Over winter break, 13 Baylor students and their faculty chaperones will hit the slopes as part of Walkabout’s annual ski and snowboarding trip to Brighton Ski Resort just east of Salt Lake City, Utah.
Now in its 20th year, the trip is open to any interested Upper School student regardless of their level of experience, said History Department Chair Heather Biebel.
Ms. Biebel, who was raised in Connecticut and has skied since the age of two, started the trip along with former Student Activities Director Shannon Hamaker (parent of Foy Hamaker ’26). The first destination was Beech Mtn., N.C., and then Snowshoe, W.V. the following year. The third year Ms. Biebel headed west with students where she fell in love with Brighton’s deep powder snow, challenging runs, majestic scenery, and its low-key community vibe.
“You are in protected land, so you don’t see any development,” said Ms. Biebel. “It’s just beautiful snowcapped mountains. You feel the beauty and the isolation rather than the distractions of a pop cultural experience.”
“It is also a great way to meet other people because we all stay in a house together, eat our meals together, and hang out and relax together,” said Walkabout Director Ashlee O’Steen ’00, who chaperones the trip along with Ms. Biebel and Dean of Faculty William Montgomery ’92. “Going on this trip gives you the opportunity to see and experience a beautiful part of the country that is so very different from the Southeast.”
After flying into Salt Lake City, the students spend three days on the slopes from the time the first chair goes up until the resort transitions to night skiing. “There are no rest days, it’s full-on skiing or snowboarding. That’s what we do – it’s not for the faint of heart. It’s all about the slopes,” said Ms. Biebel.
It’s also about taking in the scenery, developing skills, and bonding with one another. “I hope that they come to appreciate the Wasatch Mountains and I hope they can take their ability level up a notch while also getting to know each other,” said Ms. Biebel. “I love to see them on the mountain doing what they love outside of the classroom. I have seen kids who are challenged in the classroom but on the mountain, they are in their happy place and are leaders on the slopes and on the trip. It’s incredible to see that side of them.”
“Once you’ve gone on the trip, you are part of the Baylor ski family,” she adds, before revealing the trip’s “ski fam for life” motto that extends beyond the trip and well after graduation from Baylor. Hayden Woodrow ’23 sent a text from a ski lift in New Mexico that read: "…wish I could meet ya'll in Brighton this year!" A few years ago, Grace Carlson ’12 was in graduate school in nearby Provo and joined the Baylor group for a day. The late Steve Bettis ’84 hosted the group at his Park City condominium when his children, Owen ’16 and Olivia ’19 were on the trip. Ms. Biebel said she recently attended a baby shower for former ski tripper Will Crimmins ’12.
“One of my favorite memories is from last year’s trip is a text that I happened to get from a former Walkabout student instructor Emily Dotson ’22,” added Ms. O’Steen. “She is in school in Colorado, but she happened to be skiing with her roommate at Brighton the same day we were there. We were able to ski a couple of runs together and I got to hear all about her life now.”
“Learning an activity like skiing or snowboarding makes a person appreciate the cold winter months in a completely different way, and it is a skill one can use for the rest of their life,” said Ms. O’Steen. “ I didn’t learn to snowboard until I was 22 and had moved to a ski town. I wish I would have gone on a trip like this when I was a student because now, I look forward to skiing and snowboarding and will for the rest of my life.”