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Lake County's hidden treasure for skiers and snowboarders

Jan 05, 2017 02:52PM ● Published by Today's Family

Skis and snowboards await riders taking a break in Big Creek's cozy chalet

By Laura Dalheim

Dreading another winter stuck inside with bored kids?  Cleveland Ski Club’s Big Creek Ski Area in Concord Township has a cure for cabin fever.  A family membership to the club will have your kids leaving behind smartphones and Minecraft to race down the slopes.

Big Creek is Lake County’s little-known ski hill. Combine a membership to the club with a pair of skis leased from Little Mountain Ltd. ski shop in Mentor, and you have a winter filled with fun and quality time spent with your kids.

Its location in the snow belt just north of Chardon allows the club to perform a kind of alchemy, turning frosty air and mounds of snow from a burden into something magical and inviting.

Member Casey O’Neil helps make that magic. A member since he was a kid, he has spent every winter on these slopes.  For him, the best pay-off for the hours he spends grooming the slopes are the smiles he sees on people’s faces.

His teen daughter, Emily, plans her week to include at least a couple nights at the club as well as most of the weekend.

Hers is a common weeknight routine for young members: get out of school and head to Big Creek. The short lift lines allow for more riding time than they’d get at a larger facility.
“I love how everyone works together to help each other and kids are respected,” Emily said. “I love that the adults make it special, like opening on days off school.”

Julie O’Neil loves the club as much as her daughter.  “The club becomes an extension of our home during the winters,” Julie said.  “We love the years of family time we’ve had there.  It goes from teaching your kids to ski to letting them go on their own to seeing them choose to make the sport a part of their lives because of their experiences growing up as a member of the ski club.”

This is not an upscale, wear-your-most-glamorous-ski-gear kind of place.  Members are a diverse group of people from all walks of life who share the common bond of a love for snow sports; that shared passion creates a deep friendship among the members.

Wendy Kotnik said Big Creek combines that great family atmosphere with great skiing.  “Our mix of breakfasts, potlucks and social events makes it a fun place to hang out,” she said.

Like Emily, brothers Evan and Ryan Seabeck also grew up with skis attached to their feet, learning the ropes in the club’s Kids on Skis program. Mom, Stephanie Seabeck, became a member when she married husband Chris.

“The ski club was, and still is, a huge part of our lives,” Stephanie says. “it’s the social connection we’ve made over the years that makes it so special.”

Chris remembers the '70s when there were 1,000 members and the chalet was so packed the kids had to stay outside.

“If I only knew then what this place would mean to me now,” Chris said.  “During my teens, I worked the lifts and helped make snow.  Little did I know that I’d be doing the same thing today.”

Chris’s sister-in-law Katie Seabeck says it’s what skiing is supposed to be.  “It's not about the biggest mountains, fancy lodges or high-tech lifts,” Katie said.  “It's about sharing a sport you love with family and friends and passing it down to your children.”

For membership info, visit www.bigcreekski.org.

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