On the Slopes, the Eagle Rock Teacher Becomes the Student

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Screen Shot 2015-02-19 at 10.27.15 AM

Falling is one of the ways of moving. ­– Merce Cunningham

Spiritual development is an important component of Eagle Rock’s 8+5=10 philosophy.

Which is why we begin each trimester with Week 0 — a time when returning students and staff take time to reflect on the previous trimester and set the tone for the trimester to come. In the midst of Week 0, individual student living houses set goals, share intentions and build relationships at house retreats.

While we did spend a significant amount of time on goals and reflection, students and staff from Aspen and Juniper Houses also had the opportunity to hit the slopes at Beaver Creek Resort near Avon, Colo. Boarding the buses well before dawn on a cold mid-January morning, we bundled beneath hats and lots of layers and traveled three hours southwest of campus for a day on the mountain.

Now, if you’re like me, you’ve never seen the appeal of attaching a couple of sticks to your feet and sliding down a really big hill. On the other hand, I’m also not one to shy away from new experiences. While I still had anxieties about breaking an ankle, making a fool of myself and freezing to death because of not wearing enough layers, I was feeling pretty great about learning something new, especially alongside our students.

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Eagle Rock students getting ready for a day on the snow at Beaver Creek with SOS Outreach.

When we finally arrived, staff from SOS Outreach — a nonprofit that that uses adventure sports to foster self-confidence, leadership skills and positive decision-making in the clients it serves — met with us and helped our students get oriented for the day head. . Suffice to say, our day on the slopes would not have been possible without SOS’ support. They got us connected with the Beaver Creek’s ride school, where everyone in our group was fitted with gear, put on the lift and sent down the bunny slope until we all demonstrated that we’d mastered the basics.

As I mentioned, I was fairly hesitant about the whole thing, but when snowy mountains surround you at 8,000 feet, it’s hard not to enjoy the setting. Things got even better when we were able to move from the bunny slope to a Green groomer. This allowed us to practice our skills on a hill that was much longer, but of a similar grade.

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The author, Molly Milota.

We learned how to brake and, eventually, to turn slightly, as a “falling leaf.” There were moments when this was a trying process and we certainly had our fair share of falls along the way — falling face first, falling when trying to get off the lift, falling and bruising our tailbones. By the end of the day, however, everyone had shown tremendous growth, making it down the hill smiling and laughing, cheeks rosy from the wind and sun.

When it was time to head back to Eagle Rock in Estes Park, I settled into the back seat of the bus, thankful that Colorado provides such a beautiful landscape for living and learning. Our students, who are funny and full of life, energized me and I was reminded that it’s much easier to take risks when you’re surrounded by people who genuinely care about your success. This matters in the classroom just as much as it matters when you’re taking on a ski hill.

I can assure you that our day at Beaver Creek was one for the books.

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About The Author: Molly Milota is the Life After Eagle Rock Public Allies Fellow at the Eagle Rock School and Professional Development Center in Estes Park, Colo. Prior to Eagle Rock, she worked at Kansas State University as part of that institution’s housing and dining services. She brings to the Eagle Rock table extensive knowledge about what it takes to get into college — and also what it takes to stay in college. Molly has worked with Spectrum Series groups along with Functional Literacy tutoring. She has a Masters of Science from K-State in counseling and student development.

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