By Louisa Benatovich
Skiing is an Ellicottville institution, plain and simple. It is the fuel on which our town runs. It’s the air we breathe.
Many Ellicottville Central School students proclaim that they learned to ski before they could walk. Almost all snow athletes at ECS trace their snow roots back to one event in their scholastic career: Ski Club.
Winter wouldn’t be winter without the weekly “Ski club — meet in the cafeteria after school” announcements.
From elementary-aged to seniors, ski club is the way for students to enjoy themselves on a school night. Both affordable and convenient, this organization brings joy to many in the dark days of winter.
Glenn Hall, middle school science teacher, has been involved with Ski Club for over 20 years. Alongside math and science teacher Blair Wood, Hall coordinates and advises the program, spending countless hours making sure all runs smoothly.
“I begin organizing with Holiday Valley in September and make sure students have supplied them all the necessary paperwork and payments, as well as the ECS-required paperwork before we get them on the slopes,” Hall said. “Due to our proximity and relationship with Holiday Valley, students who attend ECS are afforded a very reasonably priced program to learn how to ski and snowboard beginning in kindergarten and carrying through graduation.”
Hall said the club normally has about 170 to 200 students participate per year. Fortunately, he said he also has a rotating crew of teachers and parents who have helped to make this endeavor a smooth process over the past few years.
December and January, when the advisors finish paperwork and teach the students the process of getting to Holiday Valley through the rental area, is usually the most hectic time, Hall said.
“Mr. Wood and I are at the Valley on Thursdays along with the parents and teachers helping kids get their equipment ready to go,” he said. “After that, we make sure the students are safe on the hill and are returned to their parents.”
During the ski club months, Hall said he and Wood make sure that students and parents are in contact. Occasionally, they are called when we have a student in need of medical assistance with the National Ski Patrol. Following that, they make sure the parents are able to pick their kids up for any further medical procedures.
“With all this going on each Thursday, the winter seems to pass quickly as we eventually get to the third week in March when Holiday Valley ends their night programs for the season,” he said.
Ned Hartsell, an ECS senior, has been a Ski Club member for eight years.
“It’s how I learned to ski,” Ned said. “If you don’t work for the Valley, skiing can get pretty expensive. Because of this, I get to drive myself and ski affordably with my friends.”
Cameron Kaleta, a seventh grader, has been skiing since she was five years old.
“I love skiing because it’s a way to de-stress and clear my head,” she said. “I can think while I ski. It helps me focus and burn off steam.
“I like ski club because the transportation is easy and it’s fun,” she continued. “We take the ski bus at 3:15 and go to the Valley. We get our gear on and find our instructor on the slopes. Ski Club is part of what makes winter my favorite season.”
Along with seasoned veterans, Ski Club also caters to beginners. Aaron LoGiudice, also in seventh grade, went skiing for his third time ever this Thursday.
“I joined Ski Club because my mom signed me up, and I thought, ‘Eh, this might be fun,’” Aaron shrugged. “So far, it’s been pretty easy. I’ve learned to pizza and I didn’t fall that much. Ski club is very convenient and a fun afterschool activity.”
As a long-lasting tradition at ECS, the Ski Club is continually warming both hearts and bodies amidst an ever-frigid Ellicottville winter.
With the club’s third outing occurring this week, students are excited to get in the swing of things and hit the slopes!