During ski season, I have a very simple rule about travel: I don’t go anywhere that doesn’t involve skiing. The season’s just too short. So while people I know are heading out on cruises to the Caribbean, I stay put in New England or only venture out west to ski.
My parents live in Florida, and they’re pretty understanding. I don’t go down there between mid-November and the end of April, which is why I’m in the Sunshine State now. My ski season’s over, and it’s time to pay them a visit.
There’s no dispute that Florida is waaaaaay different than Vermont. There isn’t a mountain or a ski trail in sight, and palm trees bear no resemblance to the towering firs that surround my house. And though I’ve always heard that Florida has plenty of skiers, I’d be hard put to pick them out. Not a down parka or a ski goggle in sight. The only skis I’ve noticed were sported by a water skier being towed by a boat. So what’s the deal? Are there really skiers in the Sunshine State? And how do they manage? For some insight, I spoke to Toufic Moumne, president of the Florida Ski Council (yes, there is one).
Q: So tell me, Toufic, is it true? Do skiers actually live in Florida?
A: Oh, yes. We have a lot of people who have relocated here from the north, and they bring their love of skiing with them. In fact, we have 15 ski clubs in Florida. The biggest one, in Tampa, has between 2,000 and 3,000 members. It’s one of the biggest ski clubs in the country.
Q: So your skiers are essentially transplants?
A: Most of them are, but not all. My kids, for example, are from Florida and they ski. Plus word of mouth and marketing brings a lot of people to the sport. They hear how much fun it is so they want to give it a try.
Q: So what are the challenges of being a skier in Florida?
A: Well, obviously, if you want to ski, you have to go elsewhere. The Florida Ski Council offers three big trips a year, and the individual ski clubs have their own trips, too; there’s probably a total of 20 trips a year. We get a good turnout. We do our first trip at the end of January, and usually between 450 and 800 people sign on.
Q: What do you do about gear? Where do you get your boots fitted, and so on?
A: Some people get it done when we go on trips. And there are some seasonal ski shops in Florida, too.
Q: Is it hard to keep the stoke going?
A: Not really. Even when we’re not skiing, the Florida ski clubs are very active, socially. We have a lot of other activities, too: running, kayaking, biking, a lot of fun things. So there’s always something going on.
Q: Do your members have any difficulty acclimating to the cold or the altitude, when they go out west?
A: Not really. Many of them are from the north, so they already know about the cold. Plus we give them some instruction about what to wear. We also educate people about the altitude, telling them to drink plenty of water, no alcohol, see a doctor beforehand if they think they’ll have trouble.
Q: So tell me — and be honest — do other people in Florida think you’re crazy?
A: Yeah, they do. We get laughed at a bit. But when they see how much fun we’re having, and what a great value it is when you go through the ski clubs, they begin to understand.