MIDDLEBURY, Vt. – Winter term at Middlebury gives students a chance to try something completely new—possibly an immersive classroom experience or maybe something purely recreational.

The joy and anxiety of first-time fun were on full display at the Middlebury College Snow Bowl last week when 180 students took to the slopes for the first time to learn to ski. In recent years, the winter-term lessons, taught by fellow students, have exploded in popularity, thanks in part to a new scholarship created this year by students to ensure that anyone who wanted to learn could do so.

Some of the new skiers had never seen snow before arriving in Vermont. Others had been waiting for the right opportunity and found it just in time. With several inches of fresh powder on the ground, students formed into small groups to learn the baby steps of skiing that would eventually lead to a run down the mountain.

“We don’t have this opportunity back home because there are no slopes in Chicago,” said Ivan Terrones ’21. “I had never even thought of doing anything fun in the snow besides sledding or snowball fights.”

Tinglin Shi ’22, a Wisconsin native, was enjoying his first taste of a new sport. After an hour or so of acclimating to the new gear and multiple runs down the bunny hill, Shi wanted more. “Once you start, you don’t want to stop,” Shi said. “At some point, when you go downhill, you feel like you’re losing control, but that’s when you are having the most fun because it’s thrilling!”

Like many J-term experiences, the ski lessons are taught by fellow students—some of whom put their expertise to work on Ski Patrol. As teachers, though, they try to keep in mind that the feel of slippery skis can be disconcerting for beginning adults.

“You want to make sure that when you are teaching someone a kinesthetic action, you are teaching them in a way they understand,” said Jacob Freedman ’21, a student instructor.

Alex Gemme ’21 and Jacob Freedman ’21 are both student instructors for winter-term ski lessons.

Freedman and fellow instructor Alex Gemme ’21, both of whom were instrumental in developing the new scholarship program, began teaching at the Snow Bowl last year. They loved their time on the mountain and felt strongly that they wanted to share the experience with all students, regardless of their financial means.

“You interact with people who are beginners, and you see how powerful the experience is for them, especially when they are doing it with their friends and getting to participate in something they would not otherwise do in their communities,” said Freedman. “That was enough inspiration for us to say we need to do this!”

Back at the Ski School, Ruhi Kamdar ’22, a student from Singapore, was discovering her own ski legs. She had never seen snow in person prior to Middlebury and was delighted to discover that, contrary to her expectations, she actually stayed up on her skis.

“I literally thought I was going to fall down every three seconds, but it was actually really fun!”

With reporting by Qian Li ’19; Photos by Chris Spencer