We recently caught up with student athlete, Matt Gault, to talk about his GAP semester experience at RIDGE. Matt had just finished a mountain bike ride with RIDGE coach, Tom Danley, and he was getting ready to prep dinner for the RIDGE crew.
Matt is from Maryland, and came to RIDGE with a desire to improve his snowboarding and to broaden his confidence in other mountain sports. The RIDGE crew will miss Matt's infectious positive attitude, and his uncanny ability to crack jokes while on the sharp end of a rope, or on the summit of a peak.
Matt has decided to remain in Montana next fall. He's enrolling at the University of Montana, in Missoula. We're excited that he'll be in the region!
What is your most memorable experience during your gap semester at RIDGE?
My most memorable moment at RIDGE was embarking on a week-long backcountry ski trip in British Columbia, Canada. I love being outdoors and pushing my limits, and this trip encouraged me to do so. While in Canada with RIDGE, I was able to use all of the skills I acquired throughout the semester, and we skied in some beautiful terrain.
What did you learn about yourself at RIDGE?
I learned what is required of me to be in the best shape of my entire life. My peers and I learned to eat more responsibly, like athletes do. I also learned how to conduct myself and live in a small community. My social skills have soared since I arrived at RIDGE. I'm grateful that I can say that all the staff and my fellow student athletes are my friends.
Would you encourage other students to take part in a gap year?
RIDGE Ed included classes like: Wilderness First Aid, Avalanche Level 1 certification, and Photo/Video Blogging. What part of Ridge Ed was most valuable to you?
The Photo/Video Blogging program helped me improve my photo game a lot. It's something that I'll take with me going forward in my education and life. Thinking like a photographer has changed how I see the world.
In what ways have you changed over the past semester?
I've changed in many ways. I have changed my eating habits by avoiding most unhealthy foods and focusing my diet on whole foods. I noticed that I'm more talkative and outgoing as well. I have stepped up my overall fitness level since I joined RIDGE. Spending a semester in Whitefish helped me realize that I'm really passionate about the mountain sports lifestyle. I've decided to stay in Montana for college next semester, which wasn't on my radar before coming to RIDGE.
What skills specific to mountain sports did you learn at RIDGE?
I increased my snowboarding skills by working with the RIDGE coaches. With them I rode steeper terrain and toured in the backcountry, something I had never done before. I learned about the mountains in the Mountain Studies course, for which I earned college credit. I trained for emergencies, like avalanches and first aid situations. Because of this I'll feel safer when I'm skiing, mountain biking or climbing with my friends. I also learned much about the uphill skiing culture and how to "EARN MY TURNS." Not only that, learning how to use a heart rate monitor for training was really interesting, too.
How will your experience at RIDGE prepare you for college and the future?
Having the semester to focus on my personal goals and to dedicate my time to training was really beneficial for me. It's easy to get distrated or lose steam with goals, but the structure at RIDGE helped me remain committed to my training as a mountain athlete. Practicing focus and organization, and experiencing how it feels to push my limits...These are things I'll take with me in the future. My internship at a local snowboarding shop will also set me up for more opportunities in the future.
What advice would you give to incoming student athletes?
Students entering RIDGE should come in with an open mind and realize that they're about to change their entire lifestyle. They're about to dedicate a semester to training like a mountain athlete. They're going to push themselves. They'll have to adjust to the food they'll eat, as RIDGE has very clean eating. As for the fitness training and mountain sports training...It's going to completely change what type of an athlete they are. Get pumped and make the most of it!
This article was also published at: http://guides.teenlife.com/student-blog/gap/matt-gault