Seniors hits slopes, pen in hand
Nick Cunkelman ’11 loves JanPlan. A skier since age six and an aspiring journalist, Cunkelman recently returned from a three-day stint covering the Winter X Games in Aspen, CO.
Having already completed his three required JanPlans, Cunkelman headed out to Jackson Hole for a month of skiing and fun with fellow seniors. The group stayed at Sam Axlerod ’11’s house, and have fondly referred to their month-long trip as “living the college dream.”
The Winter X Games gig was unexpected; Cunkelman, an officer in the Colby Outing Club, was working with The Ski Channel to organize a movie screening on campus and came out of the evening as a freelance writer for the popular channel. Upon hearing that Cunkelman was already planning on heading west, The Ski Channel helped him get press credentials to report on the Winter X Games.
Cunkelman soon found himself in Aspen alongside professional journalists and photographers.
“I was the only college kid [working] out there,” Cunkelman said. He quickly found his place in the press tent, but rather than being intimidated, he embraced the opportunity to learn more about the field.
“Being in the press tent was very cool, you get to talk to all the other journalists and photographers and see what they’re up to,” he said. Cunkelman found that writing freelance allowed him much more freedom than the other journalists who were there on assignment.
“There’s so much going on at one time that you want to take it all in but also need to focus your journalistic instincts,” Cunkelman said.
Cunkelman’s final JanPlan was a true culmination of his interests, both academic and recreational. As a freshman, he spent the month studying digital photography on the Hill, preparing him to capture great moments at the Winter X Games with only casual photography experience under his belt. Sophomore year, he headed west to Jackson Hole and wrote for a small, weekly paper, Jackson Hole News & Guide. After spending January and spring semester of his junior year studying philosophy at Oxford University, Cunkelman was ready to enjoy his final winter with friends on the slopes, and the journalism gig was the icing on the cake.
Cunkelman certainly had his fair share of entertaining tales to tell. He and twin brother Ben Cunkelman ’11 attended a Big Boi concert at the base of Aspen Mountain and missed the bus back to the last competition of the night. The Cunkelmans, along with a handful of other ski-enthusiasts, managed to rally the bus driver to make one more run. “We all got on the bus and started chanting him name and he ended up driving us nearly all the way to the mountain,” Cunkelman said. “Oh, we also saw a woman hula-hooping and snowboarding at the same time. I remember my brother being like, ‘Only in Aspen.’”
Cunkelman managed to do his fair share of networking at the Winter X Games as well, trading business cards with other reporters and photographers. “It’s like trading Pokemon cards all over again,” he said with a laugh.
A philosophy major, Cunkelman is interested in pursuing sports journalism. Besides his work for the Jackson Hole News & Guide his sophomore year, Cunkelman has interned for The Boston Globe Magazine and has written extensively for The Ski Channel. Cunkelman proved his knack for journalism with an article he wrote in November about a safety drill at Sugarloaf Mountain titled “Sugarloaf Tests Emergency Response Procedures.” The article foreshadowed the chairlift accident that occurred at Sugarloaf on December 28, 2010 and sent several people to local hospitals with injuries.
“I talked to my editor about [the article] since that happened, it was incredibly ironic,” Cunkelman said.
Cunkelman applied for the Watson Fellowship in order to cover international sporting events for the next two years, and he is planning on applying to graduate programs in journalism in the fall of 2012, though he is open-minded in his approach to the future. Without a doubt, his JanPlan adventures have solidified his passion for journalism and proved that work and play can indeed coexist.
“JanPlan is the window that you actually get to explore a pure passion, it can be on campus or off campus,” Cunkelman said. “Without JanPlan I never could have landed the summer jobs I did.”