Vail Ski and Snowboard Academy Class of 2017 is Overachiever U |

Vail Ski and Snowboard Academy Class of 2017 is Overachiever U

Paula Cooper, left, and Zoe Livran give the Reflection Speech during Vail Ski and Snowboard Academy's Class of 2017 Graduation on Friday in Wolcott. The Commencement Address was given by professional big mountain skier, Angel Collinson.
Chris Dillmann | |

WOLCOTT — Imagine a school packed with over-achieving adrenaline lovers, and you’ll understand why Vail Ski & Snowboard Academy Principal Geoff Grimmer didn’t get much work done Friday.

On Friday, students and soon-to-be former students emptied a jumping pit and put the foam into an administrator’s office. Because that left no room for the desk, they put the desk into the jumping pit.

“Why?” we hear you ask.

Because it seemed like a good idea at the time, and unlike most tattoos and all political affiliations, it was.

This is the school from which one young man jumped off the school roof on his snowboard.

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Students built a bridge over water that may or may not be from the former Superfund site near their school, and convinced others to test those waters. The point is that they build bridges, not fences. Fences are for jumping over.

Halsey Lucas was at 4 Eagle Ranch all day Friday setting up the audio-visual gear so the ceremony would sound as good as it could — and did. Lucas sat down long enough to listen to commencement speakers and then popped back up to graduate.

Davis Burns won multiple Special Olympics medals.

VSSA graduated 20 such overachievers, the first class to start in the sixth-grade and graduate together. Several are headed toward national teams, many to college. All are striding confidently into the rest of their lives.

“Our sports have enabled us to travel around the globe. It also created a family here in the Vail Valley that we can always come home to,” said Katelin Hennum in her Scholar Address. “Life is too short to not be doing what you love.”

Into their reflections, Paula Cooper and Zoe Livran managed to work language arts lessons they never thought they’d need the rest of their lives.

One of ‘Us’

In the “Us vs. Them” mindset that so often pervades modern life, Angel Collinson is comfortably one of “us,” as long as “us” wants to climb to the top of tall mountains and throw yourself off, down a ski line that looks to the untrained eye like an avalanche chute.

She won the world title on her first year on the Big Mountain Tour, which means she does this sort of thing for a living.

Which made her the perfect VSSA commencement speaker.

Collinson has enjoyed all sorts of success, but ended up on an academic scholarship to the University of Utah.

She was raised in Snowbird, Utah, the same way most of the VSSA grads were.

“Goal setting and work ethic is the most valuable set of skills,” Collinson said.

The biggest challenges and toughest things are what you’ll be most grateful for, Collinson told the grads.

In other words, “Learn to be present, even with life sucks. … You have to learn to roll with it,” she said.

Collinson pointed out that even though she’s not that much older than the VSSA Class of 2017, she laid out a few things she has learned climbing up and skiing or falling down mountains.

• Humility. “Once you make a mistake, you have to admit that you made a mistake and learn from it. We take risks. Sometimes we succeed. Sometimes we don’t,” she said. She took a massive fall and the video went viral. Now, she’s the girl who tomahawks.

• Vulnerability. “It takes more strength to be vulnerable than it does to ski in any of our competitions,” she said.

• Kindness. “We don’t get through this life alone. When you’re down and out and injured and feel like snapping at someone, that’s when kindness needs to come out the most,” she said.

• Nurture your connections. “The top is only sweet if you have a community with you. If you claw your way up there, but you’re all alone, it’s a lonely place,” she said.

Davis Burns led his classmates as they turned their tassels, officially marking their graduation.

“VSSA Class of 2017, here’s to a lifetime of awesomeness!” Hennum said.

Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 and

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