Vail Ski & Snowboard Academy graduates largest class since inception in 2007 |

Vail Ski & Snowboard Academy graduates largest class since inception in 2007

Geoff Grimmer, Vail Ski & Snowboard Academy founding headmaster, dances to lead the Charge to the Class of 2018 during the VSSA graduation on Friday, June 1, in Vail. Grimmer rapped the entire speech, reminding students to “dream like you’ve never seen an obstacle.
Chris Dillmann |

VAIL — The Class of 2018 at Vail Ski & Snowboard Academy asked for a charge at their graduation, and they got it.

Geoff Grimmer, founding headmaster of VSSA, got the 31 graduates out of their chairs as he rapped his message to them, to some catchy tunes.

“Let’s do this, this is the Charge of 2018,” he said as the music got going on cue. “Nobody wants to hear a cheesy charge, with dusty old quotes and handwritten notes,” he rapped. “Oh ya, we’re rapping this, we’re rapping it. Get funky, here we go.”

With shout-outs to the largest graduating class at the school since it was founded in 2007, Grimmer acknowledged what it means to be a student-athlete.

“I’m super proud of you guys,” he said as he wound down his song. “They say anything is possible — dream like you’ve never seen an obstacle.”

Class to Remember

Under blue skies at the Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater in Vail on Friday morning, June 1, and donning their blue and white gowns, VSSA’s Class of 2018 included an impressive group of students.

“We have become a class that VSSA will never forget,” Nellie Talbot and Anneli Holm said in their speech to their fellow graduates, friends and family. “We have a pilot, an auto mechanic, four U.S. Ski Team members, professional Fortnite players and an Olympian — and still so much more to come.”

Graduate Tess Johnson represented VSSA, as well as the state, at the 2018 Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

“I must admit as a principal, it’s pretty cool to say, ‘That’s our kid in the Olympics!’” first-year principal Wade Hill said. “This is such an amazing school and I’m proud to be a part of it.”

‘Raised in the mountains’

The VSSA Class of 18 — like most other classes — has had its fair share of ups and downs. Juggling skiing with schoolwork is no easy task, with all of the training, traveling and time put into both — as well as food fights.

“When we speak to others about what we do, how we do it and where we do it, it sounds amazing,” Emma Hall said. “What we don’t explain is what it’s like to load a lift in the dark morning in sub-zero temperatures, taking runs on rock-hard injected ice that makes your teeth rattle and project our bodies off jumps. Everything we do comes with a risk. That’s what we do, and we love it.”

The commencement speaker was state Sen. Kerry Donovan, who was an adviser to many of these students while they were eighth-graders, just before she went into public service. When it was her turn to address the graduates, she turned the podium to face them instead of the crowd.

“I know the greatness in each of you. I’ve seen it in your writing, in your doodles and in your cupcake throwing,” Donovan said. “You’re a smart class — almost so smart that it often got you into a little bit of trouble.”

Donovan went on to give the graduates nine pieces of advice, including to write thank-you notes; enjoy the little things; don’t tailgate another car; read books; be involved; and be kind.

“Today if you do nothing else, find a way to make a difference because large or small, it’s still a difference,” she said.

For many of these young adults, it’s the closing of one chapter and the opening of another.

“We are the children of winter,” Hall told the audience. “We were raised in the mountains, but the mountains raised us. This community raised us.”

Entertainment & Outdoors editor Ross Leonhart can be reached at 970-748-2984 and Follow him on Instagram at colorado_livin_on_the_hill.

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