Winter at Westminster College program offers skiing and studies in Utah
August 28, 5:20 PM
Skiing Examiner Eric Wagnon
Study abroad for American college students generally conjures images of Rome or Paris. Such European capitals may have plenty of art museums, but ski slopes are not among the attractions.
For students more interested in DaKine than daVinci, Westminster College in Salt Lake City, Utah, has created a study-abroad alternative catering to outdoor recreation, particularly skiing and snowboarding.
Students can spend a semester at the small liberal-arts college through the “Winter at Westminster” program. Starting in January, each visiting student takes a full course load of 12-16 credits that are in most cases transferable back to the student’s home school.
Enrollees set up schedules to avoid Friday classes in order to take advantage of a full slate of weekend outdoor enrichment activities. For example, one weekend is devoted to training for Level 1 avalanche certification and another is spent winter camping in a yurt.
Experiences could lead to ski industry career
The college brings in guest speakers from the snow sports industry at various times during the semester. The students also have an opportunity to work in the industry through an extensive internship program. The college places interns at area businesses and organizations such as The Canyons Resort, U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association, Backcountry.com and Snowlist.com.
Hannah Bowling, a recent Westminster graduate, came to the college as a sophomore from Montana State through the Winter at Westminster program. She liked it so much that she transferred and now works at The Canyons.
“I actually started at The Canyons through an internship with the Winter at Westminster program, so I can completely attribute Winter at Westminster for me having a job,” Bowling said. “I know around the industry it’s huge. Skullcandy (an outdoor headphones and accessories company) has taken several Winter at Westminster interns and then hired them on later once they’ve graduated. Plus, with other companies like Rossignol, it’s a great way to get your foot in the door.”
Season ski passes included in the deal
As part of the program, enrollees receive season passes to The Canyons Resort and either Alta Ski Area or Snowbird Resort in Little Cottonwood Canyon. To maximize use of these passes during the week, many participants schedule at least some classes in the evening hours.
“We are really excited about the program, because it’s a really unique program in what we call a study-abroad alternative,” said Krista DeAngelis, Westminster’s associate director of communications. “People come here for that semester and it’s an excellent educational opportunity in that they’re able to take that full load of classes, yet they get to experience this phenomenal outdoor recreation in Utah.
"Between the lecture-learn series we have and the internship opportunities, just that package ends up being a phenomenal experience," she added. "We’ve had rave reviews from all the students.”
Program draws 25-30 students
Winter at Westminster drew just a few enrollees when it started in 2005, but now it typically draws 25-30 participants each year. Most of those in the program are college sophomores or juniors. The students live scattered throughout the three main campus residence halls, but the group bonds socially through their interests and program gatherings.
“Since you’re doing so many common activities with everyone, you really get to know everyone,” Bowling said. “A lot of teachers are also into outdoor activities, so you might see them on the weekends up at The Canyons or up at Snowbird. You say, 'Oh hey, there’s my professor.' There’s a lot of passion running around Westminster.”
Regular application due Nov. 15
For the 2010 semester, the bottom-line cost totals $18,864 for tuition, room, a meal plan and the $3,300 Winter at Westminster program fee. Merit-based scholarships of up to $4,000 are a possibility for financial help.
By completing the application and acceptance process in early October, a student can receive a free pair of Dynastar skis or a Rossignol snowboard. The regular application deadline is Nov. 15. Depending on program availability, late applicants will be considered until Dec. 15.
On the academic side, the school is known for small classes. On the slopes, Westminster produces top snow sports athletes. In the various disciplines of the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Team, 39 current members have ties to Westminster. On the 2010 U.S. Freestyle Ski Team in particular, 14 of the 36 athletes are from the college.