Chapman freshman Logan Merriam zigzagged down a snowy slope, dodging moguls left and right. The incline was causing him to gain speed, and his skis began to shake rapidly as he lost control. He dug his downhill ski into the snow as he slid to a quick stop, and he was blinded by powder as it showered his entire body.
This is what he lives for, but he can’t get it in Southern California.
Chapman students with many different skiing and snowboarding backgrounds are finding ways to fulfill their cravings this winter. Although some don’t consider Southern California ski mountains ideal compared to where they come from, the dedicated are making the best of the situation.
“I’m quitting my job to go ride,” said junior David Kha.
Kha started Snow Club, which became officially recognized by Chapman Nov. 4. It is the first snow sport club ever at Chapman, according to Vice President of House Stephanie Moore.
Snow Club is for students interested in skiing and snowboarding and the sports’ ways of life, according to Kha. The members plan to carpool together for trips to nearby ski resorts, but they will also plan Chapman events like movie nights and a yellow snow eating contest.
“[I don’t know] why there wasn’t a club,” said Kha. “One in every five people I meet ride at least once a month during the season.”
Snow Club also has a deal with Active Ride Shop, which will get them discounts on snowboarding equipment and apparel, said Kha.
Kha, who is from Corona, Calif., has only been snowboarding for three years. He has found that he easily makes friends with most other skiers and snowboarders he meets because they have similar personalities. That is one of the reasons he started Snow Club, he said.
Kha plans to organize multiple group trips to nearby resorts like Big Bear’s Bear Mountain and Mountain High Resort once the season starts, both of which he will have passes for. Due to Chapman liability reasons, members must carpool rather than take a bus. But the benefit of the club lays in group discounts and meeting other skiers and snowboarders, he said.
A student organization has to have around $10,000 or more in its account to be able to use Chapman vans or busses, which is how the Student L.E.A.D. center has planned Big Bear trips with transportation in the past, according to Moore. She doesn’t doubt the importance of having Snow Club on campus, though.
“This club could be a good way to coordinate big trips up there … even if they have to carpool,” said Moore.
But Kha realizes that some do not prefer Southern California skiing and snowboarding. Bear Mountain and Mountain High cater mostly to lovers of terrain parks with jumps and rails rather than lovers of steep backcountry slopes, according to junior snowboarder Taylor Mack.
Mack is from Breckenridge, Colo., and has only snowboarded in California one time at Mount Baldy. Thanks to 30-minute lift lines, short runs and choppy snow, he hasn’t wanted to go back, he said.
“I don’t understand why people do it. It’s not worth it,” said Mack.
Mack grew up going to places like Keystone Ski Resort, Copper Mountain Ski Resort and Vail Ski Resort. He recognizes the appeal of Southern California mountains for terrain park skiers and snowboarders, but he receives his fulfillment with bigger mountains at home, he said.
“Because I was raised within 10 minutes of five major ski resorts, I probably wouldn’t [join Snow Club] because I can snowboard when I go home,” said Mack
Similarly, Merriam will not even bring his skis to college this year. He is from Hood River, Ore. and is too spoiled from skiing at Mount Hood Ski Resort to consider smaller mountains like Bear Mountain or Mountain High, he said.
“I’m just going to try to ski as much as I can at home and get it all out of my system,” said Merriam.
But Bear Mountain, which has about 150 snow jumps, is not trying to please those looking for big mountain adventures, according to Big Bear Mountain Resort’s director of marketing Chris Riddle. In October, it was named the No. 1 park in the nation by “Transworld Snowboarding Magazine,” according to bigbearmountainresorts.com.
“The park was built by riders for riders,” said Riddle in a press release.
Sophomore snowboarder Dylan Ragland, Snow Club’s vice president of marketing, sees the bright side of Southern California mountains. Ragland is from Park City, Utah – one of the most well-known ski cities in the U.S. – but he is still happy with local resorts.
“California snowboarding doesn’t quite compare, but I’m happy anywhere there’s snow,” said Ragland.
For him, part of the appeal in a place like Bear Mountain is the attitude and the younger crowd, which caters more to a group of college students. So far, most of Snow Club’s members are snowboarders and freestyle skiers, so the terrain park atmosphere of local resorts like Big Bear is what they are after.
But Snow Club is not trying to discriminate, according to Ragland. Remembering his days of being towed in an inner tube behind a car in the snow, he wants the club to be a place for anyone who simply enjoys snow activities, he said.
Junior Ryan Freeborn from Puyallup, Wash., is not in Snow Club but is excited about sledding this winter. He usually sleds at home in the Cascade Mountain Range, but he has sledded once near Big Bear, he said.
“I love sledding,” said Freeborn. “Seeing the ground race in front of my eyes at such a close distance is exhilarating.”
Freeborn would love to identify other “extreme sledders” at Chapman, and he thinks Snow Club would help, he said.
And that is exactly the service Snow Club is trying to provide, according to Kha. Even for those skeptics and skiing traditionalists from out of state, there are not many other options to taste snow this winter at Chapman.
“Yes, we are in Southern California, but there is still skiing close enough,” said Ragland.