Snow Culture: Collegiate Snowboarding ELEVATED and Elevation Ski and Snowboarding
What is it exactly, which drives an addict to the source of their drug when it is out of their reach? A craving already so strong, amplified sevenfold by the concept of scarcity, enough to drive one to extreme lengths- all to get that white powder fix and rush of unparalled adrenaline.
While southern Arizona isn’t exactly renowned for serious pow or towering snowcapped peaks made for backcountry shredding, the sunny, dry, and heat struck state harbors one of the most passionate snow culture followings in the lower 48. There is something about living in desert and land of the sun that cultivates a deep and addictive craving for mountain peaks and powder days.
Insert the University of Arizona’s Elevation Ski and Snowboard Club (ESS). Boasting one of the largest student member followings, with annual ski trips to resorts of the likes Telluride and Aspen, it is plain to see that Southern Arizona doesn’t kid around when it comes to shredding the gnar. What started off as a rambunctious group of college students looking to satisfy that shredding itch, ESS has grown into much more than just a college organization, but an experience within itself.
The annual MLK trip is the defining point of ESS culture and tradition. The mid-January three day weekend is just enough to bus over 200 snowked college students to shredding holy land, and ESS pulls through each year, with past resorts ranging from Taos in New Mexico, Aspen and Telluride, in Colorado, and this past year, Crested Butte, Colorado. ESS has made it their mission to unite snowboarders and skiers alike for one sole purpose: the love of snow in the dessert. The club offers a price students can’t refuse- $420 for three days-worth of lift tickets, hotel lodging, bus ride to and from the resort from Tucson, and even special pricing on lessons and rentals for those just starting out.
The MLK trip’s most prominent and deep ingrained tradition, the annual Undie Run, brings a defining meaning to “Boarding naked since 1886,”, has been around since the start of the club and is a personal favorite amongst many members. The last run of the trip has been reserved, year after year, for trip goer’s to all gather and strip down to their very best, and take over the mountain one last time. Not only is it fun for those involved, but it’s also fun for the locals to make fun of those crazy kids. The event has even been documented by the professional photographers of Telluride Ski Resort, and makes a lasting impression on the locals every year. Blizzard, sub-zero weather, or blue-bird skies- ESS never fails to go out with a bang, regardless of the weather.
ESS is not just for seasoned snow veterans, of course. The club boasts of its diversity, and highly emphasizes for all individuals to come try out skiing or snowboarding at least once. Promoting safety and establishing long lasting relationships are key aspects of the MLK trip, and many ESS members have gone on the trip a complete novice- only to come back year after year. Seasoned Executive members also offer lessons to beginning members on their own time, as well as on Mt. Lemmon- America’s southernmost ski resort. “ESS gave me the opportunity to be a part of an incredible community of “snow lovers in the desert” and really pushed me to become a better skier,” mentions Steven Ota, in regards to his skill level. ESS also highly encourages its members to reach out to others and coordinate their own mini trips to smaller northern Arizona Ski Resorts such as Sun Rise near Pinetop, or Snowbowl in Flagstaff as well.
Within the last couple of years, ESS reached out further from solely operating within the university campus, and formed relationships with local companies within Tucson as well as on a national scale. Through the relationships formed with sponsoring companies, the club has managed to promote new gear and events to their members and the Tucson snow community. Past events include a rail jam in coordination with Campus Rail Jam Tour to fundraise for Boarding 4 Breast Cancer, a rail jam in coordination with Warren Miller, to promote the screening of his new movie, “No Turning Back,” and large raffle meetings raffling off product sent from sponsoring companies. “ESS has given me the opportunity to compete in, win (a snowboard!!), and put together/manager multiple park competitions and that is pretty much a dream come true,” says exec member Dylan Giblin. The club will continue to work with B4BC, and is coordinating another fundraising event in the late spring, paying homage to the traditional Undie Run…
While one of the largest clubs on campus, ESS is like a home away from home for many, “It made a big school feel small and introduced me to the most amazing people who have become some of my closest friends. Coming to school in the desert I never thought I’d find a crew who loved to shred as much as I do,” says member Dakota Turney. While many college graduates move on from their respective clubs after graduation, ESS welcomes home returning alumni on the MLK trip year after year with open arms. Elevation Ski and Snowboard isn’t just an organization, it is a family built on the strong bonds of likeminded individuals.