An extreme experience: Villanovans take to the slopes

Elizabeth Nieto

Villanova has had a ski club for decades – and at one time in the distant past, it was a club of some notoriety. However, as recently as two years ago, most people had not heard of Villanova’s ski club. The club had fallen into obscurity.

That all changed during the summer of 2002, when the club passed into new hands and was renamed Villanova Ski & Snowboard eXtreme, or VSSX, as it is commonly known. As recently as the winter of 2001, the Ski Club managed only one trip to Jackson Hole, Wyoming, with just 27 people attending. This year, the reborn VSSX is running a total of six trips to destinations such as Killington and Sugarbush in Vermont, Quebec and Whistler in Canada and Blue Mountain here in Pennsylvania. With 165 people attending the first three trips before the spring semester and over 200 members in total, VSSX membership has exploded.

Al Arnal, the club’s vice president, attributes its success to “catering to what people really want on ski trips, taking feedback and using that to make the next trip even better.”

“We have abilities from experts to people who have never skied before and want to give it a try,” he said. “They all come back satisfied.”

The club strives to offer trips not only for all abilities but all price ranges, as trips cost between $35 and $935. In addition, the club offers membership cards that provide discounts at local ski, snowboard and bike shops. Whatever their formula for success, it certainly seems to be working. This year’s first trip filled all 60 spots by Oct. 1, with many repeat customers from last year.

VSSX is not just about spending the day on the hill, however. Destinations are picked partially because of the nightlife they offer. Chief among these are Quebec City over New Year’s. “The clubs were always packed and pretty crazy and the bars and restaurants had great food and drink,” Mike Finnell, a sophomore at Villanova, said.

Then there is Whistler where, according to Ski magazine, “There’s always a party somewhere … Check out the dancers at Tommy Africa’s. Bars are open well beyond the hour when decent Americans are in bed, and still patrons are reluctant to leave.”

The club has even moved to bring this social aspect to campus Last November, VSSX sponsored Philadelphia’s premier of “The Prophecy,” Teton Gravity Research’s biggest ski and snowboard film to date. This year, a formal is in the works due to demands by the club’s members.