May 12, 2023 | SPORTS | By Pierce Sullivan, Sports editor

Growing up watching ski movies and pouring over the latest edition of Ski Magazine, it was always something of a dream of mine to, one day, delve into the world of ski mountaineering.

Unfortunately for me, the mountains in my hometown didn’t exactly lend themselves to that sect of adventure.

Even at Colorado College, where it often feels like everyone is a world-class mountaineer, the world of ski mountaineering initially felt impossible to break into.


Skiing itself already has such a high barrier to entry in terms of cost and culture, but ski mountaineering adds even another element to the sheer amount of knowledge needed to partake in it safely.

Which brings me to my last Block Break, when I went on a trip that made 12-year-old-me’s dreams come true: going on a five-day ski mountaineering traverse through the southern Gore Range of Colorado.

This was not the kind of trip that I could just go out on without any preparation. Over the past year, I have taken a multitude of classes and courses to learn the necessary skills for a trip like this, all of which have been paid for through CC.

Established in 1993, the Ritt Kellogg Memorial Fund was founded with the following mission: “To inspire and empower Colorado College students to imagine, explore, challenge and grow in their own responsible and conscientious pursuit of outdoor adventure and education. The mission is perpetuated through Expedition grants, Education grants, Growth grants, environmental service, and books donated to the Tutt Library.”

Named in honor of Peter Rittenhouse “Ritt” Kellog ’90, an accomplished mountaineer, guide and CC alum, who died in an avalanche on Mount Foraker, Alaska, in 1993, the RKMF has since been providing CC students ever-expanding access to safer ways to travel in the mountains.

I first learned of the RKMF when I started looking into a Level 1 Avalanche Safety Course, offered through the American Institute for Avalanche Research and Education, in the fall of 2021.

The fund provides access to four kinds of grants for CC students: Expedition, Pathways, Education and Growth Grants.

Intimidated by the AIARE course’s price tag, which sat at just under $600, I stumbled across the RKMF Education grants, which will cover up to $600 for a wide swath of different outdoor safety courses.

These education grants are what have made my foray into the world of ski mountaineering possible. Following the AIARE 1, I, along with three other CC students, Anna-Grace Keller ’25 and Jordan McMurtry ’25, took a three-day ski mountaineering course through Pikes Peak Alpine School, of which the $550 course fee, along with gas used for the course, was covered.

This past year, the group that I had attended these prior courses with sought to start putting our training to some real use in a trip over Block Break 7. We tailored this trip to fit the mold of the RKMF Pathways Grant, designed “for CC students to plan, propose, and execute six-day or longer trips to practice and develop their outdoor skills, build their confidence in an expeditionary setting, while preparing them to plan and propose future extended outdoor experiences like a Ritt Kellogg Memorial Fund Expedition.”

Prior to the trip, we pursued yet another Education Grant, this time containing a twist. Instead of a previously established course, we worked with Pete Lardy of Pikes Peak Alpine School to tailor a two-day course, which would focus on specific skills needed for overnight ski tours.

The flexibility offered to CC students to hone skills at very little cost for themselves is unmatched. Education Grants have a straightforward, concise application process and pledge to cover 75-100% of the course fees.

The Pathways Grants offer a slightly more intensive experience, both in terms of the trips proposed and the application process. A full-fledged trip proposal must be submitted, with an emphasis on risk mitigation. Applicants must also show that they are adequately qualified for the trip they are proposing.

The culminations of the Education and Pathways Grants are the Expedition Grants. As for the original flagship grant, the proposed trips must be wilderness-based and feature at least 12 unsupported days in the backcountry. These grants can be up to $1500 per person.

There is a fourth grant offered through the RKMF, the Growth Grant, which serves another integral role in the path laid out to gain experience in the backcountry. According to the Fund, “Growth Grants are focused on providing financial support for communities which deserve more access within the outdoors including gender minorities, LGBTQ+ individuals, Black, Indigenous, Latinx, and other racial identities, and students from low-income families.”

The structure of the RKMF has clearly been fine-tuned to provide students a highly accessible way to gain access to the outdoors and activities which are hard to break into. The Fund is managed by an Advisory Committee made up of “a collection of experienced mountaineers, boaters, outdoorspeople, academics, outdoor educators and accomplished managers from the private and non-profit sectors.”

The RKMF provides CC students with an entirely unique opportunity to access the outdoors in unparalleled ways and does a fantastic job of limiting barriers of all shapes and sizes to make trips possible that your middle-school self could only dream of.

1 Comment

  1. Hi Pierce! Nice write-up and pictures! So glad you’ve had the chance to utilize these resources, and especially enjoy a successful and challenging trip. Hope to see you in the mountains some day.

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