The Middle School ventured off campus last Tuesday to prepare for their longer Winter Skills trip in February. Accompanied by faculty and guest instructor Johnny Spillane (as always, it’s a good idea to receive instruction from an Olympic medalist, if given the chance), students began the day at the Steamboat Ski Touring Center honing their skate skiing mechanics. Between pointers regarding their technique, much of what the students refined were the timeless and transferrable skills of falling down, getting back up, working hard, shedding layers, having fun, supporting other members of the group, and enjoying the outdoor world. The qualities of such skills were so readily apparent that the faculty wondered if perhaps we should begin every school day with a couple of hours of skate skiing, especially since we heard later that several students hit the sack around 5:00 p.m. that night. After lunch, students and faculty walked to Snake Island on the Yampa to build and sustain emergency fires, a critical skill for winter survival in the backcountry and one the students will use next month at Pearl Lake and Cameron Pass. Using shovels, saws, and a few matches, they inspected and gathered fuel, built sites, and collaborated with group members to stay safe, warm, and confident. Each student built a single fire and helped to sustain the fires of their group members. The entire day therefore involved the types of communal skills — especially perspective and communication — that the students implement on a daily basis in class and around the larger community.