson would go on to win five more races during the season, before being edged by 3 seconds by Dartmouth’s Rosie Brennan in the final race of the regular season. A two-time All-American, Patterson was joined at Vermont this year by her younger brother, Scott. A freshman on the Nordic squad, Scott made the podium four times this season.

“Caitlin knows Scott better than most people do so it was nice to have Caitlin here to help us bounce ideas off of and let us know how Scott was handling things,” said Patrick Weaver, head Nordic coach. “She notices things that we maybe wouldn’t have. It has certainly been an advantage to have them here together.”

The elder Patterson was thrilled when her brother decided to join her at Vermont, where the two could continue training together as they had done growing up in Anchorage, Alaska.

“I wanted him to be here, but I knew he needed to do what was best for him,” Patterson said. “He knew that UVM was a good fit for me and allowed me to balance athletics and academics. I was really happy when he decided this would be a good fit for him, too.”

Caitlin has certainly excelled at balancing athletics and academics. The civil engineering major was the recipient of last year’s inaugural Elite 88 Award at the skiing championships, an honor presented to the student-athlete with the highest cumulative grade point average who is competing at the finals site.

“Both Caitlin and Scott are quiet and reserved people. They are not the outspoken ones on the team, but they lead by example,” Weaver said of the impact the Pattersons have had on the squad. “They’re very dedicated. Having hard workers on the team raises the level of professionalism and dedication of everybody on the team, because no one wants to fall behind.”

Caitlin acknowledges that she is dedicated to the process of training, not only for the dividends it pays on race days but also because she genuinely enjoys the hours spent outside on her skis.

“I can see that training is the way to the end goal of success, and I have a lot of fun with it,” Patterson said. “I wouldn’t be doing this if it wasn’t fun.”

The Pattersons will compete in Nordic competition on March 9 and 11 at the Trapp Family Lodge, where both have already made a podium appearance earlier this year. With a wealth of racing experience, including the World Junior and U-23 Championships in Estonia last year, the Pattersons will each be on the hunt for their first individual national championship this week.

“I’ve raced a lot at this point and have competed in some big races so the key is to not overthink it,” Patterson said. “If I go with what feels natural then I think things will go really well.”

Alpine Allies
On the Alpine side, two pairs of siblings appear on a roster with more talent than the team can take to the national championships. With just three spots allotted per team for each discipline and gender, sophomore Robby Kelley will not compete at this year’s national championship, despite three podium appearances for the Catamounts this season. Instead, the younger Kelley will cheer on older brother Tim when he competes in Alpine events at the Stowe Mountain Resort on March 10 and 12.

Kelley will be joined by Kate and Meg Ryley on the Alpine squad at the championships. Freshman Kate will be making her first national championship appearance alongside her sister Meg, a junior All-American.

“Meg and Kate are pretty different in how they work,” Reichelt said. “It was a learning process for me in learning how to connect with Kate and figure out how her mind works. It was probably my fault in expecting them to be the same in the beginning. But they are not the same person.”

The Toronto natives came to Vermont after skiing with the Canadian Alpine team. Meg, now a junior, was a member of the 2007 World Championship Slalom team and was the 2006 Canadian Junior Slalom Champion.
“It’s been healthy competition with Meg,” said freshman Kate. “We motivate each other a lot in training. So in a race if she’s ahead of me after the first run, I know I’m right with her in training so I know I can make it up in the second run.”

Kate has excelled in her first season with the Catamounts, reaching the podium nine times, including a sweep of both events at the Vermont carnival last month. It is just that familiarity with the venue that the Catamounts hope will propel them toward their first national championship since 1994.

“We’re not nervous right now. I’m sure I’ll have more nerves before the race because it’s the national championship, but we’re working on staying grounded,” Kate said. “We can have confidence that we know the hill and we’re ready. We’ve been doing so well all year and I want us to prove that we’re champions, not just in the east, but nationally.”

Reichelt agreed that the team is ready for the challenge ahead.

“Being ranked No. 1 is great, but being at your home venue is better,” Reichelt said. “We know it’s not going to be a cake walk, there is absolutely no illusion about the level of competition that we’re going to face. We don’t think of ourselves as favorites, we just think of ourselves as a really good team. If we can execute and do the little things well, we’re going to be successful.”