Jenna Devens | Staff Writer | jdevens@defenderadeleon
Helene Kristoffersen ’25, an Alpine skier for St. Michael’s College made history on Feb. 18, becoming the first Purple Knight woman to win the giant slalom since the 1993-94 season. The giant slalom consists of two runs for each skier down the same slope, then the skier with the combined fastest time wins for the team. The sophomore captain from Rælingen, Norway won by 1.52 seconds at the Williams College Carnival at Prospect Mountain, making it her fifth career podium appearance, consisting of the top three skiers.
Kristoffersen placed fourth in the giant slalom on Feb. 23, making it her eighth career top-five finish and her seventh of the season. “I get very happy when I see that I’ve done well because then I feel like I’ve done something right,” Kristoffersen said in an email. “It also gives a small feeling of relief, knowing that what you’ve been working on is actually working.”
Kristoffersen also made the Eastern Intercollegiate Ski Association (EISA) Alpine Skier of the Week during the week of Feb. 12, being only the third Purple Knight to do so this winter. According to the St. Michael’s Purple Knights alpine ski website, Simen Strand ’24, from Høvik, Norway, and Eirik Kveno ’25, from Asker, Norway, also were recognized for the achievement earlier in the season.
Kveno placed second in the giant slalom on Feb. 24, making it his fourth career podium finish and Strand placed fourth in the slalom on Feb. 25, just .41 seconds away from reaching the podium, but making it his eighth career top-ten finish. During the same weekend, Kveno and Kristoffersen were named to be on the EISA All-East first team, Kristoffersen being the first woman to be awarded an all-conference award since 1996. Strand was also awarded EISA All-East second team. St. Michael’s has not had at least three skiers recognized on an EISA team from the same program since 1993, according to the website. Dartmouth College and UVM were the only two other schools to place more than one male skier on the All-EISA teams.
The Alpine team combined with the Nordic team placed sixth of 15 schools for the second year in a row, during the EISA Championship and the NCAA East Region Championship. The two teams combined to finish with 450 points, beating Harvard University with 436 in seventh place.
Strand credits part of the team’s success to their coach, Gus MacLeod. “He’s amazing with everything he does for us,” Strand said. “He helps facilitate so that every day we can get the most out of our training and do what we can.”
Coach Macleod said when he first started coaching at this school 13 years ago, only one St. Michael’s skier would qualify for the NCAA Championships, but the program has grown over time to be able to send four. “I try to work as hard as the athletes do. I hold myself accountable and make sure to stay true to my word,” said Coach Angus Macleod ’02, head alpine ski coach.
Kristoffersen, Kveno, and Strand combined for nine podium finishes this season. In Kristoffersen’s twelve races, she placed in the top ten a total of nine times. All four of her podium appearances this season were in giant slalom events. Kveno also made three podium appearances and won the giant slalom event at the Bates College carnival in January.
According to Strand and Kristoffersen, the team improves as a whole, working together to better each other. “It’s more working and building on the same stuff and we have a very good team culture so we always help each other when we can, building off of each other as well,” Strand said. The team seems to be growing together, says Kristoffersen, getting stronger and closer each year, on and off the mountain.
“When you spend as much time together as the Alpine Ski Team does, in the van rides to the mountains and competitions, you need to know how to get along and work things out,” Macleod said. I feel if we are having fun together and caring for each other, we can have a great season.”
Sixteen student-athletes from the east and sixteen from the west of the men’s and women’s teams qualify to compete in the NCAA Championships, each school only being allowed three male athletes and three female athletes. Helene Kristoffersen, Eirik Kveno, Simen Strand, and Gray Flanagan ’26 qualified for Whiteface Mountain in Lake Placid, N.Y. to represent St. Michael’s in the NCAA Championship on Mar. 8 to Mar. 11.
“I think that if I ski well, keep my routines I’ve had this winter, and focus on what I have to do to ski well, the results will show,” Kristoffersen said.
Coach Macleod explains how he is very excited to be able to continue to work with the student-athletes he has on his team. “I am excited for the future with those three and the rest of the team. By all training together they are pushing each other to be faster and push harder on the slopes, it is very exciting to watch,” Macleod said.