The University Ski and Snowboard Club experience high times over winter break

by Paul Markgraff

When Tobit Simmons, Caleb Rick and Steve Rosenbaum took over the official duties of the University Ski and Snowboard Club, there was $4 in the club’s bank account.
After three years and some struggle, Simmons and his officers managed to put together a $56,000 ski trip to Breckenridge, Colo., over winter break.
That’s upward mobility.
The trip gave many University students a winter break they would not soon forget.
There were 21-hour bus rides, posh condominiums, raging shindigs, and, yes, even skiing and snowboarding. And even if it didn’t satisfy everyone, it sure beat sitting around Minneapolis waiting for school to start.

In the beginning
The trip began as any trip does: loading the luggage.
With 140 people and their luggage, it was no easy task. People started showing up in front of Mariucci Arena around 5:30 p.m. on Jan. 8.
There were so many students stopping and dropping off luggage that the police arrived and complained that if people didn’t stop blocking up the road, some tickets would have to be issued. The loading continued, and fortunately for the club, it did not incur any fines.
Once the buses had been packed and the drivers had given their stern warning about no smoking marijuana on the bus, the trip was underway.
Five minutes into the trip, Rick offered every person on our bus a Coors Extra Gold. That got everything started.
“It’s not an every-trip thing. We got a couple of cases for each bus, not a ridiculous amount,” said Simmons. “I felt like we were in a pretty controlled environment.”
It was dark when the bus crossed Great Plains. When the mountains finally appeared on the horizon, many people still slept.
After a quick stop for breakfast, everyone piled back into the buses and waited for the snowy peaks of Breckenridge to appear. Wind and snow filled the mountain pass as they approached Breckenridge and the condominiums.
All were tired from the ride (and partying), but the club was encouraged by the fresh, falling snow. When the group arrived in Breckenridge, the buses were in rough shape.
“Our bus was rocking until 2 a.m.,” said Ryan Halsh. “By the time we got here, our toilet was just about to overflow.”

Fresh powder
Six-and-a-half feet of snow — one foot arrived the week before the club arrived — greeted the club as they unpacked the buses and retired to their respective condominiums.
The accommodations were decked out for the club. Two bedrooms, two bathrooms, a fireplace, a washer and dryer, cable television, a stereo, a full kitchen and a microwave definitely made the stay a little easier on everyone.
On the first couple days of skiing and snowboarding, wind gusts in excess of 50 mph and heavy snow made getting down the mountain complicated. Between 9:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m., the snow didn’t stop falling.
Club member Nick Well felt the force of the winds firsthand on the second day. Well climbed to the top of a run the chair lifts didn’t access. Gusts and sustained winds made his walk up the mountain a tough one. And when he strapped into his snowboard and started down the hill, a strong gust of wind nearly pushed him into exposed rocks that could easily have broken bones and shredded him.
“I was terrified,” Well said of his close encounter with the sharp rock outcroppings. “Shit like that is not supposed to happen to you when you go on trips.”
Rough weather affected Well and the rest of the club throughout the week. On one trip down a mountain, wind forced a wall of snow up the hill, making visibility next to nothing.
As Well found out, skiing blind can lead to problems.
“I took myself into the butt end of a log,” Well said. “I wasn’t thinking about it. I was wondering if I can move everything.”
Adjusting to the harsh conditions took a toll on the unsuspecting students. On the first day, one skier broke his leg. Later in the week, another club member broke her hand.
The final tally: 140 healthy students left Minnesota, 138 healthy students came back.
One of those healthy students was Antonio Roderiguez, a first-time snowboarder from Panama.
Roderiguez tried snowboarding on the first day and said, “It was really easy; I like it.”
He said his second day on a snowboard proved to be much easier that the first. Roderiguez didn’t fall very much and said he was learning to stop.
By the end of the trip, Roderiguez claimed his number of falls decreased from day to day and added that he was going to buy a snowboard when he returned to Minnesota.

High but not dry
Alcohol was readily available on the trip. From the buses on the way out to the final party, there was almost always a libation to be had.
The night before the club left, the ski club hosted a farewell party for all of its members. It wasn’t the only party the club hosted.
Earlier in the trip, there was a 21-to-drink party held at a Breckenridge lodge. The talk of the party was the day’s skiing — and the party.
“The powwow was wow-wow, that’s all I’ve gotta say,” club member Josh Sustarich said.
At the final party of the trip, a deck of cards featuring naked women from the 1970s and several club members waited patiently at the doors for other guests and the cups to arrive.
The ski club had a half-barrel and a quarter barrel of beer free to any club member in attendance, regardless of age.
Simmons said he was aware of underage drinking on the trip, but that people came to have fun and ski, and that the club worked to make sure people didn’t get crazy.
“I do the best I can to make sure things are staying under control and that people aren’t getting themselves into sticky situations,” Simmons said. “But at the same time, there’s a lot of underage drinking that occurs on the college campus. This is a college trip, and I’m not these kids’ parents.”
His responsibility in the matter worked for the benefit of the club. He said that they had a couple of people throw up over the week, but there was nothing more serious than that. He put it very simply:
“(Drinking) is not the focus of it. People don’t go on a ski trip so they can underage drink. They go on a ski trip so they can go skiing.”

Another round
During spring break, the ski club is planning a trip to British Columbia. It should cost around $700 per person, and the club will fly instead of taking a bus. Simmons is quite confident that the club’s popularity will continue to grow.
“I think (the club) is going in a really positive direction,” he said. “I’m having a great time. The skiing is great, and seeing everybody have that much fun is super.”
Having fun was something just about everybody in the club agreed on. It’s not like there’s 13,000-foot peaks in the land of 10,000 lakes.
“It was probably a thousand times better than anything you’d see in Minnesota,” said club member Jessica Sanderson.