Skiing and working: weekends at the Loaf
Once the winter season arrives, students from the Hill drive in droves to Carrabassett Valley to hit the slopes at Sugarloaf Ski Resort. For many, skiing is a chance to simply have fun with friends and family and to take a break from the stresses of life on the Hill. Others, however, combine their love of winter sports with something seemingly far-removed from relaxation: work.
Hillary Rowse ’12 works as a ski coach for the Alpine Weekend Program, which is sponsored by the Carrabassett Valley Academy. On weekends at Sugarloaf, she teaches a group of five young girls how to ski race, giving back to a program she participated in so many years ago.
Rowse has been skiing at Sugarloaf ever since she was a little girl. “When my dad went to Colby, he fell in love with Sugarloaf and later bought a house in Carrabassett Valley,” she said. “My family is from central Mass., and I remember driving about six hours almost every weekend to ski at Sugarloaf.”
“Now that I’m here [at Colby], the travel time is much shorter,” Rowse said, but in spite of her childhood connection to the mountain, she just started working as an instructor this past December.
Rowse wanted to work at Sugarloaf during her junior year, but her academic plans got in the way. “During my freshman and sophomore years, I did not want to make the commitment of coming to Sugarloaf every weekend,” she said. “[But when I entered my junior year], I realized that I wanted to become a ski coach. I applied to work at a regular ski school, but I went abroad so I didn’t get the job.” From her experience working with the Alpine Weekend Program in her senior year, Rowse appreciates that the work environment is very relaxed. She recalled how her boss and co-workers were very flexible with her schedule during finals week last fall, and how they gave her days off when she had exams or papers due.
Now, looking at her group of eight to 10-year-old girls, Rowse cannot help but feel a sense of pride and accomplishment. “I feel like I know these girls so well after only a few months of working with them,” she said.
Rowse isn’t the only one who spends time teaching others at Sugarloaf. Margaux LeBlanc ’15 works at the mountain as a volunteer for Maine Adaptive Sports and Recreation (MASR). The organization, formerly known as Maine Handicapped Skiing (MHS), works to help children and adults with physical disabilities enjoy winter sports, such as skiing and snowboarding.
LeBlanc said that it took some time for her to really break into the organization. “I started volunteering as a sophomore in high school to get community service credits,” she said. “I started as a junior volunteer, and I couldn’t work directly with the participants [for safety reasons].”
However, as LeBlanc’s responsibilities with MASR increased, she realized how much she enjoyed the volunteer work. “I got caught up in it,” she said. “MASR is such a great organization, and working for them is a good way to use my skiing skills.”
After fours years working for MASR, LeBlanc has graduated from a junior volunteer to leading a team of volunteers and participants, something she has never done before. She called it the highlight of her volunteering experience and looks forward to many more similar undertakings.
When asked how they each handle being both a full-time Colby student and working at Sugarloaf, Rowse and LeBlanc agree that it is no small feat. A student assistant at Miller Library, Rowse said, “Having an on-campus job and an off-campus job is a big time commitment, but I’m the kind of person who needs to have something going on; I can’t really sit still.”
LeBlanc noted the importance managing time efficiently. “I had to give up TV and use the time between classes to complete other work, such as revising my resume,” she said. “But I still make time to have hour-long dinners with friends and go sledding on Chapel Hill.”
In spite of the challenges, LeBlanc said that working on the mountain is all about the people. “I have met several Colby alums who volunteer, including one from the Class of 1958” she said.
“Working at Sugarloaf is a great way to get out and get involved in a different community [from Colby],” LeBlanc said, and Rowse agreed.
“Sugarloaf has a great community atmosphere.” She may be working, but “it doesn’t feel like work at all!”