By~ Ben Gardner
Director of Winter Sports, 5-6 Homeroom and Math and Science Teacher
Every year the Telluride Mountain School Ski P.E. Program keeps getting better. I am happy to report that we have renewed the strong ski culture that TMS was founded on twenty-two years ago. Only this time, we are doing it with a focus on individual growth, collective knowledge, and a passion for adventure. This year, students spent a collective 51 days on the mountain with teachers and instructors, learning how to ski as a group and increasing the breadth and depth of their skills.
Every March, temperatures begin to warm, the snow starts to melt, and we start celebrating the season’s successes. Some of my favorite memories of this season include the Winter Carnival scavenger hunt, weekly hikes to Mountain Quail with the Freeride Committee, and shredding fresh powder bell to bell in Silverton. It is not just these memories that define our program’s success, but this year, in particular, we have many accomplishments to celebrate.
First, as I write this article, students have not missed a single ski day due to COVID-19. This commitment to being in-person and growing together on the hill demonstrates that as a community, we have done a great job looking out for each other and staying safe amidst a global pandemic. As a result, the Ski P.E. movie titled Better Together highlights the importance of our community skiing together each week. This film captures both students’ and teachers’ perspectives as they react to what it means to be “better together.” As students manage life with masks, social distancing, and little to no social interaction outside of school, capitalizing on this idea of being better as a collective rather than as a group of individuals is more important now than ever before.
Additionally, we are celebrating the largest group of Freeride Committee students since the inception of the program. This year, 30 students committed to spending Tuesdays in the Great Room learning about avalanche awareness, skiing two days a week, and taking part in backcountry trips around the region. Some quick highlights from this year’s Freeride Committee are 13 students receiving their AIRE level 1 certification, 19 students completing the stay-at-home hut trip, and 21 students participating in an epic day skiing at Silverton Mountain.
Last but not least, we must also celebrate the new Montessori ski program. This winter, 31 students from ages three to six completed the first-ever TMS-organized Montessori ski program. This program ran for six weeks, from January 11th to March 1st. The most significant changes from the Comets Program included switching ski times to the afternoons and moving the program’s start date to later in the year, so our youngest students could ski during the warmest hours of the day and ski later into the season. These small changes allowed students to progress more quickly because there was less time spent drinking hot chocolate in Big Billies to warm up and more time spent making turns on the snow. Impressively, a few Montessori groups even began conquering chair 12 terrain! As the Montessori Program strengthens, so does the entire Mountain School ski community because, at each level, students have more experience and feel more connected to our program’s goals in a genuine way.
As we look ahead to 2021-2022, I couldn’t be happier with where the Ski P.E. program is going. The TMS teachers’ dedication to excellence, the strong relationships we have built with Telluride Ski and Golf, Telluride Express, and Bootdoctors, and the ongoing commitment to avalanche education have elevated our Ski P.E. program from recreational to experiential. Just wait until next year, when the Freeride Committee takes Jackson Hole Mountain Resort by storm!