Ski and Snowboard Club hits the slopes

Brian Eckstein, senior in LAS, Dana Schlake, junior in LAS, and Joe Tortorelli, senior in Aviation, members of the Illinois Ski and Snowboarding Club pose for a photo. Erica Magda

Brian Eckstein, senior in LAS, Dana Schlake, junior in LAS, and Joe Tortorelli, senior in Aviation, members of the Illinois Ski and Snowboarding Club pose for a photo. Erica Magda

By James VandeBerg

Winter break. It’s a time to relax after a long semester and the pressure of finals, a time to finally be able to sit around watching TV all day, a chance to creep around on Facebook for hours, guilt-free.

Boredom can quickly set in, though, turning the chance to rest into an endurance contest for many students. One club has a solution to the winter blues, however: a trip to the slopes.

The Ski and Snowboard Club offers students the chance to get away from the flat, frozen tundra of Illinois and into the fresh powder of the Rocky Mountains each winter break. On this year’s trip, the club visited Winter Park, Colo.

For those who were bored out of their minds this winter break and are thinking, “Hey, I’d like to go on this trip next year, but I don’t know how to ski!,” have no fear. Even those who have never skied before are welcome to come on the trip, said Dana Schlake, social chair of the club and junior in LAS.

“Beginners react really well on the trip. It’s a lot better atmosphere than in Wisconsin…the snow is better,” she said.

Get The Daily Illini in your inbox!

  • Catch the latest on University of Illinois news, sports, and more. Delivered every weekday.
  • Stay up to date on all things Illini sports. Delivered every Monday.
This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.
Thank you for subscribing!

Lessons are available, and since over 180 students went on this year’s trip, learning is made easier because there is always someone there to help, said Joe Tortorelli, club president and senior in Aviation.

The club does most of its promotion and recruiting at Quad Day, filling the majority of its spots in the first two weeks of class, and all by October, Schlake said.

“We didn’t really have any active advertising, and we still had to turn people away towards the end,” said Brian Eckstein, club treasurer, senior in LAS.

Once the time to head to Colorado finally comes, most students take the buses provided in the cost of the trip. Although a 16-hour bus ride might not sound like everyone’s cup of tea, club members manage to keep themselves entertained.

“This year, the bus trip was legitimately entertaining…it might have been the best part of the trip,” Schlake said.

After arriving in Winter Park, the slopes quickly beckon. Because the club invites both skiers and snowboarders, it makes sense that a lot of members like to mix things up. Many divide their time between skiing and snowboarding, although Eckstein said the club is generally made up of two-thirds snowboarders, with the rest taking to skis.

Skiing and snowboarding are not the only things to be done on the trip, however. The club’s excursions are ultimately organized by Lifestylez, a company specializing in travel packages for college students, Tortorelli said. They organize other events during the trip, such as concerts, and take advantage of lower occupancy in January to offer lower prices and create a student-oriented atmosphere during the “college week” at the resort, he added.

Although the chance to dig into the snow is the club’s main attraction, students come for other reasons as well, Schlake said.

“Some people come for the party aspect…they’ll get up at 11 and ski for maybe two hours, but there are others of us that are up there in the morning before the lifts even open,” she said.

Although the winter break trip is the club’s main event for the year, members do not call it quits come second semester.

“We always get together again afterwards to tell stories about the trip…we’re planning on getting together in February to play broomball and meet up once a month for the rest of the year,” Schlake said.

Some group members go on additional trips, Tortorelli said. Last spring, a handful of group members went skiing in the Swiss Alps over spring break, taking advantage of low prices during the off-season.

A few competitive skiing and snowboarding events are held during the winter, but the group generally chooses not to participate in them because of both a lack of resources as well as a desire to focus on the social aspect of the club, Tortorelli and Schlake said.

If sitting on the couch watching VH1 marathons got tiresome this winter break, have no fear: in a year, the slopes will be calling again.