Canadian Catamount Megan Ryley finds speed,
perspective south of the border BY BRYCE HUBNER Kitty Hello,
University of Vermont sophomore Megan Ryley is currently the most
dominant NCAA alpine skier in the country. In eight EISA races, she’s strung
together five consecutive victories and has finished second once, third once
and fourth once. That’s right, her worst result of the season was a fourth-place
in the GS at the Dartmouth Carnival on Feb. 13 — if only a bad day looked so
good for the rest of us. Getting to this point, though, hasn’t been easy.
Ryley, who hails from Toronto, says that while this has been the best season of her career, she nearly quit the sport just about a year ago.
“I wasn’t enjoying myself,” Ryley says. “I wasn’t having fun and I wasn’t skiing well. I got to a point where I decided that I wanted to look back on my
skiing career years from now and remember it fondly, and I realized that to
do that I was going to have to change something.”
The change was a move from the Canadian development team to the
University of Vermont, a place Ryley says she admired from a distance for
“I had noticed a lot of fast skiers at UVM,” Ryley says. “Johnny Davidson,
who’s also from Ontario and is now an assistant coach, loved his experience
racing there. I also knew Lyndee Janowiak from when she was on the U.S.
development team — she went to UVM before I did and only seemed to
improve. Of course, Jilyne McDonald did the best skiing of her life from
UVM, making the U.S. Ski Team. To me, that showed I could go there and
do well, too.”
After years of grinding it out on the Europa Cup and NorAm circuits, Ryley
initially envisioned her UVM racing career as a one-semester swan song.
“I decided to go to school in the middle of winter, about 10 days before
the start of the second semester,” Ryley says. “I was already deferred and I
thought I’d just go, race the semester and hope it went well, then stop skiing
Megan Ryley races at the FIS
World Champs in Are, Sweden,
Despite an inauspicious start, something very different happened when
she landed in Vermont. Ryley says that the unique team dynamics of NCAA
racing helped her rediscover a love for skiing and reignited a passion for
“My first college race didn’t go so well,” Ryley says. “For some reason I was
more nervous than I’d ever been before — and I’ve raced a couple World
Cups. What I immediately noticed, though, was how much fun everybody
was having. It was fun to come to the finish line and have everybody cheering for you, supporting you, genuinely wanting you to do well. Ski racing,
for me, up until that point had always been very much an individual sport.
Sure, your friends and your family are behind you — but your teammates
aren’t 100 percent behind you like they are on a college team.”
Ryley says that the UVM alpine team has one of the best setups for a program in the country; she cites quality coaching and superb training opportunities for their success.