As you are all aware, it has been 34 days since the light in UVM life went away: Annie Stevens’s the former Vice Provost of Student Affairs, retired after twenty-three years at this institution. The day after she left, the birds stopped singing; the trees began to drop branches, as it was winter and there were no leaves (they improvised); The Grundle started serving corn dogs to the students. The general joys of life began to wane as Annie was no longer the source of light we needed. Annie is gone, and we must forever deal with that fact. Although, that does not mean we cannot keep up with her goings-on. In her goodbye email, she proclaims, “I will begin a new chapter in my life—learning new skills and creating new adventures.” This statement left me personally with a sense of curiosity. What do these “new skills” and “new adventures “ be? What is Annie up to? After some deep digging, I have figured out one of the many things she has been doing with her time.
Beginning the weekend of her retirement, an event took place that would forever change her path for retirement. The Winter X Games in Aspen, Colorado. She was enthralled and stupefied by the extreme displays of athleticism and stupidity. Surprisingly, it was not the snowboarding Quad Cork 1980s that caught her eye; or even the Switch alley-oop double 900s performed by the skiers. It was the snowmobile freestyle competition that really made the impact. Watching those people with big chins, swinging around those, perfectly tuned, 500-pound machines 50 feet in the air made her immediately fall in love. It was the greatest spectacle Annie had ever seen in her whole life.
Following this introduction to the sport, she went to work. She spent the next week researching all the big names in the sport, names like Brandon Cormier, Daniel Bodin, and Willie Elam, all X Game medalists. Learning, memorizing tricks such as the double backflip, superman flips, heart attack, and 9 O’clock. The nomenclature of the sport was now swirling around in Annie’s head, it was now an obsession. She could not go a day without watching at least one trick from her phone, just to get the rush. She was hooked, and finally, the idea came into her head to do it herself.
In the middle of February, she set out to become a professional. She spent $18,000 on the brand new 2021 Yamaha Sidewinder SXR LE, the fast snowmobile ever created. She got it in fire engine red and bought a matching race suit to go with it. She added a single UVM sticker to the back of the sled, symbolizing her promise to never forget her roots. The second she smelled the fumes aerosolizing from her sled, she knew she was home. She wanted to lean into the sport, so she competed in Vermont’s own Maple Rock Racing winning handily. She was a natural, with a seasoned, mustachioed rider saying “that’s the best damn racing I’ve ever seen.” At this event, there was also a big air showcase. Annie, timid at first, and was hesitant to go up, but with a little encouragement, she finally caved. Blowing everyone’s mind with a double backflip on the first hit.
This takes us to today, where she is still trying to compete and prove to the world how good she is. She is far from her goal of getting to the X Games, but she is on her way. She spends as many hours she can on the sled, practicing all the required moves for greatness. She now lodges in the remote woods on Sugarbush, and if you ever hear the revving of an engine while skiing, it most likely is her. She is growing her hair out, and beginning to talk like a 30-year-old man who rides a snowmobile, we all know the type. She has also been sponsored by Monster, adding the green “M” to her race suit. Who knows how long this obsession will last, but, as of now, the end goal for her is to get the illustrious X Games gold medal in Snowmobile Freestyle big air.