Bobcat Perspectives: Making the most of a mountain college

My name is Makena, and I am a sophomore here at Lees-McRae College. I am originally from Nashville, Tennessee, so coming up to the mountains is quite the altitude change for me. When I decided I wanted to go to Lees-McRae, I knew I had to take some classes that weren’t offered at many other colleges and that took advantage of our location, which is why I signed up for Skiing and Snowboarding (ORM 237). 

Coming from Nashville where there are no mountains for hundreds of miles, I figured I would take the opportunity of attending college in the mountains to learn how to snowboard. The Skiing and Snowboarding class is offered during the spring semester, and it counts for the Health and Wellness credit of the General Education requirements and for the Skill Fundamentals requirement of my Outdoor Recreation Management minor. Skiing and Snowboarding is a two credit hour class. When I took it, we met Wednesdays and Thursdays from 4 to 7 p.m. up on Beech Mountain. Lees-McRae has a close partnership with Beech Mountain Ski Resort—we even have a dedicated classroom space in The Lodge where the different ski and snowboard classes will meet. Our college ski and snowboarding teams also meet up and practice there a few nights a week. 

My teacher was Talia Freeman, a Lees-McRae alumna and adjunct professor who is also the Director of Marketing at the Beech Mountain and the president of the college’s Alumni Board. During our first class, Talia taught us about skier safety and how to use the equipment. Once we learned about the equipment and the safety rules, Talia split us into groups based on what we chose to learn. Since I was learning snowboarding I got put into a group with four other students who also decided to learn snowboarding. Each group was assigned an instructor that works for Beech Mountain Resort to take us out to the slopes and teach us the technical skills required to do our chosen sport. 

Everyone started learning on the bunny hills. The first lesson for the snowboarders was learning how to move around with one foot strapped onto the board. Once we were comfortable with that, we got both feet strapped in. One of the safety rules you have to follow is to always be able to control where you are going and your speed, so that was one of the first skills we learned. On the bunny hills we learned how to stop our board and how to turn left and right. When our instructor thought we were comfortable controlling our boards, he took us out to the next hardest slopes to practice on. As we kept improving and getting more comfortable our instructor would introduce a new technique for us to practice or he would move us up to a different run. We kept learning like this till we could ride on the hardest run, the black diamond. I felt really accomplished by the end of the course since I could say that I can run black diamonds without fear. But it took a lot of effort, patience, and persistence to get there.

Persistence and perseverance are especially important in the first few classes, which is when people may drop this class because of the big learning curve. Some people can get really frustrated if they aren’t doing as well as they thought they would. This is where an individual's mindset can make or break their whole experience: you have to keep trying and push yourself or else you'll just get frustrated and want to quit because you think it’s too hard. The first few classes I can’t even tell you how much I fell, and how bad some of those falls hurt, but I knew I had to just keep getting up, even if I didn’t think I could. I’ve heard someone say that your mind gives up before your body does, and I think that is very true for this sport. You are going to be exhausted and bruised, and there will be days you don’t want to do it anymore, but trust me—just keep trying. Keep going because the end result is so worth it. You make so many friends doing a tough sport like this because everyone is cheering for you, even total strangers going up the lift. You make memories with the friends around you every time you go up a lift. It was really one of the coolest experiences I’ve ever had, and even though it was really difficult along the way I wouldn’t trade it for anything else. The feeling of going down your first big slope without falling, or the feeling of doing complex turns without messing up, is such a big rush of accomplishment and pride.

I’d really recommend this class to anyone. My advice is to just keep pushing yourself and don’t give up. It’s worth every bruise and fall. It’s incredibly fun and the staff up on Beech Mountain Resort make sure everyone is having a fun, safe time. Once you take this class it’s a skill you'll have for life, one that you can enjoy with friends anytime. If you need a class for your Health and Wellness credit or ORM major or minor, or even if you just are looking to have fun with some friends every week, consider registering for Skiing and Snowboarding. 

By Makena VosbergOctober 24, 2022