November 23, 2014

Elyria
Showers
54°F
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Move over beach bums, here are the ski bums

Zach, Hiliary and Bethany Neal know how to do the “snow dance,” and while most people are trying to find comfort by a fire or under a warm blanket when the air turns frigid, the Neal siblings are preparing to hit the slopes.

Zach, 17, Hiliary, 15, and Bethany, 13, of Carlisle Township, all are avid snowboarders with the Grafton Ski Bums.

“I heard about it at Midview High School. It’s fun being on the snow and going down the mountains and feeling the wind in your face,” Zach said.

Hiliary said one reason she enjoys being part of the Grafton Ski Bums is because it gives her siblings and her a chance to bond.

“It’s really important because it’s a family activity,” she said.

As for Bethany, she will never forget the first time she got off the ski lift and looked down the mountain.

“I was just looking down the hill, and I just kept going down. It’s exciting to be out there,” Bethany said. “I think kids should join the Grafton Ski Bums because it’s great to do in the wintertime instead of just sitting around the house.”

Their father, Jeff Neal, used to ski until an accident on the slopes left him with a broken shoulder. Despite that, he is not nervous that his children take to the slopes for 12 Sundays during the winter months with the club.

“They enjoy the challenging hills. Zach is a daredevil, and he can do skateboarding tricks (on the snowboard), and so can Bethany — they are all pretty good at it,” Neal said.

The Grafton Ski Bums are supervised by George Bates and David DiVencenzo. The organization has been around for more than 30 years. Last year, almost 80 students signed on — up from the average of about 70.

Bates, a retired physical education teacher from the Midview Schools, travels to local schools to inform teachers and staff members of the opportunity for students to join.

“It’s a community-type organization. We operate it like a school group, but it’s not affiliated with the schools,” Bates said. “Anybody who wants to ski can join us. We go and have fun.”

The Grafton Ski Bums includes students from Midview, Keystone, Wellington, Oberlin and Elyria.

“It’s really the greater Lorain County ski club,” DiVencenzo said.

And since the club has stood the test of time, DiVencenzo said the club is now seeing second generations of skiers and snowboarders. In fact, DiVencenzo’s children — Anthony, Delaina, Daniel and Dominic — have all followed in their father’s ski tracks and joined.

“I was in ski club and have been helping George for seven years. A lot of kids I used to ski with now have children who are now in Grafton Ski Bums,” DiVencenzo said.

A few of the club’s favorite locations are Brandywine/Boston Mills Ski Resort in the Cuyahoga Valley and Peek n’ Peak in western New York.

“I have met a lot of people in ski club — when you get on top of a mountain, it’s so beautiful, it’s almost spiritual,” Bates said.