Go with the snow

Amy Cooknick


The first slight snowfall of the season has come and gone in Kent, the leaves are nearly off the trees and sweater weather is setting in. At this time of year, two kinds of people tend to make themselves known: the fair-weather folks who dread all things cold and slushy, and the snow bunnies who relish the flurries and all the hats, scarves, mittens, hot chocolate, and sledding that go along with them.


?Then there is the third group of people who, by this point in the season, have already left everyone else in their ski tracks, and gone out to meet winter head-on.

?Kent State students Jeanette Salupo, Scott Hager and Scott Martin aren’t content to let the snow come to them in its own time – they are following it as it falls.

?The trio drove 10 hours overnight between Nov. 1 and Nov. 2 to a ski resort in Killington, Vermont to get in their first turns of the season.

?Senior geology major Scott Hager made the call to hit the road as soon as the first snowfall hit the U.S.

?“I’ve been wanting to get out ever since snow has started flying all over the U.S.,” Hager said. “So I heard Killington was open, started making some phone calls, and next thing I know I’m driving 10 hours to Vermont.”

?Along with Hager was senior bio-medical technology major Jeanette Salupo and junior managerial marketing major Scott Martin.

?This was the group’s first trip together, and Salupo was skeptical at first of the spontaneous excursion. After quickly evaluating her schedule for the next day and discovering she had class but no work, Salupo agreed to the trip.

?In two days the group drove 10 hours to Killington, where they stayed for six hours, before driving another 10 hours back to Kent.

?In previous winters, Hager usually hit the slopes with a different group, but this year they have all graduated. Now Hager calls himself the only one without a “real job” who can afford to make a last-minute overnight trip like the one to Vermont.

?Salupo usually skies with her dad, but likes to make solo trips out west to catch up with the friends she has there.

?The two said that trips like this one and like the ones Salupo takes by herself are possible because of the bonds skiers and snowboarders almost automatically have with each other.

?“That’s kind of a perk,” Hager said. “Anybody that’s really into the sport, you make friends with them and, next thing you know, you can meet up with them at the drop of a hat.”

?All three students agree that it isn’t difficult to find someone with a couch to lend overnight in the snow community. Salupo calls the people she sees every year on ski trips her “seasonal friends.”

?“You only see them in the winter and you won’t see them in the summer or fall. But when you see them in the winter again, it’s like nothing happened and you’re back to being best friends with them and hanging out.”

?All of this “hanging out” could be disastrous for the trio’s grades, but they said it’s all about weighing risks against rewards.

?The general rule in this group is that if anything important is due in class or if there is a test coming up, studying comes before the slopes. However, like with any rule, there are exceptions. In this case, when a perfect snowstorm comes through, that takes priority over everything else.

?The trip to Killington wasn’t to catch a storm, but to take advantage of the unusually favorable conditions at the resort. Killington had 20 inches of good snow when the group arrived. Not bad for an eastern resort this early in the season.

?Snow is a lifestyle for Salupo, Hager and Martin. Salupo began skiing at age five at Peak N Peak, then at Boston Mills Brandywine Ski Resort in Northfield where her father was an instructor. Hager also got his start snowboarding at Boston Mills Brandywine 14 years ago when a friend invited him to the resort.

?Martin began around 12, snowboarding in a friend’s backyard.

?“He had like a little hill and one of those little plastic snowboards that you just step into. We started doing that and just kind of took off from there.”

?Both guys joined their middle school ski club and used that as a way to get season passes and free rides to resorts.

?Today, all three still ski and snowboard religiously. They say that it is definitely a lifestyle choice.

?“To get out on the slopes,” Hager said. “Whether it’s Boston Mills Brandywine or a trip, I try to get out almost every day.”

?Salupo adds that they really have to be out that often though because she and Hager are ski patrols at Boston Mills Brandywine. Martin currently works at Sun Valley Sports in Akron, selling snow gear, but he was a ski tech at Boston Mills Brandywine for five years.

?When asked whether it is unusual for college students to be ski patrols, Hager and Salupo tried to downplay their position, while Martin nodded vigorously.

?At Martin’s prompting, Hager eventually admitted that the median age for patrols is around the late 40s, but that resorts are starting to hire younger.

?Training to become a ski patrol is equal to taking a three-credit college course. Salupo and Hager met while taking the patrol class together in 2007 when Salupo was a high school senior and Hager a college freshman.

?The position is voluntary, but patrols get to ski for free until someone needs help, or until the patrols need to help with crowd control or a ski instructional.

?Hager said that the hardest part of the job is dealing with drunks on the slopes, who can get violent. Other than that, he enjoys helping people, meeting other patrols and, of course, snowboarding every day.

?The rest of the interview became an impressive list of the places Salupo, Hager and Martin have been skiing and snowboarding and crazy stories from those trips. From talking a New York state trooper into letting Hager and a friend travel a closed freeway to make it back to Kent in time for class after a trip to Maine, to Martin almost getting lost in a snowstorm on his way across Route 11 in New York, to Salupo skiing on canyons in Salt Lake City, each of these self-proclaimed “snowbirds” had more stories to tell than the afternoon allowed. That’s not even going in to the laundry list of broken bones, torn ligaments, concussions, scrapes, bumps, cuts and bruises suffered in the pursuit of adrenaline.

?As the interview came to a close, Martin interrupted the conversation to point out the beginning flurries of Kent’s first snowfall of the season.

?“Let’s go!” Salupo said. “Let’s go on a trip!”

?The pure enthusiasm in her voice was visible in the faces of her companions as they jumped from their seats for a better view of the flakes falling past the window.

Contact Amy Cooknick at [email protected].