WT Students Band Together To Honor MLK’s Legacy By Going To Their Ski Houses And Skiing Like The Future of Our Country Depends On It


Photo via Reuters

It’s 7 am in Somerset County, Pennsylvania. Tufts of snow have been pirouetting in the whistling wind all night, and now, as a result, a fresh blanket of flawless powder sparkles under the rising sun. Families of robins chirp a faint “good morning” and the sound of scraping shovels fills the crisp, chilly air.

 A WT lifer rises slowly, sliding on her Ugg slippers before wiping the frost from her windowpane to reveal the idyllic winter wonderland beyond it. 

Today is her favorite day of the year: “The Monday of that random long weekend in January” A.K.A. “Ski day,” A.K.A. the federal holiday that marks the birth of Civil Rights Hero, Reverend Martin Luther King Jr.

The aforementioned individual is a longtime pupil of Winchester Thurston, and while she will remain anonymous, she was kind enough to let me tag along with her and witness “a day in the life” at Seven Springs. 

Upon arrival, I was startled by the mass of familiar faces. Classmates, neighbor friends, even teachers were all gathered outside of the lodge, dressed in their Monday-best, ready to conquer the mountain. It was like that scene in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s Young Goodman Brown when Brown begins to realize that the most sanctified figures in his life, including his beloved wife, Faith, are all participants in the dark satanic mass he is ruefully attending, and the moral hierarchy that once dictated his inner and outer lives collapses causing him to lose his faith in God and man. But just replace Goodman Brown with me (because I’m the main character) and all the Satan-worshipping puritans with perfectly nice families, trying to enjoy a day of outdoor bonding.

I did greet the people I recognized though. 

“Look if you’re insinuating I ‘didn’t know it was MLK day’ or ‘don’t know who that is’ then you’re totally wrong, and way out of line,” responded one WT senior when I said hello and asked him where he got his gloves.

“Skiing is a lot like the civil rights movement because it is good,” offered one student when asked to comment.

So the day was going great. “I think MLK would have been a skier had he not grown up in Atlanta,” my companion mused wistfully as she took in the cheery view of smiling faces and reckless snowboarders. But unfortunately, all good things must come to an end and after our chairlift reached the top of the mountain she took off like a rocket down the eastern slope, never to be seen again. I didn’t even have skis on. I was all socks, no shoes. I don’t know what I thought was going to happen when we reached the top. I assumed it was just like a ride, or that it led to a restaurant. The lift operator was shocked that I had made it this far. I had no pass, no skis, but what I did have was heart, and the wettest, coldest, pair of socks you can possibly imagine. 

Not all who wander are lost, but I was. While meandering through a sea of endless white, I studied the lively groups of teenagers sporting colorful ski gear and idling at the base of the mountain. They were laughing, playfully pushing each other, and challenging one another to races. And what did I see them passing back and forth? Was it a stainless steel Grateful Dead thermos? Or was it a thoughtfully annotated copy of Ibram X. Kendi’s 2019 bestseller, “How to Be an Antiracist?” It was too hard to tell, but once I got closer, I saw a not-at-all-alcohol-related sparkle in their eyes that gave me my answer: these young men and women clearly made the trek to this mountain on this Monday morning to make The Reverend proud.

 That look in their eyes would have to be enough though, because none of them were up for an interview. They were more interested in asking me “how I could possibly leave the house without shoes in 4 inches of snow” and telling me that “my feet were most definitely severely frostbitten and that they could help me locate medical personnel.” And I’m like, “it’s fine if you don’t want to be in the article but stop hitting on me!”

I was finally able to find a teen in the lodge who was willing to talk to me, or at least, couldn’t get away because he had just sustained an injury on the slopes. He was outfitted in a stylish snow bib, no mask, and goggles that looked exactly like the eyes of a horse fly, but in a cool way. 

Caption: Art imitates life.


“First of all, it’s not called a ‘ski house’ it’s called a cabin,” he informed me at the start of our Q & A session. “It’s just a humble, 5000 square foot, rustic, artfully designed cabin that my dad built from the ground up with his own, bare, contracting company.” I smiled and nodded even though I knew he was wrong. It’s called a ski house.

But as we traversed deeper into the conversation, like two backwoods skiers steering their way through ice and brush, he began to wax poetic: “I would have to say that my favorite thing about skiing is the fact that it is nice. It’s a lot like the civil rights movement in that way actually- not to get too profound or anything.”

I assured him that no, he had not been too profound and asked him a follow-up question: why was he really here today? 

“Martin Luther King Junior had a dream. And that was to have a holiday or something I think, which he obviously got. But I have dreams too. Last night I dreamt that I absolutely shredded down this double black diamond, but then lost control and did a gnarly jump off of this cliff. It felt cool for a second, like in midair, but then my body started doing that weird falling thing that happens when you’re asleep. So does that answer your question?”

Look, many people believe that skiing is still a largely segregated sport, reserved primarily for the affluent and those people are right. But the ski community is like a family, not just because everyone is so warm and welcoming, but also because everyone I saw looked exactly the same, so similar that they could be related.

Near the end of the day, I managed to reunite with the classmate who I started my morning with, the one who promised to show me around. I was happy to see her again. I felt like we had really bonded. Our conversation got deep quickly.

“So meanwhile, Joe Manchin is singing Martin Luther King Jr.’s praises but is blocking the voting rights action that King’s family is marching for in D.C.! How is our country going to overcome this weird state-led partisanship and finally realize the future that Dr. King imagined for our nation?” I asked.

“No, yeah, totally.” She assured me with her eyes fixed straight ahead, before bombing down Goosebumps Slope like a shot of lightning into the sunset.