There’s nothing better than a fresh blanket of snow, creating ideal conditions for a welcomed race down a local ski hill. For the LeVander family, skiing has turned into not only a beloved hobby, but a family sport.
The PWER Alpine Ski Team is made up of roughly 80 students from Park High School, Woodbury High School and East Ridge High School. Woodbury natives and brothers Bennett, 16, and E.J., 13, LeVander are ready to take on this season on the PWER team—Bennett has been on the team for three years and made it to state for the 2021 season. For E.J., this is his first season hitting the slopes as a member of the team.
“I’m looking forward to beating my brother this season,” E.J. says with a smile. “But I’m so excited to join this team.” The LeVanders’ ski legacy starts with Eric LeVander, Bennett and E.J.’s father, who joined the PWER Alpine Ski Team during his time at Woodbury High School. He was a state champion in 1989 and recalls how the team has always offered a great experience for skiers.
Scott Melander, coach of the PWER Alpine Ski Team and Woodbury Police Department sergeant, says the team is built like a family. “There’s no rivalry between the Woodbury, Park and East Ridge athletes. Everyone cheers for each other and their individual races no matter what age. If you want good competition and a lot of fun, you join a high school ski team,” he says. This family dynamic has brought the team to state for the last two years. Melander says, “Of the six varsity teams … [the boys] have a very good chance of going to state this year, as all but one of last year’s team members have returned.”
“Our practices are laid out based on skill. Some kids will already be at the gates focusing on their racing time. Other kids will just be practicing basic skills,” Melander says. Bennett notes how making it to state is his favorite memory—when you work hard you get to spend more time with your team. “Everyone gets along, [and] there’s tons of great coaches. I just really love my team,” Bennett says. Melander shares this sentiment. He says, “With state, we travel together, eat together and are with each other all the time. It’s like a vacation for all of us.”
“For me, it’s fun to see my boys be on the exact same team I was and having so much fun doing what they love,” Eric says.