Ben Richey, a 2012 Great Valley High School graduate and freshman at Bates College in Maine, recently completed a 14-day skiing expedition in Wyoming’s Grand Teton National Park.
The backcountry journey was sponsored by the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS). Richey’s mother was a former instructor on a similar NOLS expedition in the 1980s, while his sister was a past participant. When examining his options, the Teton adventure stood out to Richey.
“I really love skiing, and when I looked at a catalog of courses you can do, this one really jumped out at me, and I took advantage of it,” said Richey, 18.
The trip was a new experience for Richey, who has been on skis about as long as he can remember.
“When I was 3, I guess my parents were holding me between their legs going down the hill,” Richey said. “I’ve been doing it on my own since I was 4 or 5.”
Upon arrival in Wyoming, the first two days were spent packing necessities for the expedition, including rations.
“It’s mostly cheeses, breads, pastas and snacks like granola,” Richey said. “You’re out there by yourself with what you bring.”
The next couple days were spent training at the Grand Targhee Ski Resort, as the 12 participants were schooled on the possible dangers they could encounter.
“It was great, because I had done a lot of skiing, but being on the East Coast, I never had to worry about avalanches or stuff like that,” Richey said. “I was an Eagle Scout, so I knew a lot about hypothermia and health-related things, but they taught me a lot I didn’t know.”
Once the journey into the wilderness began, the first two days were spent getting to the campsite. During the expedition, around 80 inches of snow fell, as the participants skied by day and hunkered down in their snow shelters by night.
“It was an awesome experience,” Richey said. “There were no other tracks around, and it was fresh powder every day. It was some of the best skiing you can probably ever do. I’ll probably never have another experience like it.”
Richey wasn’t the only local skier there, as 2012 Westtown School grad Phillip Marshall was also with the group.
“We’d never met before, and it was pretty amazing to have two kids from Malvern signed up for the same trip out there,” Richey said. “It was pretty cool, and we’ve kept in contact since.”
The journey inspired Richey, who will likely take part in a future NOLS program.
“I’d definitely love to do another trip like it, and I’d be interested in leading a trip like it in the future,” Richey said.
For the time being, the economics major will have to settle for the opportunities Bates has to offer.
“It’s a great school and I love it a lot,” Richey said. “There’s a big outdoorsy community and atmosphere there, and it’s really a perfect fit for me.”