TRUCKEE, Calif. (Dec. 2, 2021)  —  These aren’t your parents’ ski bums. A new short film series from Backcountry Magazine is highlighting a new trend in ski towns: professional ski bums. It’s called The New Class: Ski Bums in the Modern Era, and it features a local teacher.

Carolyn Highland

“The series is about folks who are living in ski towns and have skiing as a main focus of their lifestyle and free time, but also have full-time careers,” says Carolyn Highland, teacher at Tahoe Expedition Academy (TEA) and writer for Backcountry Magazine. “So not like your ‘liftie’ ski bum or whatever, but somebody who has a job that’s meaningful to them and not just whatever job they need to ski all the time.”

Highland actually has two jobs that are meaningful to her. First, she works as an educator at TEA, where she tries to incorporate lessons she’s learned in the wild into the classroom. It’s a perfect fit since students at TEA often learn just as much outside of the classroom as they do inside. 

“I was looking for more creativity in terms of curriculum as well as the ability to take kids into the field and so TEA is a perfect place to be able to do that,” says Highland. “I have so much creative freedom with what I’m teaching and planning, and then getting to know my kids in a backcountry setting throughout the year. It really strengthens those relationships and augments what you’re able to do in the classroom.”

Carolyn Highland

Highland also works as a writer for Backcountry Magazine, where she writes essays about her experiences in the great outdoors and how they apply to everyday life. She even published a book of her essays last year, called “Out Here: Wisdom from the Wilderness.” It’s a mantra she uses inside her class every day and something that was particularly poignant during the pandemic. 

“For example, when you’re backpacking you’re stuck in a tent with the same people and you have to entertain yourself and you have to deal with bad weather and things that you wish were over that aren’t,” says Highland. “So all of those skills that the kids have learned through doing fieldwork, then they’re able to use and apply in this other situation that feels obviously very different from being out in the elements… but I think my brain just kind of sees the world that way.”

About Tahoe Expedition Academy (TEA) 

Tahoe Expedition Academy (TEA) is a fully accredited, independent school serving grades Pre-K to 12 in Lake Tahoe, California, designed to give students the tools they need to flourish in college and beyond. The school’s vision is to reimagine education, to rethink what a school looks and feels like and to disrupt the educational status quo. In the process, TEA has redefined how students and teachers realize their full potential and impact the world around them. TEA uses the best research-supported methods and technologies to move students beyond traditional classroom and “book” learning with a more personalized, hands-on, project-based approach. Through fieldwork and adventure TEA students build character and interpersonal skills that are essential to everyday life, both inside and outside of any classroom or workplace. For more information, visit