Self-proclaimed ski bums Ryder Bennell* (sophomore) and Elizabeth Taylor (senior) noticed that students on campus were underutilizing some of the greatest ski mountains on the west coast. In response, they decided to revive the Ski and Snowboard Club at Occidental College last year. Since then, the club has taken off. After the renewal of the club in Spring 2017, Club President Anna Tara Shlim (senior), Vice President Taylor and Social Media Coordinator Bennell have made it their mission to hit the slopes as often as possible. According to Taylor, this winter they have completed that goal.
The club’s recent on-campus revival has been facilitated by a group of skiers and snowboarders who have invested their time in growing the organization.
“When I became president, all I had in mind was the goal of finding people who wanted to go out and ski/board,” Shlim said via email. “Coming to a school in Los Angeles, I figured it would be really hard to find people with a similar passion for the outdoors and skiing. Now, I think we, as a club, are really finding and establishing a group of students that are dedicated to, not only, getting into the mountains and snow, but also furthering the club and making it grow.”
According to Taylor, the creation of this club has not always been an easy process. With only a few people working to get it started, everyone had to step up and take on leadership positions. Taylor, who became treasurer without any prior experience, explained that before this year the club had never received any funding or worked with ASOC. Although there was a learning curve with this position, Taylor explained that it has been incredibly rewarding. Currently, the club has over 120 students on their mailing list, and they had their first overnight trip to Mammoth Mountain Feb. 15-Feb 20.
While the club is open to anyone, most of the members are experienced skiers or boarders who have their own gear.
“We are open to guiding beginner skiers on our day trips, especially to mountains like Mount High or Big Bear,” Taylor said. “For our big overnight trips to Mammoth, it is both easier and safer to have more experienced people going.”
Despite the club hosting mostly trips for ski enthusiasts, the members of the club recognize how inaccessible skiing and snowboarding is for many people on campus.
“A lot of our funding right now is to make our club more accessible to students, so it is not such an inaccessible and expensive sport,” Taylor said. “A lot of the reason we have been fundraising so hard was to make our Mammoth trip not exclusively based on class. We just want to make our club a space for those who want to be outside.”
According to Bennell, the dynamic of the club is an eclectic group of students from first years to seniors. Bennell explained that members of the club provide a youthful energy that make the ski weekends fly by, and make the downtime just as much fun as the time on the slopes.
“This past weekend, we kept saying that we felt like children again,” Bennell said. “We were just playing the whole time. I think that this energy comes from a group of people who grew up with an appreciation for the outdoors, being in the cold, and who share our love for nature. It is so clear that that is what is bringing us together.”
Taylor said that the time the ski club spends on their trips makes for a tight-knit unit of students. Their recent Mammoth trip was filled with hot tubbing, dancing, Olympics watching and of course, a lot of skiing. The recent winter Olympics have been a big part of the ski club coming together, according to Taylor, and each member has their favorite athlete. According to Bennell, Mikaela Shiffrin, Chloe Kim, and Gus Kenworthy have been big inspirations for the group, and although members might not be throwing down 1080s on the halfpipe, they love watching these athletes perform.
Although senior executive board members will be graduating this spring, the club will be taken over by an excited group of underclassmen, eager to hit the slopes. According to Taylor, she and Shlim are proud of how much progress the club has made this year, and can’t wait to see where it goes in the future. To stay updated on the Oxy ski and board club, follow their Instagram @oxyskiandboard.
*Ryder Bennell is a section editor for The Occidental.