On Tuesday, March 28, leadership of the 5C Ski & Snowboard Club sent an email asking hundreds of students and alumni on their email list for their support regarding a recent suspension that the Pomona College administration sanctioned.
In the email, the club explained that the Pomona administration placed them on suspension until the spring of 2024 and froze their funding until then. The email attributed their suspension to an unauthorized bus and accusations –– which they denied –– of the use of funding for the purchase of alcohol.
The email criticized the administration for writing new policy “overnight” in order to “punish the Ski Club for having and operating the bus.”
In the summer of 2022, former president of the club and current chief advisor of both the club and team, Kirill Myagkov PO ’23, purchased a used school bus in hopes of using it to transport students and gear on excursions. He said that the club saw this purchase as a solution to an issue they had faced in the past with transportation.
“With our … our accessibility initiatives, where we’re specifically taking 30, 40, 50, 60 people up, who maybe have never even seen snow,” Myagkov told TSL. “We’re relying on volunteers to be able to drive them in their personal vehicles, we figured that we needed a solution to be able to transport more folks … we weren’t able never able to convince [the athletics departments] to allow us to use their passenger vans … The school doesn’t actually really have any great resources when it comes to transportation for students.”
The bus was purchased without any institutional funding in hopes of avoiding liability issues with the school. Myagkov, along with David Enders CM ’24 created an LLC which he claims they funded with money given to the organization from Ikon Pass and outside crowdfunding efforts.
According to Myagkov, at the time of the purchase, Pomona had no policy which indicated an issue with the club owning or operating a school bus. However, a mistaken parking violation in late January, in which Claremont Police notified the colleges of the bus, sparked an investigation into the club by Pomona.
“Our Executive Board met with the administration at the 5Cs who oversees clubs … that would be Dean Josh [Eisenberg] or Dean Ellie Ash-Balá,” Myagkov said. “The bus was something that the school did not feel comfortable with [and] their lawyers did not feel was going to be able to adhere to their insurance policies.”
During the investigation of the bus, the administration asked the 5C Ski & Snowboard organization to look into their finances including the use of a non-school-sponsored Venmo account run by the Executive Board. This eventually led to accusations of the organization using school funding to purchase alcohol.
Using a Venmo account, according to organization leadership, was helpful in keeping track of payments and reimbursements for various trips, which they said get very chaotic because of the limited time between sign-ups and trips.
However, the administration expressed extreme concern for the lack of accountability of the account and requested access to its transaction history. The club complied, but were unable to provide the level of detail about past transactions that the administration wanted due to a lack of record keeping. The organization’s inability to explain each payment led the administration to suspect them of using the money to purchase alcohol.
“They divulged that ‘hey we’re looking for any transaction of illicit products, alcohol, etc.,’” Myagkov said. “The accusation was that if we weren’t able to provide an itemized receipt for any transaction that was related to food or groceries, they said they would assume [that the money] had been spent on alcohol.”
Due to the club’s issues with working alongside Pomona, Myagkov admitted fault in how they handled the situation.
“All of this was a work in progress,” Myagkov said. “I won’t sit here and tell you that we were perfect … but I want to emphasize that we were always striving to do better than that.”
The investigation additionally extended beyond just the purchase of alcohol. According to Zoe Hancock SC ’23, Pomona administration levied charges of club members and leaders driving while intoxicated.
“We had a meeting with [Ash-Balá] where she accused us of drunk driving … which was a wild accusation because that has absolutely never happened,” Hancock said. “She had one student who had a bad experience at Reading Daze and that was all the information that we got, which also leaves us without any ability to make changes … because there’s nothing substantial there.”
In an email response to the club’s suspension, Ash-Balá explained that she would not go into detail on the situation to support the privacy of the students involved.
“As I am sure you can understand, we can’t comment on individual situations like this as the students and club involved are entitled to privacy,” Ash-Balá wrote. “All I can say is that the club was suspended due to significant violations of 5C student organization policies.”
Pomona’s senior director of communications Patty Vest did not comment on the situation herself, instead referring back to Ash-Balá’s statement. Neither the Pomona-Pitzer (P-P) athletics communications team nor Dominiqic Williams and Matt Ryan, the administrators in charge of club sports at the 5Cs, responded for comment in time for publication.
Despite the tremendous amount of work that the organization’s leadership said they have put in the past few weeks in an attempt to rectify this issue, the main concern they emphasized with the suspension is the effect it will have on the organization’s accessibility initiatives.
Every year, the club runs “Beginner Daze,” a pay-what-you-can event which allows students who have never skied or snowboarded before the chance to go to Big Bear Mountain for the day and take lessons. Due to the club’s funding being frozen, they are unable to run more of these days, which they had hoped to.
Additionally, the organization can no longer lend gear, another way they try to make winter sports more accessible for students.
According to ski club and team member Lily Waldman SC ’26, the suspension is affecting underprivileged students the most.
“It’s very frustrating because it makes it difficult for people who don’t have that accessibility and who haven’t grown up in places with mountains to get up there,” Waldman said. “It’s really unfortunate.”
The email that the club sent on March 28 provided its recipients with a link to a petition in which they asked for signatures to affirm support of the club.
As of Thursday, March 30, the petition had 386 signatures, with supporters of the club signing that:
“This club has positively influenced my experience at the 5Cs. I am in full support of the club’s reinstatement.”
Additionally, the petition allowed students and alumni to leave testimonies of their experience with the club and the team.
Molly Lockwood PZ ’20 thanked the club for the opportunities it provided her during her time in Claremont, echoing other statements about the danger of suspending the club for students who, without it, cannot afford winter sports.
“Lift tickets run upwards of $250 these days. If it weren’t for 5C Ski Club, the barriers to access would have been insurmountable for me. Thanks to the tireless work of the club’s student leaders, I’ve been able to experience the joy of mountain sports and all the positive things that come along with it,” Lockwood wrote in her testimony.
Team member Will Sedo HM ’26 said he is hopeful for a solution so that the organization can continue to do what it does best –– to provide students in Claremont the opportunity to go to the mountains and have fun.
“We really hope that we can figure this out because at the end of the day we just want to go skiing and make it possible for other people to go skiing and boarding too,” Sedo said. “I hope we can figure this out soon.”