At Marist College, there are 23 Division I sports teams with over 700 athletes. While varsity athletes make up about 12 percent of the school’s enrollment, there are many more students who play club sports ranging from rugby to golf, and even fencing.
While none of these sports applied to Marist freshman Chase Muller, his competitive spirit and potential to go Division I on the slopes made the Marist Club Ski team the perfect fit.
Muller, 18, grew up in Connecticut and was immediately introduced to the competitive spirit from a young age. His father was a multi-sport athlete, who was a competitive sailor, bodybuilder, and of course, a skier. As soon as Muller was a toddler, his father introduced him to the slopes.
“I started skiing when I was two,” said Muller. “And yeah, pretty young, but I started racing around eight or nine years old.”
Skiing had an immediate large presence in Muller’s life. Skiing all over the Northeast, he recalled Killington mountain in Vermont as his personal favorite. Muller would be on the weekend ski club team for Killington, where he competed in most of his races in his childhood. Little did he know that he would be living by the mountain for the bulk of his high school career, attending Killington Mountain Racing School his sophomore year of high school.
But why wait a year to attend? Muller clearly had the skill, he had been racing for the past seven to eight years of his life and put on his first pair of skis before he could read.
“I had a feeling that if I actually went there, I wouldn’t want to come back,” he said. “As in going back to the regular feeling that I was going to try to finish all my whole high school years out there. So I wanted to do one year of actual life, high school back in my hometown in Fairfield.”
Muller made an emphasis on the fact that despite dedicating a considerable percentage of his life to skiing. He wanted a sense of normality in his life that wasn’t the rigorous practice of becoming a student-athlete. After staying in Fairfield for his first year of high school, he finally decided to make the commitment to attend Killington.
Killington Mountain School is a full-time preparatory high school dedicated to the progression of high school students looking to advance their skiing careers in a variety of programs offered. The full-time program follows the academic year for high school students, a nine-month program involving skiing all term long. This meant rigorous preparatory level high school academics mixed in with competitive skiing training, requiring a full commitment from students that Muller made sure to take full advantage of with his time at the school.
“We would wake up roughly usually every day around five o’clock in the morning,” said Muller. “Wake up, eat breakfast, warm up, activate our muscles and ski until two and then do our school work for the afternoon, then work out and go to bed.”
Any way you put it, Muller went through no simple routine at Killington. The thirteen-and-a-half-hour days required dedication to the love for skiing day-in and day-out. In the winter, they would use a majority of the daylight to ski rather than the evening, which caused classes to end closer to 8:30 p.m.
It was this routine in high school that caused Muller to begin racing as much as he could. He’s credited with participating in over 30 events in races from 2020-2021 on the International Ski Federation website.
“My junior year is when I began to ski against college athletes,” said Muller. “Because of the FIS (International Ski Federation) which is international level, I was racing athletes based on a point system rather than age. Racing against college athletes is really where I started developing. I also got the opportunity to talk to Division I coaches and athletes about their programs.
Muller recalled the multiple races he participated in as offering a new challenge and new course in every event, but what elevated his perception of his skiing career is when he began to ski internationally.
“The experience is what made those races stand out to me,” said Muller. “My sophomore year, I didn’t make the US Easterns Nationals because I had a bad accident. Somehow, I qualified for the Canadian Nationals. I got to go out there and it was just a really cool experience on how they actually had their whole national events up and running.”
Canada wasn’t the only international opportunity Muller would get with his skiing career at KMS. In the summer, he did training camps abroad through the school in Switzerland, home to some of the best ski slopes in the world. In the fall of his junior year, Muller was abroad with around “80-90 percent of the student body” for a little over a month, completely dedicating their time to skiing in one of the most highly regarded skiing destinations in the world.
Muller mentioned the amount of growth he experienced athletically and mentally through the excruciating long days on campus and abroad during his three years. For a school with a designated goal to send students to higher institutions with an extensive ski-racing background, Muller saw significant changes in his skiing technique in transitions that most skiers struggle with, and became more adaptive to his schedule as time went on.
“I’d say that I’m glad that I definitely had a schedule like that; structured time management and hard, consistent work are something I’ll definitely use for my life,” said Muller.
It wasn’t just the opportunities that transformed Muller into the mature skier he is today. He credits his growth to his coaches at KMS. His last coach at the mountain school, Robbie Kelly, helped him with skiing, but also with his future in the sport at the collegiate level.
“He came to some of our races and I got to talk to him. And he actually helped me a lot with choosing what college I would actually want to go to,” said Muller. “His freshman year of college was two or three years ago, and he’s around 30. He also went to a Division III school, and now he is on the US Ski Team.”
Muller saw that his coach was able to seriously compete at the Division III level. In collegiate skiing, there is a jump from the NCAA’s Division I to Division III, under the USCSA (United States Collegiate Ski Association) which branches over 170 collegiate teams across the country in 11 separate conferences. While Division I may be the most funded and offer the largest scholarships, Division III skiing houses the widest range of competition.
This information about collegiate skiing was crucial for Muller when it eventually came time to start the college application process. After attending a highly competitive school for his favorite sport, saying he was feeling the pressure was certainly an understatement.
“I was applying to college during the beginning of my ski season and then throughout the whole of that season, so I had school, skiing, and a lot of training and college to work on,” said Muller. “I had a lot on my plate, and sometimes I wouldn’t get everything done that I wanted to at the time.”
During this hectic process is when Muller heard about a college club team in the McBrine Division of the USCSA. Not only was the team a competitor in collegiate ski racing, but the academic prowess is what drew Muller in. Despite his extensive skiing background, Muller had to take his future into account.
“I applied to 26 colleges, ranging all the way from Division I, to skiing one day a week in Division III, and even two colleges down south that had no skiing,” said Muller. “I finally searched up Marist when I was still looking through colleges. I applied on the day of the deadline and decided on the day of the deadline as well. It really came down to my decision to go to Marist over other colleges where I wanted to focus more on the opportunities.”
And so, despite the opportunities to take his talents to Division I, he committed to Marist with full intentions of success in the McBrine division. To no surprise, Muller fit right in with the other members of the team. Because of COVID-19, the ski club was not able to accept any new members on the team, which meant that members of the class 2024 and 2025 were new to the team this year. “I was talking to some of the captains and they thought that everyone felt closer this year,” Muller said.
If the team was closer than ever before, was the skiing still up to Muller’s pace?
“It was the best decision I could’ve made for myself. Now, skiing is not as stressful and as strict as it was when I was in high school. And it did take a little bit of the fun out of skiing because yeah, I couldn’t really go skiing off by myself so much it was more just train, race, and go back to train again. With this team, it feels very real. It’s relaxed; you go race, you go ski and mess around and just have a very good time.”
It wasn’t the competition that Muller was worried about. Just as he took a year to go to a public high school rather than KMS, the student-athlete has opted for a sense of balance with his personal life and skiing career. On the Marist ski team, athletes are still able to compete in a competitive setting while having a casual element in a bond with the team in a more relaxed setting. Not only that, but Marist matched Muller’s academic interests and the opportunities provided after graduation.
“I got to go to regionals this year, and I was aiming to go to nationals too,” said Muller, who placed first in the McBrine Division. Unfortunately, he finished the season with a concussion at regionals, ending his hopes of going to nationals. Muller has high hopes for his next season with the Red Foxes, hoping to have a clean season without injuries and make nationals.
“I think only four or five teams from the division made it to the races each weekend because of COVID-19 restrictions,” said Muller. “It’s going to make it really interesting next year; there’s going to be a lot more competition and I’m excited.”
Muller is happy to be a part of one of Marist’s most popular club sports teams. Instead of rigorous and extensive training for the sport he loves, he can now compete and enjoy the sport with his teammates while retaining the college life that dedicated students yearn to have. Not only is his college life back, but his joy for the sport he started at age two has made a greater appearance.
Edited by Christian De Block and Jonathan Kinane
Photos from Chase Muller