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Tom Mitchiner ’15 has discovered that Vermont Law School can also help give meaning to a passion for outdoor sports that might appear self-indulgent. Mitchiner grew up in New Mexico, skiing with his parents before he was two. He attended the Vail Valley Academy, a ski school whose alumni include Olympic gold medalist Lindsey Vonn, and went to college at the University of Utah—or, as Mitchiner calls it, referring to the nearby mecca for powder skiers, the “University of Alta.” then he embraced the life of a ski bum. He moved to Jackson Hole, Wyoming, working as a car salesman and skiing as much as possible, earning enough money to fund a half-year ski vacation that took him to South America.
He loved skiing, and yet, there was something missing. “I was still dissatisfied, and I think a lot of it was that lifestyle can be selfish. I felt like there should be more to life,” he says. So, following the lead of a fellow Jackson Hole skier, he headed to Vermont Law School. A place where he could study the law and still blast down ski slopes.
What he didn’t expect is that law school would help give him the language to think about the value of skiing—an activity where people can experience risk and uncertainty in a world increasingly stripped of such opportunities. He plans to write a book about how legal reforms could help encourage the sense of freedom and risk that he values in the sport. After nearly three years of law school, he’s come to see that his interest in the law and love of great powder days can co-exist, and be meaningful. He aspires to be a “ski bum lawyer,” mixing a legal practice with lots of hours on his skis. “It’s a legitimate position to have. It’s not just a flippant way of life.”