Picking a College Where Backcountry Skiing Works

Post by WildSnow.com blogger | August 14, 2007      

Okay, I’ll get an official “pick that college” blog post going on this since you guys are leaving good and helpful comments.

We visited Westminster College and University of Utah yesterday in Salt Lake City, and Utah State in Logan a few days before that.

The plan is for our son to attend a school in a region with generally better snowpack than Colorado. When we respond with that as a “requirement” to college counselors and the like, most get a blank look in their eyes but some get it. Other part of plan is the option of a degree that supports his interest in designing gear and working with things mechanical.

Utah seems perfect in many ways: Much more reliable snowpack than Colorado; close enough for easy travel between hometown and school town; general friendliness to the idea of skiing. Colorado schools tout their ski opportunities as well, but options in the Denver/Boulder area include the nightmarish traffic created by people escaping the city for weekends, as well as your choice of which dangerous depth hoar snowpack you care to challenge that day.

Westminster is an interesting place, but it is a serous liberal arts school with not much in the way of majors that would apply to being in the outdoor gear industry as a nuts-and-bolts designer. (What’s it say about a school when their clock tower is 10 minutes fast?) Westminster is also suspect as a bastion of radical liberalism (as most such schools are). While we like the idea of some diversity and exploration of ideas, there are limits and our son is on board with that concept (though the casual atmosphere of a liberal arts school indeed has appeal to a 17-year-old who’s burned out on homework). Westminster is 30% LDS, but I’m not sure how that influences their ethos, as Mormons are like any other faith based group — some just use the name, others walk the walk. So who knows if that group tones down the anti anything western bias that so many colleges exhibit these days…

By the way, an outdoor related feather in Westminster’s cap (or beanie, as the case may be) is their Gore business school, which is endowed by, yep, the fortune made from Gortex. And it does look like a good business school. Perhaps that’s the major we’re looking for?

University of Utah is, simply, big. I’m certain it’s a good school where you can get a solid and well respected degree, but the boy isn’t sure he wants the “educity” experience.

Utah State up in Logan is definitely an option. Big concern is the reported intense air pollution they get for many days almost every winter. Anyone have experience with that? Survivable? The outdoor rec opportunities out of Logan are good, and it’s said you can get Wasatch style skiing without the race for first tracks. That’s “attractive,” to put it mildly.

So more ideas anyone? Other schools in Utah? Anyone got experience with Westminster? Do they pray to whales and stuff, or are they a bit more level headed than that?



63 Responses to “Picking a College Where Backcountry Skiing Works”

  1. Steve August 14th, 2007 10:22 am

    I spent the early-mid 90s in Logan, B.S. and M.S. It’s a great town, but getting more crowded every year. Pollution is survivable, more so if you live on the hill. Outdoor oportunities are limitless. I was just getting into skiing back then, but had many backcountry skier friends who absolutely raved about it. Plus great rock climbing in the canyon, running, mt. biking, etc. and close to Ogden/SLC stuff as well. The school’s good too. If I could have made a living there competing against poor college students willing to work for almost free we would have stayed.

  2. Derek August 14th, 2007 10:25 am


    I lived in Bear Lake (over the pass from Logan), and worked in Logan. The air quality can be bad in January, worse than SLC, where I currently live. It is easily escaped by going into the mountains, what a great excuse to skip class Louie!

    The touring in the Bear River Range is excellent. Not as big as the Wasatch, but much quieter, atleast in the Wilderness designation. When touring in the Wilderness, you rarely even see another skin track.

    The problem with the range is the rampant snowmobile use in legal and illegal terrain. They poach everything! And the forest service is impotent, as usual. There are plenty of opportunities for silence, once you learn the range. But the sleds are real competition.

    Best way to go is utilize a cheap sled for the long approaches to some of the Wilderness boundaries. Sled in on a packed trail to the boundary, get off the sled, and the world is yours.

    Another good contact is Toby, the local Avy Forecaster. He is always looking for good touring partners, and knows the range very well, and has a sled.

    Westminster is an overpriced waste of time, IMHO.

    As far as the LDS factor, Logan is heavily LDS. But your conservative nature makes me think you would probably have more in common with the “mormons” than with the “liberals” you speak of at Westminster. If religion is a concern, stay in Colorado. The out of state outlook on the LDS population here is tiring, at best. It’s only an issue if you make it one.

    I now live in the Wasatch, and the skiing here does not need explanation.

    Best of luck, Louie.

  3. carl August 14th, 2007 11:33 am


    Did you and Louie give any looks at Bozeman – Montana State University? If I went back today I think that this might be in my top 5. Looking over Tom Turiano’s book “Peaks of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem” it seems like there is some good skiing up that way too…maybe not as light and as fluffy as SLC, but interesting from a ski mountaineer perspective.

    A couple of perks:
    1. not too crowded.
    2. skiing into the spring (I’ve heard that SLC’s spring skiing scene isn’t has happening as some other areas)

    I’m not sure about the “Grey Factor” as I know Missoula is overcast most of the winter….or the access to some of the bc spots. Also limited airport access so you and Lisa may have difficulties seeing Louie.

    Anyway just a thought

  4. chad August 14th, 2007 11:03 am

    I went to the U for a year- Salt Lake is a cool town and only getting less Mormon as the years go by. I wouldn’t worry about the size- I’ve found that wherever you go go you sort make your own community. As far as Westminster being “liberal”, I had never even heard that. Also, liberal by Utah standards will still put you pretty far to the right of Pitkin County, or Eagle County where I live. One more thing, and pardon the language: the Bird -ing rules. I had a really hard time coming back to Colorado and skiing after just a season there.

  5. Chris August 14th, 2007 11:49 am

    Montana State – Bozeman deserves a look even though it certainly doesn’t qualify as having a “generally better snowpack than Colorado.” World-class snow science research, world-class avalanche forecasters from GNFAC, decent engineering, business and graphic design schools, and countless outdoor rec. opportunities year-round. Plus, Bozeman is just a cool town. Yes, it’s getting a bit big for its britches, but there is still (relatively) no traffic. If you can fit it in, I would try to get up there for a weekend. I can promise you won’t get any blank stares when expressing concern about snow stability in the region.

  6. Rahul Dave August 14th, 2007 12:53 pm

    MSU is a real good school academically too. Great rock and ice climbing, and good skiing with 2 resorts and tons of BC.

    UDub in Seattle may be too educityish, but the skiing is close and quality.

    And heathens, Dartmouth in the east, or UNH too are close to good BC in Vermont and NH, and great climbing to boot. But the mountains are obviously smaller

    The other town with both intellectual and outdorrsy focus I can think of is Santa-Fe, but the snow aint reliable, and I am not sure about the schools there…

  7. Matt Kinney August 14th, 2007 11:54 am

    Prince William Sound Community College in Valdez, AK Excellent 2 year school AA and AAS. Small classes. I went there FWIW. Cheap. Long ways from home, if you looking to make your own way.

    It snows 300+” on the campus, thus one of the snowiest colleges in the world. Ski from your dorm room 5 mos. of the year. Snow is not an issue.

    Then there is this stuff …World Class ice, World Class skin terrain, world class downhilling stuff too I hear.

  8. gmon August 14th, 2007 12:24 pm

    Easy answer!

    University of Wyoming. Yep, send him up to laramie. As a law student I would argue i got more backcountry ski days in than any other law student in the country. NO, you won’t be skiing the super deep, and yes, most options include colorado type snowpack, r.e. cameron pass, but that sure beats the hell out of the crowds, and religious ideology that comes with utah. (I know, as i lived in southeastern idaho for 7 years) greatest thing about bc skiing here is that you never see anyone, anywhere you go. add to that the climbing at vedauwoo, mountain biking, fishing, etc., small town atmosphere, price of admission, and it might work. Not too much liberalism, and Louie won’t have to hang out with predominantly transplanted californians as in bozeman. However, if Louie wants to meet a hot blond chick and get married by age 20, I would recommend any of the schools in utah.

  9. gmon August 14th, 2007 12:29 pm

    and by the way, if louie wants a tour or to be shown around, make sure to contact me, i would be glad to assist.

  10. jimmy tart August 14th, 2007 1:10 pm

    I went to Westminster back when I was living in Park City. Great small class sizes, but similar to the rest of Utah, not very diverse. Some really neat prof’s, but not a very vibrant campus. Definately on the dull side. But that may be good if the focus is going to be on class and skiing.
    And, yes, the Wasatch trailheads are crowded, especially on weekend mornings. But do a little exploring, or have a flexible student schedule, and those are the only crowds you will see.
    Be warned, Westminster was kinda pricey.

  11. Steve August 14th, 2007 1:16 pm

    Sheesh, people would pick a place to live based on how many Mormons are there? People might be surprised to learn that some of us occasionally take a break from oppressing non-Mormons and get out into the BC to ski, climb, run, etc. I’d think you’d be happy to have less competition for fresh tracks on Sunday when we’re in church.

  12. Lou August 14th, 2007 1:28 pm

    Steve, who said we were picking a place to live based on how many Mormons? My point was that a school with more LDS might be tempered in terms of how liberal it was, which we’d like. That’s all.

  13. Lynn August 14th, 2007 1:35 pm

    Carl P, get back to work and stop reading skiing books. IBC and the “Harvard of SC”???

  14. David Aldous August 14th, 2007 2:00 pm

    The winter inversions are a drawback but are survivable particularly if you spend your spare time up the canyons above the cold dirty air. The snowmobiles can be an issue but if Louie can work in some mid week touring he should avoid many of the snowmobilers. Logan is certainly more conservative than most of the country. You can find some faculty and community members that are plenty liberal too.
    I like the fact that I can drive up the canyon 10 or 15 minutes and be at a climbing area, kayak put in, or trailhead. Drive a little further and be at a ski area(granted a small ski area) or go for a hike or tour. Every once in a while ice forms in a couple of places(particularly if the canal people don’t cut hoses).
    I think USU gives a good education at a reasonable price in close proximity to many recreational options.

  15. Erik August 14th, 2007 2:21 pm

    Lou – I graduated from the UofU and loved it. Great academics, great sports, close to Black Diamond and the dawn patrol gang, and a fantastic new student housing village that was made for the Olympics. My major complaint was that it’s largely a commuter school – most people live off campus, but once you find and/or build your own group of friends its as good if not better than anywhere else. And over time you learn where to find solitude in the Wasatch (IMHO most of those those who say the Wasatch is crowded are the guys who start all of their tours in the Alta parking lot). If you drive more than 15 minutes north or south of BCC or LCC I rarely run into other touring parties.

  16. Mark August 14th, 2007 2:24 pm

    Montana State is a solid school with respected engineering, and if you like to ski, hike, bike, ice climb, etc., there are mountain ranges in every direction. Research opportunities for engineering with a nod to gear development could be had at companies like Life-Link, Anker Climbing Equipment, and Jungst Scientific to name a few. I lived there for a long time and would easily go back if the opportunity presented itself.

  17. Steve August 14th, 2007 2:36 pm

    Sorry to imply that, Lou, I was attempting (perhaps poorly) a little tounge-in-cheek humor based on the previous responses. From what I’ve read of your blog, I think you’d be happy with the conservative nature of Utah in general, and Logan is more conservative than other areas. I would classify most of my professors in the scientific area as more liberal than the Utah norm, but great people nonetheless. In any case, most of the griping about Mormon conservatism usually relates to the state’s liquor laws, which Louie won’t have a problem with for several years, eh?

  18. Lou August 14th, 2007 2:46 pm

    Steve, thanks. Yeah, for the most part I don’t mind the conservative nature of Utah, but as somewhat of an independent thinker I’m fully aware that everything has its pros and cons. I’m also not a fan of public broad based disparaging of other religions — though I’m comfortable talking specific criticism about religions if that ever comes up. That said, religious criticism is not the kind of subject matter we want much of on WildSnow, so any comments I make about LDS are intended to inform the discussion more than anything, and not as points for exposition…

    In any discussion about life in Utah, LDS is certainly something one should examine, so we have to go there a bit.

  19. Derek August 14th, 2007 3:08 pm

    Steve and Lou,

    Devout LDS folks are great, that’s one less person competing for fresh tracks in Utah on sundays 😉 But don’t tell anyone, cause Utah still sucks. Colorado is where it’s at for sure. I mean, we don’t even have any 14’ers. 😉

  20. Lou August 14th, 2007 3:13 pm

    Derek, I guess Utah needs more LDS folks, since the last time I was skiing Wasatch on weekend there sure seemed to be a lot of people. Perhaps they thought there was a 14er up there (grin)?

  21. Chet Roe August 14th, 2007 3:36 pm

    hate to bring it up, but if your son is already “burned out on homework” you might need to be rethinking college all together……Chet Roe

  22. JohnnyV August 14th, 2007 3:45 pm

    Lou and Loiue , If it is stable, consistent, ( concrete) snow pack is what you want then PNW is the best got my turns in for August last Sunday with a solid 2000ft run anyone in Utah or CO ski 2000ft of creamy goodness last weekend? Dont tell anyone but the 500 inches or so a year is not all concrete, we get many waist deep days. Oh yeh and did I mention I ski at least 3 days a month all summer!!!!!!

  23. Lou August 14th, 2007 3:46 pm

    Chet, that’s a good point. By “burnt out” I mean that he’s not skipping skiing to do book work, at least not voluntarily (grin). But his ACT and SAT scores are good and he kept his grades up in a difficult private school, so he’s probably okay. That said, we’re not against delaying college for a year, but we’re finding the place and getting the application done no matter what.

  24. AndyW August 14th, 2007 3:50 pm

    What about Western Washington? Right next to Baker, a couple hours from Whistler. Mid-sized school with a good reputation – I think the engineering schools are pretty decent there. Great smaller city, too, right on the water.

  25. Rando Swede August 14th, 2007 4:41 pm

    Lou & Louie-
    MSU in Bozeman obviously comes to mind but a dark horse might be U of Nevada-Reno. The amount of skiing within 2 hours of that place is absolulely astounding as Dostie could attest. Stable snow too. I lived in Truckee for 5 years and I skied tons of good powder there. Living down in Reno also has the benefit of quicker hits to the south, east and north of Lake Tahoe. Then there is that one obscure region called the Eastern Sierra…

  26. Don August 14th, 2007 7:35 pm

    As much as I’ve based most of my major life decisions with skiing in mind, where to attend college was not one of them. My advice is to determine what you want to study, then try to attend the best school in that field. It sounds like you’re looking at engineering? In my opinion, not all engineering degrees are created equal, and I can’t imagine you having all that much time for skiing while tackling a good engineering program anyway. I remember it being very difficult finding the time just to get a few runs in at the local hill every once in a while.

    I agree, skiing is better than almost anything in life. But college is all about meeting girls, learning about who you are, learning how to function in society, and getting a good education. It really is a once in a lifetime experience. College is not really about countless hours of solitude in the backcountry. If you’re smart, you’ll use your college experience to land you a profession where you can ski a lot for the rest of your life.

    I say that four years is nothing, you’ll have another 50 years of quiet powder skiing in the backcountry if that’s what you want.

  27. Lou August 14th, 2007 7:59 pm

    Don, thanks for your thoughts. As parents we’re actually thinking more along those lines, but trying to deal with the reality of the situation which is that the guy is going to ski…

  28. Jay August 14th, 2007 8:39 pm

    I think going anywhere other than Montana St or Western WA would be a mistake. They both have top notch skiing combined with the traditional college vibe. I went to U of U of grad school and I would not recommend the place, or anywhere in Utah, for undergrad (assuming you’re looking for a traditional college experience).

  29. cowdog August 14th, 2007 9:10 pm

    Another vote for MSU – Bozeman. The science, engineering, architecture, and agriculture (including ag economics) programs are very strong, and they have some innovative opportunities like the Science and Natural History Filmmaking program and the Thermal Biology Institute. Regardless of what he says he wants to study right now, the odds are that he will change his mind as he has a chance to explore. Having diverse educational opportunities won’t hurt.

    I agree with others that the emphasis should be on the education first. You/he will spend far too much money to let recreation degrade a quality education. And not everyone is ready to go to college right out of high school. I’ve seen too many kids waste the opportunity.

    Additionally, I wouldn’t worry about any university/college liberal/conservative bias unless your son was interested in economics or another social science field where modes of inquiry do bias interpretation — that’s the point. Science and engineering are far more objective, regardless of what of what one might hear from biased media sources. Besides, you’ve raised him, and his values should be securely entrenched. Trust him.

  30. jason August 14th, 2007 11:30 pm

    close to skiing doesn’t necessarily mean ‘ski in your backyard.’

    i went to school in the SF Bay area, and i would go on trips to tahoe all the time–all it takes is not going to bars (or whatnot) the nite before, and some clever scheduling. plus–what’s a missed class here and there (it seems you teach yourself the material at least half the time).

    Rando Swede was commenting on UNR being 2hrs close to many a place. there are tons of schools in the bay area, many very excellent educational centers, and the south / north lake tahoe are only 3-3.5 hours away. heck, UC davis is only around an hour and a half away. there are definitely some schools on the ‘liberal’ end, but there schools from every part of the spectrum.

    while there’s definitely truth to the term “sierra cement,” it’s stable, can get pretty light in some places, and can dump 3 ft in a night without people blinking an eye.

    oh yeah, california is a lot cooler than Yew-tar

  31. john dough August 15th, 2007 7:28 am

    I would like to third the suggestion of wwu. Bellingham WA is one of the coolest places I’ve ever lived and I’ve moved around alot. Baker and the surrounding backcountry is top notch and if you want safe snowpack then look no further. Also you are only about 3 hrs from whistler and all of the bc goodness around it. Not to mention Washington’s own 14’ner- Mt Ranier. (also, much cleaner air than SLC)

    It might be a little farther from home but isn’t it about time to cut loose the parental leash?

    The outdoor potential of the pnw is endless and from what I hear wwu is a great school. If I could do it again I would have gone there.

    With that said, Utah is the third best skiing I’ve had. (AK, WA,then UT, and CO)

  32. Garrett August 15th, 2007 7:35 am

    BELLINGHAM, WA is the place. Smaller school, Western Washington University amazing and great college. Most snow in the world (Mt. Baker) and the best snowpack in the Lower 48. Does it get much better? I am in Utah now, it does the trick but it gets hotter every year, drier, the pollution continues to escalate, population is growing faster than nearly any city in the country and the mountains are crowded, hype is sticking around here from the 80’s & 90’s era in my humble opinion. Check out Washington!

  33. Lou August 15th, 2007 7:35 am

    Doughboy, we’re headed up there for a visit ASAP and WWU is on the list! I’ve spent quite a bit of time up there and see it as a very possible option. Thanks for chiming in, it helps to get the votes for the places from all you experienced folks.

  34. Dostie August 15th, 2007 7:40 am

    I’m with Don. The education is paramount. Going to college is NOT about recreational opportunities. Not that one shouldn’t have a healthy mix of work and play, but the goal is supposed to be (used to be) to get foundational skills for making hay which will allow a much better balance of work and play for the future. Better to sacrifice a few years up front ‘cuz you’ll never (rarely) get the opportunity to do it later when you’re saddled with extra responsibilities (kids).

    Since Louie is considering Mech. Engineering, I’d stick to schools that have a reputation for excellence there, which includes a solid track record of placing their grads with top notch companies after they matriculate.

  35. Jason August 15th, 2007 8:13 am

    Having grown up in the West and lived in the West since college, I’d have to say that going to an East coast school and learning how to actually carve a turn was the best thing for me. I owe much of my ability to skiing the real steeps to Mad River Glen.

    Having said that, I would agree that skiing should be one of the last requirements and can be very misleading. For instance, Boulder is as closer to skiing as Carbondale. As an example, I did a year abroad in Paris and skied the least that year in my life. However, that 35 day year consisted of 20+ days in Chamonix and probably represented the most influential year for me in my skiing life.

    Just another observation and a little bit of a challenge, I’m seeing a lot of “we” in this discussion, as opposed to “he.”

  36. Craig August 15th, 2007 8:27 am

    Just the fact that Louie is putting this much into the thought process of where to go is a great start. Teens for the most part don’t REALLY know exactly what they want to study or where they want to go, and the college experience helps point them in a direction that hopefully becomes the right choice. I went to Western State in Gunnison, skiing and playing music on weekends (back then the snow pack did seem better then it is now) , and had a wonderful college experience. To be able to study hard all week, then do what he loves to do on the weekend, would be a fantastic way to create balance. And he may be one of the lucky ones that creates a career in a field that relates to something he has grown to love doing.
    We are on the same search with our daughter and we have found the choices and decisions to be many.
    So GOOD LUCK. Enjoy the process.

  37. Lou August 15th, 2007 9:20 am

    Jason, we’re probably a little better about the “he” part of the equation than it appears here. We try to use more of a “we” voice on the blog, hence that’s what you see.

    That said, we’re always working on the issues of severing the parental ties, so everyone’s points about that are well taken.

    And everyone, since I just bumped this post down with today’s new blog posting, it’s time to thank you all for your excellent comments. We’ve studied every one and believe me, we’ve truly been blessed by your knowledge. The level of discourse here is so high it blows my mind! Feel free to leave more college comments, they will get read.

  38. Teletim August 15th, 2007 9:50 am

    Uh, he is thinking of majoring in mech. engineering and CU is not in the discussion? CU’s engineering school is graded as one of the best undergrad programs in the country. Also, it would be in state tuition, assuming he could get in.

    If snowpack is a major consideration, along with excellent academics, I would suggest Michigan Tech. An excellent school in the UP of Michigan. Houghton/Hancock average over 200 inches of snow a year.

  39. Cody Clark August 15th, 2007 11:20 am

    I just Graduated from USU in December with a degree In Recreation Resource Management. There was never a shortage of people to go tour the BC with. There are lots of places. Logan BC is typoically long-slog aproaches with endless deep powder runs. There are a few places that provided quick a Dawn Patrol. While I attened school the goal was to get at least two dawn patrols and a full day per week, which was usually attainable. In order to survive a Logan winter you have to ski, so most people do.
    The town is awsome. It has great small town feel without being po-dunk. The BC community is small but strong, you’ll get to know everyone after a few tours. There are a few good shops in town. Scott at the Trailhead knows everything about Logan BC and everything eles you could want to know.
    THe campus is great. It is a pretty liberal campus by Utah standards, but it is set in a very conservative community, so it makes an interesting contrast.
    Beaver Mountain Ski Resort is worth one day but not two. There is so much good terraine around it that you wouldn’t want to waste a lot of time riding their lifts. Snowbasin is an hour and 20 minutes away. Powder mountain is an hour 10 minutes. You are about aprox two hours away from Little Cottonwood Canyon.
    Housing in Logan is getting cheap because enrollment is down, so rental properties around campus are lowing their prices.
    If you have any questions feel free to contact me.

  40. Louie Dawson August 15th, 2007 1:45 pm

    Thanks for all the advice guys. I have looked at Montana State a little and I have a couple of friends who are thinking about it as well. Does anybody know how far the skiing is from Western Washington?

  41. AndyW August 15th, 2007 2:49 pm

    Baker’s less than an hour from WWU. The Vancouver areas are a little more than that, Whistler and the West BC stuff two and a half or so, central BC maybe 3. Seattle’s what, two hours, depending on traffic? I went to UW, but had a lot of friends at Western and they loved it. Don’t mention the Canadian drinking age to your dad, though.

  42. john dough August 15th, 2007 5:16 pm

    Baker is over an hour (about 1 1/4hr driving fast) , but a beautiful drive that I never minded.

  43. Tom August 15th, 2007 5:41 pm

    How can you be passing up Fort Lewis and Western? Use the college opportunity fund which every graduate from a CO high school can apply for + instate tuition at very reasonable schools and save a bundle of money. And don’t leave out the Univ Nevada Reno but don’t always count on epic sierra winters.

  44. Seth Flanigan August 15th, 2007 8:44 pm

    One more plug For USU as a recent graduate. Plenty was said about the skiing. . .which I totally agree with and have participated with a few of the previous bloggers. . . great skiers. The school has a great engineering program. I was in the College of Natural Resources, but always had a good laugh watching the engineering students walk around in their polo shirts debating the best calculator. They have the laugh now as they are a whole lot more marketable even in my field than I. USU’s engineering program is renowned and I beleive their mechanical and structural engineering are at the top of that. Louie, I think you would enjoy being an Aggie. As for the LDS factor, take it from the horses mouth, we only make it an issue if you do. Really, no one really pays too much attention to that as students. Good Luck on whatever you decide, but the best choice really is Logan.

  45. Mike August 15th, 2007 9:15 pm

    I know Westminster has some kind of skiing, outdoor semester program. Like a semester abroad however, it is in Utah, revolves around skiing and the skiing business.

    One can ride the public bus up to Big and Little Cottonwoods. Yes, the snow is incredible.


  46. climbinskier August 16th, 2007 9:20 am

    Another plug for USU up in Logan. As previously stated in other comments, the recreation opportunities in Logan are awesome. It is true, the BC crowds are small and there are ample places to climbing, hike, trail run, and mountain bike. Beaver Mountain is a pretty good ski resort. Yeah it isn’t super huge, but there is great terrain if you know where to go. It also has some great lift-accessed BC opportunities as well.

    USU is a great school. Their business and engineering programs are excellent. I graduated in 2005 with a marketing degree and would recommend the school to anyone.

    Logan itself is a nice place to live. It still has a smaller town feel but with larger city amenities. It is small enough that most everything is easily accessible by bike. Yes the inversion can get bad in the winter, however, a very short drive up the canyon and you are out of it.

  47. Doug-E-Fresh August 16th, 2007 1:10 pm

    Lou, I’m wondering about this whole “liberal” thing and why its such a concern? Do you think Louie is somehow going to be brainwashed by being exposed to differing views? I would think that if you feel comfortable with the things/values you have taught him, you’d feel like he can handle having those things/values challenged a bit. Do you really only want him to talking to people that already agree with you? Let the kid out of the bubble for god’s sake and send him to Evergreen State.

    Besides, the whole “liberal university” thing is kind of a shell game anyway. Try to find a good old fashioned Marxist in an economics department these days.

  48. Carolyn Williams August 16th, 2007 8:07 pm

    Dawson family- Nice to see all this great research! This is what the process is all about. All of these comments are helpful and the true picture of each of these schools will distill over time. Seems like time in Utah was well spent between OR and college visits!
    Talk to you soon- Carolyn

  49. Njord August 20th, 2007 8:23 am


    I did my freshman year at MSU – great skiing, too bad the school is almost exclusive to cowboys and hippies (cannot say that I fit in either catagory). I ended up transfering to a “real” university on the east coast after realising that I was sacraficing the education that I needed for the rest of my life for 4 years of great powder skiing.

    My advice: Take a year off! Best thing that I ever did… Came back to school super-motivated after skiing/climbing/goofing off in the alps.

    try this link for a great job working for the US Gov’t in the Alps: http://www.edelweisslodgeandresort.com/employment.html

  50. Njord August 20th, 2007 8:32 am


    I forgot about the liberal thing: About the only 2 schools I know of that have very little to do with “liberalism” with skiing and a strong Mechanical Engineering program are West Point and the Air Force Academy. West Point even has its own ski slope on the back side of the campus (although only a whopping 600 feet). College is free… of course you get a job at the end of your four years that comes with free vactions to sandy beaches with no water…

  51. Chris August 20th, 2007 10:13 am

    It seems that there is a lot of assumption since the interest is in “things mechanical” that engineering is the best fit. That may be, but I would think you should also look into an industrial design program. Industrial design is generally a program found at an “art” school, but given the obvious interest in graphic design (nice stickers) maybe that is a better fit. Mechanical engineering can involve mind-numbing minutia to the point you really forget the larger scope of what your working on. Industrial design will let you work on a higher level and involve more creativity. A school that lets you mix both programs would be ideal.

    Here’s another thought. Pick a junior college and get all academic preliminaries out of the way while living “the life.” Then go for the kill and get the degree at the best school possible – only sacrificing BC days for a couple years. It’s probably a lot cheaper to go this way too…

  52. Chris August 20th, 2007 10:20 am

    Western Washington University has an industrial Design program that continues to pump out talented designers, they also have a recreation/environmental program through Huxley College. Far from Colorado but will give you excuse to come ski in the North Cascades and Mt. Baker. Recreation abounds from water sports to mountaineering. Close to Seattle, Whistler and Squamish.

  53. Lou August 20th, 2007 4:30 pm

    Chris, we’re looking at exactly that! Everyone, yeah, Louie is very interested in something not quite so harsh as engineering and Industrial Design might be the ticket!

  54. FrameNZ August 21st, 2007 4:45 am

    A bit of a left field option here and travel back to see your parents is a bit of a killer, but how about Canterbury University in Christchurch, New Zealand. It’s only 12 hrs from LA!! The cost being an international student would be steep but you have the US$ in your favour.
    They have a well renowned Engineering School and ENGSOC (Engineering Society) organizes some killer parties and an accent is a good way to start conversations with girls. The summer holidays are mid December to late February so you can get a second ski season in each year – NZ season runs July to Sept. Christchurch is beside the beach, with some decent surfing, loads of mountain biking, kayaking and an hour and a half to the mountains. 3.5 hrs drive gets you too Mt Cook, where Sir Ed Hilary practiced before him and Sherpa Tensing climbed Everest. There is great touring and climbing opportunities there. The ski areas (to small to call resorts) near Christchurch are small but friendly and cheap. Canterbury University also has a hut at Temple Basin ski area. The ski area consists of a few ‘nut cracker’ tows and there’s no grooming and there is a big range of mountains just over any ridge you want to climb (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Temple_Basin). The snow isn’t what you are used to in the states, but you will learn a lot in being outside of the United States and experiencing a different life style.
    All the best and hope you aren’t too confused by all the options.
    PS Check out Macpac for a potential work experience place. They make great packs and you could take Wildsnow global with your gear reviews and trip reports during the Nth Hemisphere summer.

  55. Gramps August 23rd, 2007 8:38 am

    As far as Utah school goes, U of U seems like the obvious choice to me. It’s got a good program in most anything you decide to major in (especially engineering). Yeah, it’s big, but things get cut down to size quickly since the dorm population is a lot smaller, and whatever program you are in gives you a smaller group of people to get and know. The social scene takes a hit due to the dominant culture, but the school’s big enough that I never had any trouble finding stuff to do, plus Salt Lake is a decent city. I skied close to 100 days a season (mostly touring) while taking over 12 credit hours of classes (carefully scheduled to maximize ski time) and working a part time research job. I don’t know that there is anywhere else you can pull that off. I think spending your college years in Logan would be bordering on insanity, but that’s just me…

  56. Charlie August 23rd, 2007 9:12 am

    If you’re willing to look at Washington, you might consider the University of Washington in Seattle as well. It’s a competent-to-high end school in every discipline, with a large outdoor community. Access to the BC isn’t quite as good as it would be at WWU, but I get at least one dawn patrol (it’s less than an hour to the closest good touring) in per week before work/class in the winter (and enjoyable turns all year!). You only get one shot at college; it may be worth compromising a little on short drives to skiing in order to maximize the quality of the instruction you’re getting (that’s why you’re going to school, right?).

    Motivated undergrads will find their snow and their stoke no matter where they are – I occasionally skied to and from class in upstate New York… A UW student can get as much time in the hills as he wants. Look at Colin Haley…

  57. Lou August 23rd, 2007 7:04 pm

    We’re getting a huge amount of value from you guys’ comments. Thank you so so much!

    Gramps, what’s the problem with Logan?

  58. Dave Carver August 24th, 2007 2:01 pm

    Hi Lou,

    Our son is at CU Boulder Engineering so we have a bit of insite into what your son is into. Obtaining an engineering degree is a whole lot of work. 5 years of really tough courses that will require about 60 hours of work per week to get good grades unless you are truely gifted.

    Our son compeleted a 3 month NOLS course in Patagonia and loves the mountains. He makes a point of skiing at least one day a week (through June in the high peaks) but most weeks 2 days are out of the question if he wants good grades.

    CU Engineering is the top rated Engineering school in the Mountain West because of it’s high standards and, I think, it’s method of teaching. Almost all lab assignments are completed by student teams. This is not only a great way to learn for both the leaders and followers but also mimics the way they will be required to work when they get those great jobs after graduation.

    So it’s about the education and not about the recreation.

    My personal take (as well as all of our friends who are educators) is that most boys can truely benefit from a year or two between high school and college. Especially if they aren’t sure what they want to do.

    From what I’ve read in your blog, I’m sure Louie is a great kid and he’s going to do just fine.

    On, on,


  59. Chris B August 26th, 2007 6:03 am

    I have to say, having just moved from Vancouver BC, that the skiing in the Bellingham area is top notch. There is lift served (Baker), Lift assisted backcountry (Baker again), all sorts of tours to go in both Canada and the USA (check out the Chilliwack valley, Manning Park, Coquihalla region). And all sorts of ski-mountaineering. I just hope you like to bushwack with skis on your back

    Plus, if you ever get bored of skiing, there is top notch mountain biking, kayaking, rock climbing etc. Bellingham has a pretty cool vibe for a smaller city. Bellingham international airport has some direct flights out, and Frontier has direct flights to Vancouver now (meet your son up in Vancouver and head up to Whistler or Pemberton)

  60. Chris (yet another one) August 27th, 2007 1:56 am

    I started college as a student at University of Washington then transfered to Western up in Bellingham. The problem with Seattle is the access to the mountains for us poor college kids who don’t have cars. It can be expensive to bus and most people don’t have cars at UW because of the extensive bus system. There is some pretty gnarly back country near the two closest resorts (Stevens and Snoqualmie) but the resorts themselves pale in comparison to Mt Baker.
    Western Washington has a bigger ski culture on the campus itself and this lends to easier access to Baker, which previous comments have already detailed. Also if you want a more vivid mental image, pick up virtually any snowsports publication on the shelves right now and I promise you will find plenty of shots of our epic early season storms.
    Finally there’s nothing like a 14 inch dump in town and skiing to class passing local snowboarding companies filming jibs on campus.

  61. Lou August 27th, 2007 9:22 am

    Thanks Chris and all! We’re finding your comments to be incredibly helpful. Looks like a Northwest college tour will happen in a couple of weeks!

  62. Kelley January 3rd, 2008 10:58 am

    As a graduate of MSU and a former ski bum in Little Cottonwood Canyon in Utah, I want to state my case for Bozeman. The BC skiing rivals anything I have expierienced in Utah. With YNP in it’s backyard, as well as Bridger, Moonlight, and Bigsky ski areas I can’t say enough about the skiing opportunities. There are limitless back country opportunites minutes from campus that make skiing a daily ritual. As a student I would beable to be in class all morning have my ski gear in the car and ski all afternoon. The programs that are offered are well respected, the city of Bozeman has many companies that offer internships to MSU students. The town has become a bit of a big box store mecca but it is all concentrated in one part of town. The population of MSU and Bozeman is changing and with that is becoming more balanced (not too cowboyish, not too Californicated). I have lived in the area for the last 10 plus years and still discover new powder stashes every winter. You will not be bored will the diversity of the skiing opportunities. The professional opportunites that were available during school helped me be marketable after graduation. I was hired at my first choice company prior to graduation. I can not say enough about how I feel MSU prepared me for the career of my choice.

  63. Jon January 7th, 2008 12:50 am

    I’m from CO too and I can say that Utah definitely gets more snow than CO (about twice as much), powder days all the time, and some sick steeps/cliffs that are hard to find in CO. I went to the University of Utah last year and still live in SLC this year, taking it off to ski. The U isnt a bad school at all. It is really big like you said. Westminster is a small school thats just as big as a highschool. I know if you want to fly they have a good aviation program. Other than that I dont know too much besides the fact that its over 20k a year. Distance wise its about 10 blocks away from the U. As for the mormon thing, ya it blows. Mormons ruined Utah with all their dumb rules and the church vibe thats all over the city. Needless to say they suck and MSU is looking pretty nice.

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