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Under the Suit project provides unique perspective

U.S. Ski Team athletes pose nude for fundraiser

U.S. Ski Team member Alice McKennis works out in the nude for the Under the Suit project at the AlpenFit gym in Park City. McKennis currently goes to Westminster College and is a Rowmark Academy alum.
Photo courtesy of Julie Shipman

For many up-and-coming local athletes, making it to the U.S. Ski Team is the dream. What some of those athletes, along with a good portion of the general public, might not realize is that many of the members of the U.S. Ski Team have to pay their own way.

“Unless you’re on the A team, you’re responsible for a lot of your own costs,” Brennan Rubie said. “That can be between $10-35,000 per year.”

The U.S. Ski Team is split up into three smaller teams each season: the A, B and C squads. Rubie, a Salt Lake City native, is a member of the C team this year. In the past, the team hosted events like dinners or auctions to help raise money for the season. This year, Rubie, along with some other members of the team, wanted to do something different.

As they were sitting around one summer day last year, Katie Ryan, who retired from the team at the beginning of the season, brought up a unique idea.

Each year, ESPN the Magazine comes out with an issue, the Body Issue, which highlights some of the world’s most famous athletes performing athletic activities in the nude. The idea behind it is to showcase the muscles these athletes boast without revealing too much.

Ryan’s thinking was members of the U.S. Ski Team could pose in whichever activity they felt represented their personality the most, all while being naked. They would then use the shots for a calendar.

Of course, with any idea that is somewhat out of the box, it took some time to convince people to participate. It got to the point that the project didn’t gain much steam until 2016, when Rubie took over.

“You’re going to get some hesitation, weighing the pros and cons,” Rubie said. “For everybody, that was a personal decision whether each and every athlete wanted to take the opportunity to make this what they thought it could be. This is something that I tried to get going last year, and it kind of never got off the ground because we didn’t have any experimental pictures.

“We didn’t go out and just to take some and see what we got. You don’t want to scare people away before you have the chance to get the project off the ground.”

They needed to set the groundwork if the project would ever come to be, so Rubie and company did just that. While training in Norway during the spring months, the group had an entire mountain to themselves and with no one around, had the perfect opportunity to work on some of these example shots to see if the idea was worth pursuing.

For three hours, the skiers worked on taking some of these shots and even though they weren’t perfect, they now had something to show to some of the top skiers on the U.S. Ski Team as examples.

“We were excited about what we were able to do [in Norway],” Rubie said. “Then we were like, ‘Okay, this is cool. Let’s do it.’”

Thus, the “Under the Suit: Bodies of the U.S. Ski Team” project was born. Due to trademarking and copyright issues, the U.S. Ski Team was unable to officially support the idea, leaving the athletes to put this all together themselves.

It was hard enough reaching out to skiers like Ted Ligety and Alice McKennis to try and gain some traction, but Rubie was also tasked with finding photographers that would be willing and able to get shots that look the way they wanted.

Enter Jonathan Selkowitz of Jackson Hole, Mike Schirf of Salt Lake City and Julie Shipman of Park City. All three are experienced photographers who were more than willing to help out.

Shipman helped out with some of the shoots in the Alpenfit Gym, as well as some on the Park City Municipal Golf Course. The gym shots proved to be a little easier, as the place was closed down for them to work, while the golf shots were taken on a public course with houses surrounding it. The latter provided some comedy to the process.

“It was funny,” Shipman said. “You have to be kind of quick. … I always like the higher adrenaline type of stuff. It was a hoot. We were cracking up.”

On the mountain, it was a different story. It was difficult to get the photos that they were looking for, especially when the main subject is in the nude with a limited timeframe. But Rubie equates the situation to a ski race, where those participating kind of just zoned in to obtain the perfect shot.

“In that 10 seconds, it’s just like ski racing,” he said. “You’re focused on getting the shot, you don’t even realize you’re naked. … Once they did it once and they saw the pictures that they got, they were like, ‘Well, we can do better. Let’s go do another round.’”

The project concluded with 14 covers in the calendar for sale, each one of them featuring a different athlete. The athletes include Ligety and McKennis, along with Anna Marno, Bryce Bennett, Michael Ankeny, Laurenne Ross, Wiley Maple, Jacqueline Wiles, Tommy Ford, Tommy Biesemeyer, Breezy Johnson, Andrew Weibrecht and Ryan Cochran-Siegle.

While Rubie and company have made great strides to get the project off the ground, there’s still improvements to be made in the coming years. In Rubie’s mind, this can be something that eventually influences the entire sport.

“The ultimate goal is to get the entire United States Ski Team on board and then we can do something that involves ski jumpers, Nordic combined athletes, mogul skiers, freestyle athletes and alpine ski racers,” Rubie said. “I think we can do a really diverse snow sports annual calendar. I think that would be something really positive for USSA and for the sport.”

For those interested in purchasing a calendar, you can do so at http://www.alpine-aspirations.com.


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