Steamboat Mountain School celebrates 60 years | SteamboatToday.com

Steamboat Mountain School celebrates 60 years

Frances Hohl/For Steamboat Today

Steamboat Mountain School will dedicate and name its new building Saturday during the celebration of the school’s 60th anniversary. The student center, designed by Mountain Architecture Design Group, connects the current Borden Center and the main lodge and will be completed by the beginning of the school 2017-18 school year.

They say there are not many well-kept secrets in life, but Steamboat Mountain School has managed to keep a big one as it readies to celebrate its 60th anniversary Saturday. That's when the famous boarding/day school will dedicate its new academic building and name it after "someone who cares greatly about the school." And yes, that was the only hint.

Considering the school has generated thousands of dedicated students, faculty and supporters, the naming of the building was likely a difficult decision.

What's not difficult is to appreciate why people from around the world, as well as locals, keep sending their teenagers to the little school tucked away in historic Strawberry Park outside Steamboat Springs.

"As a parent, we have so much confidence in them. They spend more time with my teen than I do, and they've been raising teens for decades," said Gina Zedeck, mother of two Steamboat Mountain School graduates.

The school (formerly known as Lowell Whiteman) is known for its global immersion trips and nurturing of the educational needs of top-notch ski talent, but it started as a boys ranch in 1946 before becoming a co-ed boarding school in 1957.

"The whole idea was taking kids out of the city and into the country … teaching them western ideals," said Head of School Meg Morse. "That was how everything evolved. There were always camp trips, and it was always highly academic."

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Though current students don't have to feed livestock, as in the old days, they are still tasked with shoveling snow, washing dishes and cleaning toilets … all part of the school's original ethos.

Saturday's 60th anniversary celebration will include two of the boarding school's original teachers, husband and wife George and Marian Tolles, who still live in Steamboat.

Morse said their stories, including one about having their marriage bed next to the thin walls of the boys dorm, are sure to keep attendees amused during Saturday's big party.

Academic Dean Joann Lasko, also known as "Doc," has been at the school for 33 years and remembers the days when students were sent to the school to pick up real-world values.

"I have vivid memories of early camp trips where kids would ask, 'Where do I plug in my hairdryer?' And that was after we backpacked in," Lasko said. "You don't see that anymore. People come here now for the outdoor life."

In the meantime, staff is thrilled with how the new building is progressing. It will replace three old classrooms and provide a wellness center for yoga and activities and a new recreation center the school has always lacked.

"It'll provide the students with a space for playing ping pong, watching movies, a fireplace to hang out … a space to be with their friends," said Marta Miskolczy, director of marketing and advancement at the school.

Parent and Steamboat Mountain School supporter Gina Zedeck said that, while the building will be a great addition for the kids, the core of the school remains in its staff.

"For our kids, it's been a tremendous experience … the out-of-classroom education, the life skills, the confidence my son has in college and his relationship with his professors. … It's all because of the relationships he had these four years (at Steamboat Mountain School)," Zedeck said.

The building dedication is set for 6 p.m. Saturday at the Steamboat Mountain School. Those who wish to buy tickets to the barbecue at 6:30 p.m. or attend a Sunday brunch are invited to email marta@steamboatmountainschool.org for details.

And, per tradition, expect the evening's festivities to end with a campfire and s'mores.

Steamboat Mountain School Fun Facts

  • The school was founded in 1957 by cowboy adventurer Lowell Whiteman
  • During the earliest years, students spent mud season in Mexico and later spent mud season in classrooms in Spain and France
  • The original school building burned down and was rebuilt in 1977 with the help of parents, students, faculty and community
  • The longest-serving head of school was John Whittum, who served from 1968 to 1988.
  • The longest-serving faculty member is Joe Roberts, who served 42 years
  • The current longest-serving faculty member is Joanne “Doc” Lasko, who has served for 33 years
  • In 1987, the school started a ski program with Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club
  • 17 Olympians (some in multiple games)
  • 35 U.S. Ski or Snowboard Team members and/or X Games athletes
  • Current population: 60 percent global immersion students and 40 percent ski program students
  • Current population: 44 percent day students and 56 percent boarding students
  • Current population: 44 percent female and 56 percent male
  • 100 percent college acceptance rate
  • Average class size: 8
  • The school has traveled to 56 countries and 6 continents

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