Outside University: The Top 40


Sep 1, 2003
Outside Magazine

Taking the high road in the Adirondacks outside of Ithaca

Burlington, Vermont
LOCAL COLOR Location, location, location: Sandwiched between the Green Mountains, to the east, and Lake Champlain and the High Peaks of the Adirondacks, to the west, it doesn't get much better than Burlington, a trendy city of 39,000 in northern Vermont. Down on Church Street, tattooed bikers mingle with preppy college kids from Connecticut, fifth-generation dairy farmers, and product techies from one of several local ski manufacturers. Outside of town, the scene is just as varied: multipitch climbs at Chapel Pond in the 'Dacks, ungroomed chutes at Mad River Glen, and stiff sailing winds at Sand Bar State Park.
WORD ON THE QUAD On the hilltop campus overlooking downtown and the lake, students take the well-worn college motto—"Work hard, play hard"—to extremes. UVM's environmental studies program has more than 90 programs, with courses in sustainable agriculture, environmental law and policy, environmental education, and restoration ecology. The enormously popular Outing Club runs local climbing, telemarking, and backpacking trips, as well as summer expeditions to South America and Alaska.
EXTRA CREDIT UVM's renegade traditions include springtime couch burning and "420," the annual April 20 protest at which students toke up to rally against marijuana laws.
VITAL STATS CONTACT: 802-656-3131, www.uvm.edu; STUDENT BODY: 7,500 undergraduates, 1,500 graduates; TUITION: residents, $8,696; nonresidents, $21,748; room and board, $6,680
Arcata, California
LOCAL COLOR Known both affectionately and derisively as "Sixties by the Sea," Arcata (pop. 16,500) sits on the edge of Northern California's Humboldt Bay, the state's second-largest natural harbor. The 575-acre Arcata Community Forest and Redwood Park has ten miles of hiking and biking trails, but all the unprotected areas in the mountains east of town mean that the lumber industry remains a vital, if controversial, part of the local economy.
WORD ON THE QUAD Humboldt State continues to be the largest employer in this town of 17,000, and Stephen Hillenburg, the creator of Nickelodeon's SpongeBob SquarePants, is—for the next 15 minutes—the school's most famous graduate. Its programs in environmental engineering and alternative technologies have drawn national attention for their fuel-cell research, and so has the school's proximity to great Pacific-swell surfing and hiking on the Lost Coast Trail.
EXTRA CREDIT Downtown's grassy, flowery central plaza is a virtual theme park of impromptu performance art and music, with lots of community events, like the annual Kinetic Sculpture Race of people-powered vehicles and the crowded weekly farmers market.
VITAL STATS CONTACT: 707-826-3011, www.humboldt.edu; STUDENT BODY: 6,600 undergraduates, 1,000 graduates; TUITION: residents, $2,464; nonresidents, $10,924; room and board, $6,500

Colorado Springs, Colorado
LOCAL COLOR At 14,110 feet, Pikes Peak dominates the Springs' western skyline. Home to the Olympic Training Center, the U.S. Air Force Academy, and countless family-values organizations, this city of 380,000 emanates a certain overachieving vibe. Combine that with 300 days of sunshine per year and you've got jockaholics everywhere, climbing at Garden of the Gods, topping out on a Front Range fourteener, and playboating on the South Platte River.
WORD ON THE QUAD Just eight blocks from downtown, alongside Monument Creek in a historic late-1800s neighborhood, 90-acre Colorado College is an alternative enclave. With its innovative Block Plan, in which students take one three- to four-week class at a time (average class size: 14), the workload is intense, but the schedule leaves ample daylight for playing. Some professors hold their classes at Baca, the school's extension campus, 3.5 hours away, next to Great Sand Dunes National Monument. After class, students hang out in front of the dining hall and practice slacklining—balancing on a loose piece of webbing tied between two trees.
EXTRA CREDIT Several Olympians, including world champion mountain biker Alison Dunlap, are CC graduates.
VITAL STATS CONTACT: 719-389-6000, www.coloradocollege.edu; STUDENT BODY: 1,900 undergraduates, 28 graduates; TUITION: $27,270; room and board, $6,800

Ithaca, New York
LOCAL COLOR This progressive town of 29,000 at the southern tip of Lake Cayuga, in New York's Finger Lakes region, does its boasting on the most popular bumper sticker in town: ithaca is gorges. Fall Creek and Cascadilla Creek carve out plunging waterfalls and swimming holes right in town; Little Falls, in nearby Utica, sports a dozen or so gneiss 5.3 to 5.12 routes; Cayuga waters are ideal for sailing and paddling; and cyclists rave about the 100-mile round-the-lake loop.
WORD ON THE QUAD Cornell's 745-acre hilltop campus is a mix of stately Grecian facades and Gothic towers, bordered by 3,500 acres of woods and botanical gardens that give the grounds a farmy feel. In addition to Ivy League arts and sciences, Cornell has strong programs in ecology, evolutionary biology, plant sciences, and landscape architecture. Students can sign on for wilderness-medicine workshops with Cornell Outdoor Education, as well as weekend kayaking, skiing, and caving trips.
EXTRA CREDIT On Collegetown's grubby, happening Stewart Ave., seniors and graduate students hold forth at the venerable Chapter House, where 50 kinds of beer are always on tap.
VITAL STATS CONTACT: 607-255-2000, www.cornell.edu; STUDENT BODY: 14,000 undergraduates, 5,900 graduates; TUITION: residents enrolled in Cornell's three state-supported colleges, $14,634; nonresidents, $25,924; $28,754 per year for the five private colleges; room and board, $9,580

Missoula, Montana
LOCAL SCENE John Updike once called Missoula the Paris of the nineties, because of the city's legendary population of writers, but Paris lacks three world-renowned trout rivers and proximity to Glacier and Yellowstone national parks. The abundance of water around 57,000-person Missoula is a boon to kayakers and rafters—whitewater boaters have 20 miles of Class I-IV water on the Clark Fork's Alberton Gorge alone. Then there's mountain biking in Pattee Canyon, shredding at Snowbowl Ski Resort, and backpacking in the Mission Mountains.
WORD ON THE QUAD Founded in 1893, the University of Montana lies along the Clark Fork River, at the base of 5,158-foot Mount Sentinel. The 157-acre campus is a mix of late-19th-century Romanesque architecture, mature shade trees, and vast lawns. UM's environmental studies program scores heavy hitters like Peter Matthiessen and Rick Bass as visiting instructors, and the M.F.A. program in creative writing was the second of its kind in the U.S. The Campus Recreation Outdoor Program offers skills clinics in whitewater kayaking, bike maintenance, and rock climbing.
EXTRA CREDIT Last May, undergrad Jess Roskelley, 20, became the youngest American to summit Mount Everest.
VITAL STATS CONTACT: 800-462-8636, www.umt.edu; STUDENT BODY: 10,800 undergraduates, 2,300 graduates; TUITION: residents, $4,104; nonresidents, $11,474; room and board, $4,900