Siblings From France Hit The Vermont Slopes As Captains Of St. Michael's Ski Teams

Feb 20, 2017

With a father who was a World Cup skier for France and a mother who skied on the national team of Spain, skiing was in the stars for Saint Michael's College alpine ski team members Meggane and Guillaume Grand. 

But how did the siblings go from growing up in the French Alps to skiing in Vermont?

"I had a friend that had gone to the U.S. to ski for college, so it kind of just came to my mind that maybe that would be a possibility for me," Meggane Grand, a junior at St. Mike's and captain of the women's ski team, told Vermont Edition earlier this month.

"And I thought it would be awesome just because it would allow me to continue skiing and go to college at the same time. So I went through a company that basically finds colleges and teams for athletes in Europe so that they can go to college in the U.S. and have a team."

Through that company, she was connected with St. Mike's head coach Gus MacLeod. Despite never visiting the school, Meggane decided to come after receiving an enthusiastic response from MacLeod.

The western U.S. may first come to mind as the place to go for world-class skiing in this country. Meggane says she considered some schools there, but she says  ultimately she really wanted to be on a welcoming team, rather than simply a skilled team.

And as far as the skiing quality, she praises what Vermont has to offer.

"Snow is awesome here, actually – like the fact that it's very icy is awesome for ski racing." — Meggane Grand, St. Michael's college ski team

"Snow is awesome here, actually – like the fact that it's very icy is awesome for ski racing. It's really, really good conditions," Meggane says. "Now the mountains are a little flatter, I would say. But at the same time, you can find steep slopes if you look for them."

Guillaume, currently a sophomore, was convinced by his sister to follow in her footsteps after he'd spent a couple years skiing in Europe. He's now captain of the men's ski team.

"When Meggane told me that it was amazing – that the mountains were amazing, the team was amazing at St. Mike's, the coach ... she just convinced me," he says.

The siblings say that they've noticed a difference in the culture around skiing here, namely the pressure that comes with competing.

"The mind vibes here are so different. People are way more positive." — Guillaume Grand, St. Michael's College ski team

"The mind vibes here are so different," Guillaume says. "People are way more positive."

Guillaume says that positivity is there even if a race or training run doesn't go well. He says that he thinks it would be good if more European skiers embraced the attitude he's noticed here, as he had friends back home that quit skiing due to the pressure they were facing.

"Here, I feel that the coaches just try to make you have fun racing," Guillaume continues. "That was the first time in like 10 years where last year ... I was realizing that I really like skiing, because in 10 years I had so much pressure and I was not skiing well. And here I am."

His sister also highlights a similar experience.

"I spent so many years where I was skiing for my coaches, for my family, for everything but for myself. And I feel like now ... if I have a bad race, well, I'll have a better race next time," Meggane says. "And you know, it's not great obviously, not to have a good race, but it's not as big of a deal. And I feel like [that] also helps us perform better, because we have so much less pressure."

Guillaume Grand is a sophomore at St. Mike's and captain of the men's ski team. He says that there's less pressure when it comes to competitive skiing here compared with back home in Europe.
Credit Saint Michael's College Athletics Department, courtesy

Both of their parents were world-class skiers, and Guillaume touches on growing up with that legacy. He says he and his sister do wish they had those ski experiences their parents have had, but he highlights the encouragement they receive from their parents.

"They are very helpful and they love skiing, so they are just trying to help us as much as they can," Guillaume says.

Their parents had the opportunity to come watch their children ski here last year, Meggane says, echoing her brother on the support their parents provide.

"They're very supportive," Meggane says. "I think that sometimes it's just hard for a parent to find ... the right words – not to put too much pressure, but at the same time to be supportive. So it's like, kind of hard to find that balance but ... they just love that we're having fun."

Amidst that fun, there is the challenge of navigating the workload of a college student with the demands of skiing. Meggane is a double major in political science and economics; Guillaume is a business major with a psychology minor.

"It's definitely difficult to manage this, because we have early morning trainings, and we also have homework and work to do for class in the afternoon," Guillaume says.

"The days get busy very easily," Meggane adds. "You just have so much going on. You have to train, which usually takes like four or five hours every day, and then you have to go to class. You have to do homework. We try to do recovery. We have to tune our skis for the next day."

"The days get busy very easily. You just have so much going on. You have to train, which usually takes like four or five hours every day and then you have to go to class. You have to do homework." – Meggane Grand

The student athletes still have a few more weeks of the ski season, with the Bates Carnival this coming weekend. After that it's the NCAA championships, which will be held in New Hampshire this year from March 8 to 11.

As that date draws closer, Guillaume highlights not only his personal accomplishments, but the team's successes so far this season.

"We have a strong team for sure, and we have very good freshmen this year," he says, adding that there's been strong competition among the team for who can compete at carnivals.

"I've had a pretty decent season until now," Meggane says. "I think I have more to give ... I feel like there's still some space here [to] show what I can do."

Beyond just this season, the siblings also have contemplated where skiing may take them after college.

"For me it's just a college thing," Meggane says. "After high school, I kind of considered quitting skiing, especially because there was so much pressure and I was just not enjoying myself at all anymore. But then coming to college it kind of gave me like a second chance to actually love what I'm doing, and I've been enjoying it so much. But I don't see myself continuing after college."

Guillaume says he's considering seeing where skiing might take him beyond the collegiate circuit.

"I've been pretty good at skiing. Just coming here I can see that my level is still pretty high," Guillaume says, adding that competing in a World Cup has been his dream.

"If I can reach it that would be that would be really nice," he continues. "But we'll see."

Listen to the full interview from Vermont Edition above.