Mini-UN Conquers Mont Ripley

By Dennis Walikainen | Published

A good crowd turned out for the day.
A good crowd turned out for the day.

Many nations were represented at Mont Ripley Saturday, as the fifth annual International Ski School united students, faculty, and staff in one mission: learn to love all this snow.

It’s working.

Nearly 100 international newbies and returnees slid, slipped, and laughed their way down from Midway and elsewhere.

“We don’t want to apologize for the snow; we want to embrace it,” says second-timer Thy Yang, director of International Programs and Services. “The best part to witness was the interaction between the student instructors and the skiers, many of whom might not get together outside of a classroom.”

The rookies got one-on-one attention.

“The biggest surprise was their excitement of being on the snow,” says instructor Josh Hauswirth, a civil engineering major from Minnesota. “Whether they were actually skiing down the hill, or just sliding around at the bottom, there were always smiles on their faces.”

Hauswirth recalls taking one eager student to the top of the T-bar. “He started making a couple good turns, then got himself pointed straight down and started bombing the hill. By the time I caught up with him halfway down, I could see him smiling and laughing, and he had a line of tears going straight back from his eyes because of the wind. He managed to bring himself to a stop, then looked at me and said, ‘That was [the] most fun thing I [did] all year!’"

Hauswirth says that, if one person from the group succeeded in making turns, or any other maneuver, the whole group would get excited.

“Even when somebody would fall, I could hear them laughing and would see them smiling as they got up,” he says.

Kalifah Albuanian, an English as a second language (ESL) and electrical engineering technology major from Saudi Arabia, was surprised at how much fun he had.

“I was in the beginner level and learned many things,” he says. “The problem [was] that I fell down many times but without injuries, thank God. One funny word was ‘pizza,’ [that] they usually say in order to stop. Unfortunately, I wasn’t hungry at the time, so I couldn’t do pizza to stop!”

The international students ran the gamut of ages, from more-traditional undergrads and master’s students to older PhD students, according to Yang.

“The students say, ‘This is why I chose Michigan Tech,’” she says. “They say, ‘I want to try someplace new, in a different climate from my home nation, and I want to try something new, too.’”

China, India, the Mideast, and European nations were all represented, and a pattern is developing in those who continue with the sport after this introduction.

“You had the newer and more experienced skiers together, with the veterans helping the new ones,” Yang says. “And, after they learn, they are going on their own now, taking buses over to the hill.”

Yang says that many international students want to try skiing and other activities, but they just need a catalyst.

“They don’t want to do it alone, so this allows them to go with their friends.”

Michigan Technological University is a public research university, home to more than 7,000 students from 54 countries. Founded in 1885, the University offers more than 120 undergraduate and graduate degree programs in science and technology, engineering, forestry, business and economics, health professions, humanities, mathematics, and social sciences. Our campus in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula overlooks the Keweenaw Waterway and is just a few miles from Lake Superior.