It’s early morning and the first rays of warm sun are peaking over the slopes of Killington and the surrounding hills. Your breath hangs heavy like fog and the powder underfoot makes a strong crunch as you move. The night before a major storm has dropped several inches of fresh snow unto the mountain. Clumps of snow still heavy in the trees seize and hold the sunlight with the low wind stealing the loose diamond dust into the air. For many, including Castleton State College residents, this is a paradise.With this winter bringing about the best conditions for skiing and snowboarding in recent years, students are flocking in droves to be the first to the several local ski mountains as often as they possibly can. Students can often even be seen sporting snow gear to classes, ready to hit the slopes immediately after.
“I always go at least once a week, maybe three times if I’m lucky” says student Michael Slade. A senior here at Castleton, Slade has visited Killington more than a dozen times since the mountain opened back in October and like many others takes full advantage of the school’s close proximity to the resort.
“It helps not having classes on Fridays and the frequent snowfall we’ve been getting makes it really worthwhile,” he said.
Casey Burke, a junior at Castleton, talks of how his winter break was made all the sweeter with a day most snowboarders dream of.
“A few days before school started back up about four of us traveled up to Killington one morning” recalls Burke. “It had snowed the night before and we had about a foot of powder. There were waves of snow when we moved down the mountain! I’ve never had a day like that one”
Like many on campus, Slade and Burke are two of numerous out of state students or students who moved to Vermont and were attracted to Castleton not just for its academics, but for its close proximity to Killington, Pico and Okemo.
Perhaps the greatest advantage for students attending the school is not just the location, but the skiing and riding community it’s made up of. Many of the students who now snowboard or ski learned to do so after seeing the active winter sports environment and getting help from people already involved.
“I knew how to ski before I got here” adds Slade. “But I decided to pick up snowboarding eventually. Myself and three others I lived with got to learn together and had help from two other friends who were avid already. It was great to have those around me I could ask for advice”
The college itself, though dedicated to its academics, takes great pride in being so close to the readily available ski sites and promotes these attractions to its newcomers and those exploring colleges still in high school.
“When I go state to state one of the first questions I get from younger students about the school is ‘How close is it to Okemo or Killington?'” says Castleton Ski team coach and admissions staff Chris Eder.
It’s not so surprising then that the ski team has only 7 of 22 team members from Vermont with the majority hailing from across not only New England but the nation.
Maurice Ouimet, head of admissions, said there’s also an interesting trend among out of state students at Castleton.
“Many of the students, especially the ones from out of state, are people who came to Vermont to ski with their parents as kids. They remember that and look for schools in the area,” he said.
Some students, such as freshman and ski team member Derek Munday, go so far as to say how having good academic standing contributes to their ability to ski.
“I defiantly do better with my schoolwork in season” says Munday. “Being able to go out and ski gives me a reason to stay on top of my grades so that I don’t fall behind and can go out skiing freely when I want.”
Though unable to formally comment about their sales, Killington Representative Lee Cowan hints that things have been going well on their end as well.
“We opened almost three weeks sooner than every other resort this year so it’s been a great early season and a lot of students have been taking advantage of that and the weather” Cowan said. “We visit schools in the area like Castleton and there’s a very high amount of student interest whenever we do.”
The winter season is still only half-way through and with many more snowy days to come it’s not all that hard to tell where the absent students will be if not in class the day another dusting of snow comes around.