It is wintertime, and if you are like many others out there, you probably hate the cold and are wondering why the hell you chose a college in Maine. Wake up you big crybaby.

Among the many advantages of living in this state are winter sports, easily accessible to college students.

The American Skiing Company (owners of Sunday River, Sugarloaf and others) works to attract young adults by offering discounted tickets and learn-to-ski and ride packages. A USM student you can get a combo pass for Sugarloaf and Sunday River for around $350.

Snowboarding is a relatively new sport. Its growth and popularity in the late `80s and early `90s in part due to the fact that most ski resorts banned the sport around 1985, lending those that chose to partake a renegade or rebel image. The snowboarder image was most commonly associated with a pair of Doc Martens and a green Mohawk.

Things have changed in the last 15 years. Snowboarding is a multi-million dollar industry that markets itself as a lifestyle sport, offering image as well as activity. Many companies have added street clothes, outdoor apparel lines, and other accessories such as sunglasses and hats that are designed for the outdoor experience, but have crossed over into staples of the everyday wardrobe.

Realizing the growing popularity of snowboarding could revive the ailing ski industry, as more and more baby boomers are reaching retirement age, ski resorts began banking on young adult dollars as a large part of their income.

These days 97percent of U.S. mountains allow snowboarders, and many cater specifically to them with parks and half-pipes which are exclusive.

The appeal of snowboarding is not due solely to image. Many feel that, although difficult to master, learning to snowboard is easier than learning to ski.

Sunday River instructor Corey Oullette, who teaches “Learn How to Ride” clinics has noticed how many students are giving it the old college try.

“Most of [the participants] are college-age 20-something’s,” said Oullette. “When you first start it isn’t easy, but once you get over the learning curve snowboarding is a lot quicker to learn than skiing.”

Media studies senior Selena Craig begs to differ.

“I fell on my butt so many times,” she said.

USM Portland Campus Recreation coordinator Tina Aldrich has also noticed the extreme popularity of the sport. Aldrich takes group trips to mountains such as Sunday River and Sugarloaf.

“I usually have groups of 20, and three quarters of them take snowboard lessons,” said Aldrich.

Taking a lesson your first time out on the slopes is not absolutely necessary, but it helps. Instructor Corey Oullette suggests taking a lesson.

“You can learn a lot on your own but there’s so much more you can learn from someone who knows. Ride with friends who are better than you, that’s how I got good,” he said.

Feb. 3 at Sugarloaf and Feb. 9 at Sunday River is National Girls and Women in Sports Day, where you can learn to ski or snowboard for free. This one is for ladies only but there are also group trips sponsored by the Portland Events Board, such as at Sugarloaf on Feb. 3 and March 3.

Call Tina Aldrich at 780-4630 for more details.

Have classes all day, every day? Shawnee Peak offers night skiing for just $11 with a student ID card.

Get rid of the winter blues by picking up a new sport. USM senior Jason Reynolds has been snowboarding for six years. “It’s great getting outside in the winter, it keeps you from going stir crazy. It brings me closer to God.”


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here