A 3 Mountains in 3 Days Adventure
Words & Photos by Kyle Samuelson:
A few weeks ago our cohort of Year 3 students went on an overnight snowboarding trip to celebrate the hard work they have put in over the years with STOKED. The three-day trip was a chance for the students to get out of the city, spend some time with their friends, get to know each other better, meet some great mentors, and of course; shred some new mountains!
The trip had 3 staff members, 16 students from our Year 3 program, and 4 adult mentors.
We hit three different mountains in three days, and because of some rain on the first day we mustered up the energy to do two different mountains on the same day! The heavy rain on the first afternoon meant that mountains closed up early due to poor conditions. We didn’t let this get us down though, instead we chose to go on a short hike to see some of the rapids in the mountain valley rushing at full force because of the crazy rain. It was great to see the group in good spirits despite the wet conditions, and to hear some of the kids revel in the excitement of being outdoors and embracing the natural landscape around us. It’s crazy to think some of our students had never been on a hike before!
We worked up a great appetite on our hike and headed to Molly’s café for the first of two nights of dinner with her. We were warmly welcomed and treated to feel at home by her and her staff. The café made the meals feel like parties, and we had such great days knowing that a fantastic meal was waiting for us that night. Bellies full, we headed back to our way-too-nice-for-a-bunch-of-teenagers lodging at Scribner’s Lodge to tuck in for the night.
We were welcomed at Hunter Mountain by a few different members of their staff to get us prepped and ready to ride. The day went great, all mentors and mentees came back for lunch with huge smiles and high spirits. After a few more runs we met back up and headed out of Hunter to continue on our ambitious plan to hit two mountains in a day. We lost a couple of the kids that had exhausted all their energy, but the rest of the group continued on to do some night snowboarding at Windham Mountain which was a major highlight of the trip.
We basically had Windham all to ourselves and had first dibs on a freshly groomed couple of runs that had the whole group catching their second winds of energy. One of many firsts for the students, the whole crew was so excited with the night snowboarding and it was an amazing group experience that topped off a perfect day.
After a long day shredding gorgeous mountains, we closed the days with s’mores, ice cream and movies in the cabin rooms. The kids shared stories of surviving double black diamonds and the splendor of night snowboarding and were able to bond in a new space outside of school and normal STOKED programs. This down time really made the trip feel unique, and it was great to be able to relax and kick it after a long day of riding.
Our final day we had a victory lap at our home mountain Belleayre. We packed up, loaded the vans, and said our final goodbyes to the staff at Scribner’s Lodge. At the suggestion of all the great hosts and contacts at the mountain we swung by New York state’s largest cascading water falls, Kaaterskill Falls. Seeing that the majority of our kids had limited or no experience in the great outdoors, it was great to see how awe-inspiring these natural wonders are.
After leaving the falls, the Year 3’s were able to hit Belleayre at full force. It felt like being home, with the kids getting geared up in record time and grabbing their mentor and heading up. I felt kind of bad making them come back for lunch because if they could have they would have stayed out on the mountain all day.
We ended the day and ended the trip with a Stoked Circle in the barn where we were able to reflect and reminisce about the students’ three years in the program. Stokers shared memories from Year 1, surf memories, when they first met each other, memories from the night snowboarding the night before; all different kinds of Stoked memories that got everyone in a nostalgic mood. Mentors were able to share how rewarding their time with the students was and how cool it has been to watch them grow up and mature into who they are today. It was a fitting end to what was for all people involved: kids, mentors, and staff - a fantastic trip.
Looking back on it now, I am able to see some of the more remarkable things that happened on the trip. I saw our students helping a random skier on the mountain back to her feet. I saw our students dismantling cliques and making new friends amongst themselves. I saw our students saying please and thank you, holding doors, and smiling. They were giving snowboard advice to random people on the ski lift or at the start of a run. I saw our students crushing their fears daily; whether it be getting down a double black diamond or getting on the ski lift for the first time, our students were showing exactly how to be fearless leaders.