Athletics & Recreation / Spring 2019

Alpine Club’s era of exploration

Members of the Alpine Club get their ski legs at Loveland Ski Area in January. Each year, the club hosts the Ellington Beginner Ski Trip, offering transportation, beginner lessons, a lift ticket and gear rentals for steeply discounted rates. Photo: Wayne Armstrong

 

The little cabin no longer stands near Loveland Pass, but Robert Margolis’ college memories still live there. They are the nights when Margolis (BSBA ’84) and his buddies from the Alpine Club would unstack a pile of mattresses and flop across the floor, relaxing in a high-elevation oasis after a perfect day of skiing, hiking or rafting.

Brea Galvin (BS ’04) wasn’t there — she wasn’t even born — but she knows the stories. Michelle Connacher (BA ’18) has heard them too. Three students from three different decades, who, when asked about their time in the Alpine Club, provide strikingly similar answers.

The camaraderie, the adventure, the friendships. A highlight of their tenures at DU.

“It’s just so valuable to so many kids,” says Connacher, a former club president. “Even after 90 years, it’s [still] rooted deeply in the undergrad. It’s pretty rad.”

“Rad” is probably not the word students would have used in 1928, when they created what was then called the Pioneer Ski Club. The sentiment, however, was undoubtedly the same. For the past 90 years, the great outdoors has called to DU students, and year after year they have answered.

The oldest student organization on campus, the Alpine Club is also DU’s largest. Each year about 200–400 members feed their need for adventure, whether it’s on the ski slopes, hiking, biking, climbing, rafting, camping, snowmobiling or even dogsledding.

Up to eight times a quarter, the club traverses the state and the Rocky Mountain region on trips that cater to all ability levels — usually at an uncommonly affordable price.

“And you’ll be able to do them with a group of people you might not meet in any other place,” says Johnny Youngs, a senior accounting major and current president of the Alpine Club. “I think it’s so popular because it really is all about the people.”

The people Galvin met in the Alpine Club still play leading roles in her life. One is a godmother to her young son, who has playdates with another former officer’s children when they rendezvous in Wyoming.

At the same time, Galvin says, there is a strong connection to the nature lovers she has never met: those who were in the club before her, and those who have come since.

“It makes me proud to know that it’s still going,” she says. “The history of the club provides you with a feeling that people were doing this much earlier than we were and had to do things in much different ways.”

Thanks to the club’s detailed records and archives, it’s easy to chart the changes over the years. No longer, for example, does the club run highline ropes between the two jutting towers of Sturm Hall. Equipment has evolved with the outdoor industry.

But though the times have changed, the club’s mission has remained the same, as has its impact on those who join.

“It helped me grow as an individual and as a person,” Galvin says.

Adds Connacher, a recent grad who is pursuing a career in the outdoor industry: “It gave me a full new sense of purpose. It was probably the most valuable experience I came out of DU with.”

For the club’s current president, maintaining that excitement is the most important part.

“We’re trying to keep the [flame] alive,” Youngs says. “In an age of technology, in an age of changing preferences, the principle of going out into nature, preserving it, being an advocate for it and also trying to enjoy it during our time in school has most definitely been upheld.”

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