Colby-Sawyer Ski Day Resembles a Blast from the Past

A light snow falls as the Mount Sunapee parking lot begins to fill with cars plastered with Colby-Sawyer parking passes, the gray clouds contrasting with the bright white snow on the slopes. Inside the lodge, silver and blue snowflake streamers hang from the ceiling, glinting in the fluorescent light and creating a winterlike aura that matches the flurries outside. Soft music plays over the speakers, drowning out the murmurs from below as skiers prepare to hit the slopes. Ski Day signs direct students to the loft where the blank navy-blue Colby-Sawyer flag sits atop the front table in anticipation, waiting to be filled with student signatures.

The Colby-Sawyer Ski Day tradition began in 1968 and ended in the early 1980s. The spring semester celebration gave the students a day off in March to participate in winter festivities at the nearby King Ridge Ski Area.

“It was a celebration of the end of ski season in a way,” said Associate Professor Amy Lyon ’85. “It was all about the games, the camaraderie, the fun and not having to be in class. It made March manageable.”

Lyon is a Colby-Sawyer alumna from the class of 1985, and she participated in the original version of Ski Day. To Lyon, the most memorable part about the tradition was dressing up.

“We just loved to dress up in kooky outfits all the time,” said Lyon. “The wackier, the better — it was just part of the sense of fun.”

Unlike Mountain Day, which is kept a surprise, Ski Day was a planned day so students could coordinate their costumes and prepare. On the designated day in March, Colby-Sawyer students would load up onto an old school bus and drive five minutes down the road to King Ridge Ski Area. King Ridge was known for its Alice in Wonderland-themed slopes, and the Colby-Sawyer community made sure there was something for everyone to partake in regardless of their skiing ability.

“One year, there was no snow, so we just made up stuff as we went along,” said Lyon. That year, Lyon and her classmates found a closet full of costumes and donned pointy princess hats before going out and playing broom hockey.

“It was just whatever we could think of to have fun,” she said.

The Ski Day tradition was revived thanks to the help of several Wesson Honors students. Last year, seniors Finn Husband and Kelsea Brasseur focused their honors Capstone on reviving the tradition of Ski Day. They created a blueprint that planned out all the logistics for the day, and their proposal was approved by the college. The project was then handed over to students Chesley Smith and Tessa Millette to implement this year.

The focus for the Ski Day revival was to get as many people as possible interested and to provide an opportunity for students to ski who never have before. Through funding from various clubs and organizations, 20 students who had never skied before, or who simply do not own their own equipment, were able to get free rentals for the day.

“The rentals made the day a little bit easier,” senior Julianna DeGray said. “If I didn’t get the rentals, I wasn’t going to ski.”

DeGray is a creative and professional writing major at Colby-Sawyer who has never used her free ski pass at Mount Sunapee.

“I’m not from an area that skis. If I was from a ski family and had skis myself, then obviously I would use it, but I don’t,” DeGray said.

While students are provided with a free Mount Sunapee ski pass, skiing is an expensive sport. The majority of students who ski already have the proper equipment, but it is very hard for new skiers to rent or buy all of the supplies they need. Ski Day funding provided DeGray with everything she needed to finally try the sport. Unfortunately, her first ski experience was cut short after a fall off the “magic carpet” moving sidewalk that takes skiers to the top of gentle slopes.

“Falling was a complete accident,” DeGray said. “The magic carpet just got me.”

Despite a few scrapes and bruises, DeGray still enjoyed her first time skiing and plans to continue learning how to ski in the future.

Both DeGray and Lyon viewed the day to be very successful with a higher turnout than most expected.

“The games were great, boxed lunches were great, location was great,” Lyon said. “There was good signage and decorations. Anything you can do to make us feel like we are participating in something fun is great.”

For Lyon, the only thing missing was the costumes. The Ski Day plan created by Husband and Brasseur originally included incorporating the costume contest tradition, but it never made it past the planning stage. Lyon hopes that the Ski Day tradition will continue in the future and hopefully, with help from fellow faculty, the costume tradition will also catch on. Perhaps in a year from now, students will be adding tutus and boas to their packing list before heading out to hit the slopes.