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Keeping up with the skiers: Westminster community prepares for winter skiing in unexpected ways

Turner Petersen free ride skiing in the Elk Mountains in Colorado. Skiing in the summer months requires a dedicated skier and miles of hiking with heavy gear.
(Photo Courtesy: Mark Robbins)

Skiing glaciers, scouting backcountry locations and hiking 14 miles to find some snow — several Westminster College skiers are dedicated to keeping up with the winter sport all year long.

To them, the sport isn’t just for winter and their passion to slip their skis on doesn’t fade with the warmth. 

Skiing in the summer may seem like an oxymoron, but for many Utah students it’s just a fact of life.

Turner Petersen, Westminster marketing major, hiking the Elk Mountains in Colorado looking for snow in the summer. To ski in the summer months, elevation and long hikes are necessary to reach unmelted snow. (Photo Courtesy: Mark Robbins)

Rian Zetzer, a junior communication major and former Wasatch Freestyle competitive mogul skier, has been skiing glaciers as long as she can remember and it has become ingrained in her life, she said. 

Summer skiing is vital for competitive skiers to stay in shape, according to Zetzer, who is now retired from competition.

“It’s part of our training program because taking off April to November is a very long time not to be doing an activity if you want to stay fresh,” she said. “Also the summer months are the only time you can be training where you are also not stressed about competing.”

However, glacier skiing isn’t only for those in training teams. There is always at least one lane open for the public, according to Zetzer.

“If you were really gung-ho about it you can go and there is usually one small public lane,” she said. “Lower your expectations [and don’t expect] a wide variety of terrain but just be excited to rip a groomer in August.”

Glaciers aren’t the only place to ski in the summer, though. For those who are truly dedicated and never want to take a month off — like Turner Petersen — you can always find snow in higher elevations. It has been Petersen’s goal this year to ski at least one day every month and he hasn’t faltered yet.

“I’m a really passionate skier,” said Petersen, a sophomore marketing major. “In the summers I can really slow down, go at my own pace, have a good time and not think about anything but the skiing.”

The summer snow can be hard to find, but his passion is vital in this skiing year-round challenge, he said. Petersen, a free ride (skiing in steep, powdered terrain) competitive skier, has hiked as far as 14 miles with his skis on his back to get to snow. 

Rian Zetzer, a junior communication major and former Wasatch Freestyle competitive mogul skier, hits a trick on the Mt. Hood glacier in August 2019. Glacier skiing provides an avenue for competitive skiers to stay in shape and train during the summer months for the upcoming winter competition season. (Photo Courtesy: Jeremy Cota)

Despite having limited glacier options in the summer, an avid skier who doesn’t want to hike miles for snow can still prepare for the upcoming season in unexpected ways. 

Peter Ingle, Westminster associate professor of education, has been backcountry skiing (not skiing at resorts) for over 30 years. And, because the terrain is unpredictable in the backcountry, scouting locations with early snowfall is vital.

“When we get snow, like we have this year, in September or October it’s very early and out of the norm,” he said. “If […] it doesn’t melt before winter that snow […] breaks down molecularly.”

The October snow that sits for months before heavy snowfall, doesn’t provide a good surface for new snow to stick to, according to Ingle. This leads to a higher risk of avalanches: the most dangerous and life-threatening risk for a backcountry skier. 

So, whether you want to ski the slushy snow of a glacier, hike for lingering snow or scout the avalanche zones of the backcountry, there are many ways to keep up with skiing and make the most out of the warmer months. 


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Liz Dobbins
Liz is a junior communication major at Westminster College, who can often be found sipping her over-priced coffee in Bassis. When not studying or working as an intern – three times over – she enjoys binge watching “Grey’s Anatomy,” for the fourth time, and taking morning runs in Sugar House Park. Liz hopes to someday make her way into the movie industry and become a puppy parent.

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