Semester 48: Ski Week, Affinity Spaces, & Celebrations on Campus

Written by: Teo, Hazel, Samantha, & Helen

HMI Ski Week: Never skied before? Never telemark skied before? Fear not! Ski week at HMI will teach you everything you need to feel comfortable skiing in all types of conditions and through all terrains. We learned the avalanche basics, backcountry touring skills, and most fun of all, got several days of skiing in at Ski Cooper. At the mountain we started small, working our way up to more difficult terrain and more advanced techniques. We practiced a variety of drills on the slopes to help us feel more comfortable and begin to telemark turn. Everyone was given the appropriate equipment to be safe and, most importantly, have fun out on the slopes. Ski Cooper, even though it is a relatively small mountain, offers a variety of terrain options for everyone and its family mountain vibes are sure to make any skier feel comfortable. The instructors are all HMI staff, allowing students to form tighter bonds with people they may see often but not converse with. They are all magnificent telemark skiers and tailor each run to the needs of the students. Ski Week is just the thing for both new skiers, as well as a boost in skills for those who already ski. 

Backcountry Skiing & Winter Expedition: This week, we leave campus and set off on our ten day backcountry ski expedition. For the next week and a half, we are going to be sleeping in quigloos and backcountry skiing. I feel strangely prepared, which is not something I would have imagined saying a week ago. Last week was the infamous “Ski Week”, where we spent several mornings getting comfortable on telemark skis and doing all that we could to be ready for our expedition. The first morning was a backcountry ski day. I fell a lot, and can confidently say that getting up with skis on in two and a half feet of powder after never having skied before was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. I’m not exaggerating when I say it took at least ten minutes of struggling. I ended the day feeling less than excited for the adventure ahead. But then we kept skiing. We spent four days at Ski Cooper, split up into groups based on our previous skiing experience. Being the beginner that I am, I was in the group that started on the T-Bar. However, after day two, I was already transitioning from pizza-ing down green trails to making turns on blue trails. At the end of day three, we got assigned our expedition groups, and spent the fourth day at Ski Cooper skiing in those groups. For our final day of Ski Week, we were back to backcountry skiing, this time in our groups, and I felt infinitely more comfortable. We practiced pulling sleds, carrying backpacks, and even made a few downhill turns. We only skied for about an hour, but it was exhausting. Part of me is dreading the physical struggle of the whole ordeal, but the more significant part of me cannot wait for the challenge. Expedition is going to consist of several very hard days, but I am already certain that the reward is going to outweigh the struggle. 

Affinity Groups: When I arrived at HMI, I immediately noticed that a majority of students were white. It wasn’t that different from my experience back home, as I, and many of the other students of color, go to predominantly white institutions. During our first week of classes, Semester 48 students of color met as a group, known as Hikers of Hue, who now meet every Friday during dinner. Our first meal together was spaghetti and meatballs, and Lupe, Pooja, and the apprentices treated us to some snacks! We all introduced ourselves and began to talk about our experiences in and out of the HMI community. We shared about how we connect to our identity, and how for many, Hikers of Hue was a space to feel more connected to it. No matter how deep and real the conversation got, we were always able to crack jokes and have fun. Even though we didn’t really know each other at that point, we were able to form a close knit community through our similar experiences and backgrounds. Throughout the rest of the week, I looked forward to the next Friday. That evening, we got dinner, met in Stuen Hall, shared more stories, ate ice cream, and faculty offered their support. At our most recent meeting, we had ice cream and brownies (yum!) and talked about what Second Expedition would look like for us. For expedition, the Hikers of Hue were split up into two expedition groups, making those groups both a majority people of color. This gives us an opportunity to get to know each other outside of the Hikers of Hue meetings and in nature. I realized that after talking to a couple of different people, we all have the same experience after leaving these meetings: happy, safe, and fulfilled. And, this isn’t the only opportunity HMI gives for an affinity space, there is a Q^2 space for for queer and questioning students to connect as well!

Religious Celebrations on Campus: As some of you may know, this past Wednesday, known as Ash Wednesday in the Catholic Church, marked the start of the lenten season. As part of HMI’s commitment to provide spaces and services for all sorts of religious events and holidays, HMI hosted Father Rodriguez, one of the local catholic priests in Leadville, on campus to hold a brief service for Ash Wednesday. The tradition of Ash Wednesday involves receiving ashes in the shape of a cross on your forehead to mark the start of Lent. The service itself happened outside, and, although only four of us attended in total, the experience reminded me a lot of celebrating this tradition with my family at home. As a practicing Catholic, I was incredibly grateful to have the opportunity to celebrate this important day along with other HMI students and faculty. In addition to this ceremony, HMI students have had plenty of opportunities for religious life here on campus. Recently, some students have begun hosting Quaker meetings on Sunday and Tuesday mornings for whoever is interested, regardless of previous or current religious beliefs. HMI is extremely accommodating and willing to provide spaces and opportunities for students to observe religious practices and holidays if they express interest in doing so. Personally, I have found the atmosphere surrounding religion here on campus to be very welcoming and open. Students here hold a wide variety of religious beliefs, from Judaism to Atheism, and everyone, including faculty, is very accepting of these different beliefs. I am very grateful to the HMI faculty and community for maintaining an open and inclusive environment surrounding religion, and for providing me and other students with opportunities to freely practice our religions.

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