Students ski Sugar Mountain

David Wheeler, Chase King, Michael Alexander, Nathan Martinelli, and Kaylin Lauscher comprised the ski trip group. Photo courtesy of Kaylin Lauscher.

KNOXVILLE – While winter is in full force, some students are embracing the opportunity to join David Wheeler on day-long trips to North Carolina to ski down Sugar Mountain.

One such trip occurred on Jan. 25, and another is to follow on Feb. 1.

“When I came to Johnson in 1997, I was a hybrid: half professor and half campus minister. One of my responsibilities as campus minister was to plan ‘fellowship activities’ to help students connect with each other,” Wheeler said.

Wheeler planned all kinds of activities such as hikes, bike rides, picnics, movie nights, and more.

“Since I love to snow ski, I starting planning some ski trips. I’m no longer the campus minister, but Cathy and I still love doing some of these activities with students just for the fun of it,” he said.

This year marks the eighteenth year of student skiing trips. Throughout this time, many first-time skiers have developed a love for the sport.

One such first-timer was sophomore Kaylin Lauscher, who was used to the sunny life of Florida.

Lauscher said, “There are two major problems [in Florida]: that we have no mountains and no snow. Because of this, I’ve always wanted to try skiing. It sounded like a ton of fun, so I’ve been looking for opportunities to do so.”

Once she saw the opportunity posted on a flyer, she couldn’t sign up fast enough.

“I had less than a week to prepare, but it was more than enough time to get everything together. I don’t think I would’ve been able to make it even a whole additional week because my excitement was hardly containable!” Lauscher said.

Martinelli pauses for a fun selfie featuring Wheeler and Alexander before heading down the slope. Photo courtesy of Nathan Martinelli.


Freshman Chase King is not new to skiing, however, and was ready to get back on the slopes.

“I used to ski two or three times a year, which was good enough, but after being off for two years it felt really nice to get back into it,” King said.

A group of four students joined Wheeler to leave at 5 a.m. for their trip to North Carolina’s Sugar Mountain, and returned around 8 p.m.

“I thought it was really fun and a great experience, as well as good bonding time for some unfamiliar faces. Also, I thought it was really nice to get to know a teacher outside of school, and he (Wheeler) was really good at skiing,” King said.

“With their help and encouragement, I ended up skiing every slope except the diamonds at least twice!” Lauscher said. “Professor Wheeler and the other students had fun on all the slopes including the black diamonds. By the end of the day, I felt so accomplished and encouraged and awfully sore!”

Each trip costs only $50 (which covers lift ticket and ski rental), in addition to meals on the road.

“Why do I recommend it?  Because it’s a blast, and I look so good in ski gear!” Wheeler enthused.

Another trip is planned for Feb. 1. Up to six students can sign up for the outing on the sheet posted to the bulletin board by Jon Weatherly’s office on the second floor of the PW building.

Lauscher said, “All I want to do is get back on the slopes of Sugar Mountain, North Carolina!”

Photo courtesy of Kaylin Lauscher.


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