Luke Graham: Skiing makes you smart |

Luke Graham: Skiing makes you smart

Luke Graham

Luke Graham

— Mid-day Friday, sitting down with Emily Hannah and Mary O'Connell, I felt like I should have brought my résumé.

They eventually could be my boss. It's not as far-fetched as people might think.

The two cross-country skiers are about as articulate of high school seniors you'll find. They're also two of the most talented cross-country skiers the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club has ever seen.

The two aren't delaying college to pursue U.S. Ski Team glory, however. Hannah will study physical and chemical biology at Harvard.

(As a side, my application to Harvard didn't even require them to send anything back.) O'Connell will study biomedical engineering at Dartmouth.

Each admitted to some struggles with the decision, but they ultimately found that the ability to ski collegiately and study at a top notch school was more worth it than taking a post-grad year and ski with the U.S. Ski Team.

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Then it hit me.

Skiing, and especially cross-country skiers, are smart. Really smart.

It's not hard to figure out which was the smartest team this year. And not just in Steamboat, but maybe the state. Just look at the Winter Sports Club's cross-country team.

Hannah to Harvard, O'Connell to Dartmouth, Haley Piske to Dartmouth, Charlie Von Thaden to University of Colorado, Martha Anderson to Cornell and Mallory Richey to France as an exchange student.

That's a pretty darn good list.

But it's not just this year that we see cross-country skiers attend top-level schools. It seems year-in and year-out the cross-country program sends multiple skiers to Ivy League schools or top liberal arts colleges.

So there has to be a connection.

"I honestly think there is," Hannah said. "We have friends from Alaska and back east, and the classes they are taking are advanced courses across the board. And they all have great SAT scores."

So what is the correlation?

Success on snow seems to translate to the classroom. When O'Connell and Hannah talked, they were very detail-oriented, smart and witty.

The two also spent more than 500 hours the past year training for skiing. I guess the best thing I can surmise is that skiing and school are similar in that they are involve accumulation.

"I don't think it's a coincidence that the top ski schools are also top academic schools," O'Connell said.

The body doesn't just go out and win races, and the mind doesn't just go out and score a 2200 on the SAT.

It's endurance. The body and mind get accustomed through training.

Or as Hannah puts it: "It's both about putting in time. It's being committed, determined and working hard. It's important in school and skiing. Talent only goes so far."

Yes it does. And when it comes to smarts and skill, it's hard to not recognize the path skiing helps create.

To reach Luke Graham, call 970-871-4229 or email

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