Colorado Timberline Academy - Review #4

Read more details about Colorado Timberline Academy on their 2021-22 profile page.
Colorado Timberline Academy

About the Author:

Years Attended Boarding School: 1988-1991
Sports and Activities:Skiing, hiking, camping. Rock climbing. Trips to Mexico with the language program (there is also a France trip), and to Crow Canyon archaeological site, as part of the Southwest Experience trip. The Purgatory Ski Resort is 14-miles north of the school. Durango, an Old West town now filled with hip restaurants, is 15 minutes to the south. The school sits on the Animus River, with vast desert country to its south, and the spectacular San Juan range to its north, east and west.
College Enrolled:Oberlin College (BA); Syracuse University (EMPA, Ph.D.)
Home Town, State: Larchmont, NY

Reflections and Advice:

1.) What do you think makes your school unique relative to other boarding schools?
I fell through the cracks at my excellent, but large and competitive, public school in Westchester. At Colorado Timberline Academy, with its unique block system, tiny classes (3 to 6), and intimate atmosphere (we called our teachers by their first names), no one fell through the cracks. You had to be accountable. You WANTED to be accountable because it was such a beautiful setting and filled with so many interesting and talented faculty and students.
2.) What was the best thing that happened to you in boarding school?
I went from hating school but knowing that I needed an education, to loving school and going on to get my Ph.D.! I owe it all to CTA!
3.) What might you have done differently during your boarding school experience?
Too long ago to remember!
4.) What did you like most about your school?
The people, the place, and the program. Everyone that ends up at CTA is a bit different. They didn't totally fit in at their public schools, or they wouldn't be there. The result is a creative, outdoor-loving, down-to-Earth, student body and faculty. The place is amazing. Just Google Durango or "San Juan mountains" to see what I mean. And the program -- with its small classes, block system, group camping trips, etc. -- worked perfectly for me.
5.) Do you have any final words of wisdom for visiting or incoming students to your school?
Going to boarding school in general, and CTA in particular, was the perfect choice for me. What had been a very strained relationship with my parents and a total dislike for school changed as soon as I arrived there. I was simply so thankful to be going to school in such a beautiful place and with such down-to-Earth people that I couldn't help but lose my attitude and be truly thankful. I met many of my best friends there, and cherish the experience to this day.


1.) Describe the academics at your school - what did you like most about it?
When I attended CTA (and I think it is still similar), it differed from most schools in three ways: The block system, class sizes, and its philosophy, religion, and psychology track.The block system divided the year into seven, four-to-five week "blocks." During those blocks, students took only three classes, but they were intensive. Of course, some classes, like math, ran for multiple blocks. Nonetheless, at the end of each block, you were graded, and you started the next block with a clean slate. The advantages were many, including that, if you had a bad block, it didn't put in you the hole for the rest of the year.Class sizes were tiny -- as few as three, and no more than six, during my time there. There were 11 people in my graduating class, and yet the school maintained a diverse and talented faculty, including an English teacher from England, an MIT grad teaching physics, and a host of creative, interesting and credentialed people. It is a place interesting people want to be, so the faculty are smart, outdoorsy, fun.The philosophy, religion, and psychology classes were among my favorite, and I suspect fairly unique. How do we know what we know? Who are we? What's a good life? How can we achieve it? We were asked as high school students to explore those questions, and it was empowering. And it was done with no religious (or anti-religious) bent or any dogma of any kind. It was really an amazing part of the curriculum, which otherwise is pretty standard, solid, college-prep classes with a nice dose of art thrown in for good measure.


1.) Describe the athletics at your school - what did you like most about it?
Everything you can do in the outdoors we did. Durango and its surroundings is a playground. CTA faculty and students both end up there in part to play in that playground. They help you make your skiing-climbing-camping adventures come true while still making sure you get an education. For team sports, we were too small to play other schools, so had mixed faculty-student teams that played in the very competitive town leagues. It was a blast. We rocked some sports, like soccer, and got creamed in others, like basketball. There is now apparently a disc-golf course on school grounds.

Art, Music, and Theatre:

1.) Describe the arts program at your school - what did you like most about it?
Not really my thing, but the school always has creative faculty and many students engaged in the arts. The programs are built around faculty skills and student interest. When I was there, I remember students engaging in photography, pottery, print making, and much more. Many students and faculty play instruments and jam together.

Extracurricular Opportunities:

1.) Describe the extracurriculars offered at your school - what did you like most about it?
Again, it is all about the outdoors -- skiing, hiking, camping, fishing, climbing. There are also great cultural trips as Durango attracts national touring acts and the school offers trips to Mexico, France and elsewhere.

Dorm Life:

1.) Describe the dorm life in your school - what did you like most about it?
We didn't live in dorms, but in cabins! CTA is built on a former hot springs resort (unfortunately the spring got mixed with a cold water source when the more modern Highway 550 went in, ultimately ruining the resort but making way for CTA to claim the spot as its campus.) There are two people per cabin, which have beds, desks, bathrooms, etc. The school has more recently acquired a few larger structures that provide private singles in a more dorm-like setting, but I believe most students still live in a two-person cabin.


1.) Describe the dining arrangements at your school.
Big dinning room with massive wood beams where everyone eats, faculty included. Food is always hardy, and even back in the late-80s/early-90s when I went there, they provide vegetarian options and the like.

Social and Town Life:

1.) Describe the school's town and surrounding area.
Durango is a fantastic town. It is a regional hub, so even though it isn't very large, it has a vibrant downtown, a four-year college (Fort Lewis), a hospital, several supermarkets, and most box stores that you can think of.
2.) Describe the social life at your school - what did you like most about it?
Music, skiing, camping, ping-pong, movie nights -- we were never bored!
Read more details about Colorado Timberline Academy on their 2021-22 profile page.

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