Nick Ventura Rides Again
7 Yrs After Serious Accident Snowboarder Joins Safety Patrol
Story and Photo By John Thomas
It was eight years ago this month that Nick Ventura, while enjoying a snowboarding weekend with the family of a friend, slammed head first into a tree while boarding at HoliMont. Ski patrolman Ryan Dominski found Nick lying on the ground unconscious. Mark Schultz, another patrolman, happened to be nearby and stopped to assist. He put Nick on oxygen, and the two transported Nick to the ski patrol facility. An ambulance was summoned, and the injured boarder was taken to Women and Children’s Hospital in Buffalo. Doctors operated immediately to relieve the swelling in Nick’s brain. His parents, Brian and Patty, joined him at the hospital. After five weeks Nick finally recovered enough for his parents to take him home to Cleveland. What followed was a year of physical and speech therapy that allowed Nick, precisely a year later, to return to snowboard at HoliMont again.
Nick has been snowboarding at the ski club regularly since his emotional return to the slopes seven years ago. The Villager had a chance to catch up with the college sophomore to find out how he’s been doing. Recovering from a traumatic brain injury can be long, slow and frustrating, and for Nick, it’s been no different. “I had to start from square one. I had to relearn everything”, he says, calling from his dorm room at St. Bonaventure. “I took it day by day.” Many times he wondered if he would succeed at recovery. Even after seven years, some problems persist, “It’s my life. I struggle every day,” he tells me. He has trouble doing things most of us take for granted, “It’s little things, like tying a knot or where did I park my car? Little things like that.” He goes on in his slightly halting manner, “My speech is still a little affected, I have trouble thinking of certain words, sometimes. It takes me a second or two to think of what exactly I’m going to say.” He mentions he has some balance issues.
But none of that is keeping him off the slopes. “There’s nothing else like snowboarding in the world; the joy I feel,” he says. “It’s all the feelings combined into one, happiness, excitement.” Just behind snowboarding on his list of favorite things to do is bodybuilding, building up his physical strength. Lately, he’s been trying his hand at Telemark skiing. He took a course in Adventure Education that he found applies to his life in many ways, and gave him a love of the outdoors. Also at the top of his favorites things is his girlfriend, Gracie. Currently, Nick is an undecided major at St. Bonaventure, but he’s enrolled in graphic design classes, “Like Photoshop and Illustrator, stuff like that.” He tells me a career in graphic design and content production might be in his future and is excited about the options the pathway opens for him.
Nick’s life is coming full circle in a certain way. Mark Schultz, one of the first patrolmen to assist Nick the day of the accident, is urging Nick to take classes that will allow him to become a ski patrolman himself. Now a member of the Safety Patrol at HoliMont, Nick patrols on regular shifts Friday through Monday. You can hardly blame the staff at the ski area for treating Nick like the Big Man on the Mountain. His run on Exhibition nearly took the worst turn imaginable, and here his is back again on the slopes. “When I go there I’m a movie star,” he says obviously reveling in the attention. The patrol members who visited him in the hospital have become like a second family for him, and he remains close to them. “Everyone knows me. It’s a feeling like no other in the world. It’s awesome.” The avid snowboarder has come a long way. During that period in the hospital, Nick’s father Brian had said they weren’t sure Nick would make it through some nights. Now, despite a few challenges, Nick’s future is bright.