Steamboat Springs Annie McLean came for the skiing, but it took more than powder days for her to remain at The Lowell Whiteman School.
"I've kept on it because the teachers are just fantastic," said McLean, the newly elected senior class president who hails from Evergreen.
The 2006-07 academic year is under way at the small, private school tucked away on Routt County Road 36.
Next year, Lowell Whiteman celebrates its 50th anniversary, and the school's 16 seniors already are excited about graduating with a sense of history.
Head of School Walt Daub believes the graduates gain much more.
"They leave with a stronger sense of self," he said.
Lowell Whiteman is a college preparatory school with an enrollment of 108 students this year. That surpasses last year's record enrollment of 105 students.
Many students at Lowell Whiteman, including resident students and those who live with their families in Steamboat, are competitive skiers or snowboarders with the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club.
Those not involved in the competitive winter sports program are required to spend a month traveling abroad.
In 1988, the school's board of trustees formalized a competitive ski program. Snowboarding eventually was added. The commitment to foreign travel has remained strong since the school's inception.
On Wednesday, for about 10 minutes, every student was gathered in an informal assembly in the main building's lobby. Announcements were made, and poetry was read in a foreign language.
It is fairly obvious Lowell Whiteman is different from most other high schools, and that is what students love, said Jacquelyn Kinder.
She and her younger brother Buddy are Lowell Whiteman students. Kinder moved to the private school after attending Moffat County High School for two years. She said the transition was tough.
"My classes were so much harder. I have so much more work, but I get to mountain bike twice a week, ski twice a week and camp twice a week," Kinder said.
But the students don't play without a price.
The academic expectations are strict, school officials said. There are no exceptions, even for the very best skier. Olympians Caroline Lalive, Travis Mayer and Johnny Spillane are among the school's alumni.
"They can reach for the stars but still be prepared for college," Daub said. "They don't have to sacrifice one for the other."
Kelly Northcutt, whose blonde hair hung in a dreaded half ponytail Wednesday, is a recent addition to Lowell Whiteman. The foreign exchange program was a draw for the senior.
"I went to India," Northcutt said. "I think it was the most extremely different culture I could have gone to."
Daub said this year's foreign destinations have not been set, but the rails have been set up, indicating the school's skiers and riders are ready for winter.