Higher Education: East Coast Edition

Alex Rodway, riding the short bus at Keene's Granite Gorge. PHOTO: Chris Wellhausen

Alex Rodway, riding the short bus at Keene's Granite Gorge. PHOTO: Chris Wellhausen

Let’s face it: the real key to the good life is figuring out a way to snowboard on someone else’s dime. For the pros, it’s all about sticker placement and logo time. The jobless call it “funenployment”. The trustfunders have mom and dad and until the ripe age of 18, we all have the pleasure/horror of high school keeping us afloat. But it doesn’t last forever, and eventually you’re going to have to do one of two things: either endure the hell of getting a job, or find anyway possible to hustle your ass right back to school.

The best part about going to college (besides the ragers, co-eds, cheap season passes, sleeping til noon, etc) is that it’s the last time of your life when snowboarding everyday and partying every night is fully accepted; at some of these institutions, it’s downright mandatory. Plus (unlike high school…), you have the freedom to choose where you want to go.

Which brings us to the next step: where the hell do you go? The schools of the Rockies, Northwest, etc hold some pretty epic terrain – no debate there. But for the college-bound really looking to live the snowboard life, it’s hard to beat the vast community of sons and daughters skipping classes on the East. New England especially is home to a number of colleges and universities dedicated to keeping snowboard culture alive and well. The hard-working heritage of the region has led its youth to create something truly special from the roughness they know and ride everyday, while their pride, attitude and true grit-love of snowboarding is damned inspiring. Just one hit of the ice coast and you’re hooked – the experience of attending one the East’s finest snowboard schools will forever change your perception of “higher education”.

Here it is: The best snowboard colleges of the East Coast.
-AH

Plymouth State University. Let the celebration begin. PHOTO: Cole Martin

Let the celebration begin. PHOTO: Cole Martin

#1: Plymouth State University

Plymouth, NH
www.plymouth.edu

Ask any snowboarder, of any era, from any state in New England to name the most notorious shred college on the East Coast, and you’d better prepare yourself for a wild, probably illegal story involving the snowboard Mecca that is Plymouth State. Once a college (somehow, it’s now a “University”…) known primarily for providing the East with its gym teachers, recent years have seen PSU step up the academics significantly – they’re now considered one of the top Meteorology and Earth Sciences schools in the country, in fact. But for all the attempts at educational progression, Plymouth’s student body has never wavered in its pursuit of good times – noted by ranking as Playboy’s 8th wildest party school in the nation back in 1987, and holding steady at #9 for 2010. School does happen at this lifestyle jewel of the Granite State, but it’s strictly held to the Mon-Thurs range.

The best park riding in New Hampshire is just down the road, with Loon and Waterville essentially being PSU athletic facilities. Such close proximity to the mountains makes it almost impossible not to take part in the vast snowboard community that lies at the core of the PSU student body, many of which keep the vibe going year-round. Some may reminisce about the great times of the past at the Blue Lodge (ask just about anyone who ever lived in NH about that one…), but ride a day and send a night with the kids at 14 Pleasant, and you’ll believe in the game all over again.

In short, Plymouth State is home to the most dedicated and historic community of collegiate shreds on the East Coast. If you’re looking to ride everyday, party every night, and have the time of your life while basically just pretending to attend college, then this is your new home, hands-down.

Nearby Resorts: Tenney Mountain (15 mins), Loon Mountain (30 mins), Cannon (30 mins), Waterville Valley (35 mins), Ragged Mountain (40 mins), Pats Peak (1 hour)

Snowboard Club / Team: Plymouth State Snowboard Club

Shred Alums: Lots. HCSC’s Preston Strout, Shane Flood (honorary), Luke Mathison, Noah Brandon, Jaime MacLeod, Steven “Jib” Hunt, Greg Maxwell, Chris Carr, Brian Barb, Nate Sheehan, numerous New Hampshire Dirts, and many more.

Extra Credit: Two words: “Snowboard Formal”. …It’s also worth noting that Paul Reubens (Pee-Wee Herman) went here, which helps explain how some of the creatures on this list actually got into a college…

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UVMST's Seth Levin, sliding one of many on-campus classics. PHOTO: Bobby Bruderle

UVMST's Seth Levin, sliding one of many on-campus classics. PHOTO: Bobby Bruderle

#2: University of Vermont

Burlington, VT
www.uvm.edu

When it comes to riding the East Coast, the University of Vermont is a true institution of snowboarding. Located right in downtown Burlington (aka Boulder, CO with a sweet lake and better beer), Vermont offers 6 first-rate park and pow resorts to its students – all under an hour and a half away. Along with local companies (and frequent internship destinations) Burton and Rome, most choose Stowe as their everyday home mountain, with Jay Peak holding the best powder riding in the Eastern US. Bolton Valley offers up the only night-riding in Vermont, while local favorite Sugarbush continues the progression that once groomed Jeff Brushie and countless VTSP OGs. Even Killington is only 1.5 hours away – home to the earliest openings and only Burton Stash Park in the East.

Off the hill, Burlington pretty much exists to provide good times for the students of UVM. As long as you can put up with the occasional Phish reunion and world-ending environmental rally, it’s one of the best all-around college cities in the nation. From countless rail jams and world-class music acts, to multiple culture festivals and a thriving urban/DJ scene, it’s easy to see why so many UVM grads choose to stay in the city years after the classes have ended. The “Burlington Grey” (not the sunniest place ever) may be one of the many reasons the community produces such an abundance of arts, music, good beer and festivals, but it’s the largest collection of fun-loving, free-living young people in New England that come out to enjoy and support it all.

If you’re looking to ride at the best of East Coast snowboard resorts, enjoy one of the most progressive cities in America and easily escape to Boston, Montreal and NY – all while earning what’s considered one of the more prestigious state degrees in the US – it’s very hard to beat UVM.

Nearby Resorts: Stowe (40 mins), Bolton Valley (30 mins), Smugglers’ Notch (45 mins), Sugarbush (1 hour), Jay Peak (1.5 hours), Killington (1.5 hours)

Snowboard Club / Team: UVM Snowboard Team, UVM Ski and Snowboard Club

Shred Alums: Phish’s Trey Anastasio shred the hippie axe here for a turn; Zach Leach, Tanner Pendleton, Colleen Quigley and countless snowboard industry veterans were once UVM Catamounts.

Extra Credit: Be sure to check out the vast UVM Snowboard Team and Club – maybe the largest in the nation. For the more art, photo and/or graphic design-oriented snowboarder who's also looking to ride Vermont while earning a respected degree, Champlain College, or "Camp Champ", is the place for you.

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#3: University of New Hampshire

Durham, NH
www.unh.edu

The flagship university of the great state of New Hampshire has been dealt a pretty rough blow lately: knocked completely off of both Playboy’s and the Princeton Review’s list of “Top Party Schools” for 2010. It held proud top tens in both rankings as recently as 2008 (the best years correlating with the recent Boston sports championships and the subsequent, nation-scaring UNH Red Sox riots…), but the good old days might be on pause for the pride of the Granite State. Fortunately for you, the snowboarding will always remain the same.

The University of No Holidays (No Hope, etc) is conveniently located 1-2 hours from the best of NH’s snowboard areas. Daily park laps at Gunstock and Cranmore are a must, with carpools to Loon and Waterville leaving each morning. When it snows, the freeride terrain at Wildcat can rival the best in the country. The overall scene is fairly universal in its participation, but casual in its passion.

UNH is widely regarded as one of the top state colleges in the US academically, as well as one of the premier research destinations in the country. If you’re looking to shred on the regular, but are also interested in pursuing first-class research programs, wide study-abroad opportunities, big-name-school athletics and life on a pristine New England campus, take a good look at UNH.

Nearby Resorts: Gunstock (1 hour), Pats Peak (1 hour), Mount Sunapee (1.5 hours), Cranmore (1.5 hours), Loon Mountain (2 hours), Waterville Valley (2 hours), Wildcat (2 hours), Sunday River (2.5 hours)

Snowboard Club / Team: UNH Ski and Board Club

Shred Alums: …Not so much. Boston Red Sox Hall Of Famer Carlton Fisk tops the “notables” list. Otherwise… Every snowboarder from New York/New Jersey who ever got denied by UVM?

Extra Credit: Although no longer considered a “party school”, UNH somehow took second in the entire nation for “most beer consumed”. The seacoast region of New Hampshire also holds significance as one of the few places in the United States where you actually can skate, surf and snowboard, all in the same day.

Just another typical Johnson afternoon: getting in a few quick laps before class. PHOTO: JSC Snowboard Club

Just another typical Johnson afternoon: getting in a few quick laps before class. PHOTO: JSC Snowboard Club

#4: Johnson State

Johnson, VT
www.jsc.edu

Admittedly, including Johnson State on this short list might come as somewhat of a surprise. Fairly unknown, remote and not marketed to the masses, this voracious troupe of John Dewey worshippers, vegan extremists and incessant hippie mongering doesn’t really get out all that much…

What Johnson does offer is something that very few schools in the country can boast: a full-service, daily-maintained and fun-as-hell snowboard park, right on campus. Started in 1998 by the Johnson State Snowboard Club, the park has turned into something of a pillar for both keeping snowboarding homegrown and as a pursuit best shared with friends. Throughout the winter season, the facility will see numerous hand-cut jumps, jibs, rails and boxes lined up for the students, as well as several open chances for local Vermonters to come and enjoy a few park hikes of their own.

For a school primarily known for it’s Frisbee-Golf course, outdoor education programs and pristine hilltop setting, the surprisingly widespread and passionate snowboard community and scene is a welcome addition to the already free culture at Johnson State. For snowboarders looking for the small-school feel with cities like Burlington and Montréal a short drive away, it’s definitely worth checking out.

Plus, they’ve got Smuggs, Stowe, and Jay Peak all under an hour – tough to beat. Cheers, hippies.

Nearby Resorts: Smugglers’ Notch (20 mins), Stowe (30 mins fall/spring, 50+ mins winter), Jay Peak (40 mins), Bolton Valley (1 hour), Sugarbush (1+ hours)

Snowboard Club / Team: The JSC Snowboard Club

Shred Alums: Aging hippies, the dudes that chant “earn your turns!” 25 times a day, bearded outdoorsmen who cut their own split-boards, and chicks who probably shred the woods harder than you do.

Extra Credit: Those interested in more options for fire-building and granola-chomping should hula-hoop over to Lyndon State. For full-on snowboard industry major programs, check out Castleston. Finally, if you’re really just looking to smoke away 60 thousand of your parents’ dollars while majoring in “Explorative Human Moral Movement Studies”, park your bio-diesel shit-wagon at Green Mountain College and enjoy your drum circles, dirtbag.

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#5: McGill University

Montréal, QC, Canada
www.mcgill.ca

More a destination for the overachieving academic than the slacking snowbum, the “Canadian Harvard” also pretty much runs it for the Mapleleaf region. An epic city location, reliable annual snowfall and ridiculously loose partying laws await the school-dedicated shreds of McGill, with a surprisingly robust snowboard scene for that caliber of a university. Playboy Magazine’s #1 Party School in Canada lies surrounded by places to ride, with Jay Peak and Stowe just across the border, perennial heavy Mont Tremblant a short drive off and Saint-Sauveur (home of the Ride Shakedown) under 45 minutes away, to name a few. You might have to grow a dirt mustache, learn to hack in French and bust your ass in the classroom to make it happen here, but McGill is by far the ideal choice for Eastern Canada.

…And you can drink at 18.

Nearby Resorts: Mont Saint-Sauveur (45 mins), Ski Bromont (1 hour), Mont Sutton (1.5 hours), Mont Tremblant (1.5 hours), Whiteface (2 hours), Jay Peak (2 hours), Stowe (2.5 hours), Bolton Valley (2.5 hours), Le Relais (3 hours)

Snowboard Club / Team: The McGill Snowboard Club

Shred Alums: True story: Star Trek god (and Priceline stooge), William Shatner.

Extra Credit: Quebec holds the most active urban scene on the east – maybe all of North America – and Montréal just plain kills. Concordia, The University of Quebec and University of Montréal are a few other, possibly more attainable (read: your ass can actually get into) choices to experience this prime shred location.

For those who know how freakin' cold it gets in the Northeast during the winter, nothing says "commitment" like waiting outside for the shred bus. PHOTO: McGill Snowboard Club

For those who know how freakin' cold it gets in the Northeast during the winter, nothing says "commitment" like waiting outside for the shred bus. PHOTO: McGill Snowboard Club

Alex Rodway, riding the short bus at Keene's Granite Gorge. PHOTO: Chris Wellhausen

Alex Rodway, riding the short bus at Keene's Granite Gorge. PHOTO: Chris Wellhausen

Honorable Mention: Keene State

Keene, NH
www.keene.edu

Growing steadily in both scene and popularity over the last few years, Keene State College might be the most underrated snowboard school in all of New England. KSC boasts 6+ fairly stout park mountains within an hour’s drive, with local hill Granite Gorge just a few miles down the road. The heaviest of East Coast riding is just over 2 hours north, with both Boston (2 hours) and NYC (4 hours) a day-trip away. Add in a thriving urban/film scene within the city of Keene, several downtown rail jams throughout the winter and the ability to shred until 3 am at Crotched during peak-season, and Keene State is more than worthy of a second look.

Nearby Resorts: Granite Gorge (5 mins), Crotched Mountain (40 mins), Pats Peak (40 mins), Mount Snow (1 hour), Mount Sunapee (1 hour), Okemo (1 hour), Stratton (1.5 hours), Killington (1.5 hours)

Snowboard Club / Team: Keene State Ski and Snowboard Club

Shred Alums: The Buck 90 kids, Crispy Whips crew, and a certain “Red Bull Announcer, Snowboard Expert” and famed NH Buzzard…

Extra Credit: In addition to the massive annual Pumpkin Fest, Keene State gained international attention over the past two years for their fervent, widespread marijuana decriminalization protests. For those snowboarders more interested in preserving laws than breaking them, also check out Franklin Pierce University – quite possibly the only Law School in the country with a snowboard community.

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