of: NOLS Spring Semester in the Rockies, 1981
Courses taught: Skiing, Rock Climbing, Mountaineering
When instructor Sue Miller first arrived at Colby College, she saw a group of people busy with axes and chainsaws chopping, carving, even throwing logs and stumps. She was intrigued. The group turned out to be the college woodsman team, which Sue promptly joined. Her specialties became the pulp toss--where you throw a four-foot section of lumber as far as you can--and axe chopping--where you stand on a log and try to cut it in two as quickly as possible. Sue was good and usually won the women's division of the pulp toss. She's still pretty handy with a chainsaw and every fall she cuts the wood she needs to heat her home in Lander, Wyo.
Sue's list of accomplishments is impressive, but you have to dig to get it out of her. Not one to tout her skills, she prefers to go about her business without fanfare. Her resume mixes classic outdoor skills such as skiing and climbing, with more eclectic talents like playing the piano, knitting, sewing, birdwatching, and horseback riding. She volunteers for environmental groups, is a talented naturalist, and has mountaineered in Nepal, Pakistan and Alaska, but her favorite ranges are closer to home-the Tetons and the Wind Rivers of Wyoming.
Sue came to NOLS on a spring semester in the Rockies in 1981. Like so many others, the course set the direction of Sue's life. Nearly 20 years later, she still works four or five courses a year for NOLS and guides for Jackson Hole Mountain Guides during the summer.
"I took my semester and decided that I wanted to work in the outdoors," Sue said. "I was intrigued by the combination of being outside and doing things that were exciting and fun, and by the fact that the instructors were so inspirational. They still are. That is one of the things that keeps me here.
"The rewards have changed for me over the years," she adds. "When I was younger, the excitement of new people and new places were what motivated me. Now I have more of an educator perspective. The reward for me now is watching people accomplish things they did not think they could accomplish."
Sue primarily works winter and climbing courses. Her favorite course is winter skiing.
"I like winter because it is a huge challenge both mentally and physically," she says. "When you meet that challenge and have fun, you and your students feel like you have achieved something amazing. I like to help people overcome their fear of winter. To do that, I get everyone to ski a lot, laugh a lot, have evening social hours, or Better Homes and Gardens competitions for the most elaborate snow shelters. Things like that help people have fun living in the snow."