The winter months bring out a strange type of athlete. Though it may not strike you as the traditional definition of the word athlete, skiers are among some of the purest enthusiasts to practice their sport. Being a skier myself, I would only say there are a handful of avid skier at Oyster River High School. Given its lack in popularity, the dedicated few are often not recognized for their passion. Among this handful of students at ORHS, Junior Patrick Mulhern stands out for his dedication and talent on the hill. After spending so much time skiing and being surrounded by skiing, it’s almost strange to think of it as a regular sport. The cliché phrase “it’s not a sport it’s a lifestyle” seems to seamlessly line up with the skier mentality. For Mulhern and his friends, skiing is just that; a non-stop cycle of skiing, and craving skiing. Skiing is a different animal, its’ dangerous, expensive, time consuming, and slightly crazy reputation makes me wonder how the ski culture has grown into such a unique and relatable group of like-minded people. Like all members of the seemingly young-dominated ski community, Mulhern’s progressive attitude is one that constantly seeks respect from fellow skiers and friends.
After an early alarm and fresh snowfall, Mulhern steps outside to load the car.
Mulhern first began skiing at the age of four. Like his older and younger brother, he learned at Wildcat Mountain, New Hampshire. His younger brother Dillon Mulhern says Patrick's first ski day was of course, on the bunny slope. "My dad fell in love with the sport as a kid, so he taught my mom how to ski, and eventually all of us," explains Dillon in reference to his two brothers. "I think Patrick first began skiing in the park around the time he met other ski friends in 7th grade," says Dillon. "Like all skiers, Patrick's ski attitude is care free, it's style with ease," says Dillon.
Mulhern Boosts a small early season jump. Attitash, NH.
Now, at the most knowledgeable and talented point in his ski career, Patrick Mulhern finds himself constantly craving skiing. “Skiing is what motivates me throughout the winter. I go to school all week and just look forward to the weekends when I can ski,” says Mulhern. With skiing comes a mindset, or as Mulhern explains: “I just want to be better all the time. Of course it’s like this with other sports, but with skiing you can actually see how much you’ve progressed.” New Hampshire is not a bad place to learn the sport, although our area’s lack of snow in comparison to some parts of the country means many east coast skiers must adapt accordingly. “There’s not a lot of snow so we ski park all the time, pow days are always preferred of course,” explains Mulhern. He adds “If it’s a pow day, we’re definitely not going inside, if it’s a park day it’s probably pretty mellow.”
Mulhern, mid-air after a quick park lap.
Mulhern’s ski craving is shared by everyone who identifies themselves as a skier. However with no tangible reward from skiing, I ponder what causes skiers to persist to no end for progression. “All I want is a personal satisfaction from being a good skier. Knowing you’re having fun with friends and knowing you’re getting better at skiing is a very satisfying thought,” explains Mulhern.
Mulhern hops on an early season rail setup
Mulhern’s weekend ski ventures are accompanied by myself, as well as three ORHS sophomores; Nick Avery-Leaf, Andy McQuade, and Jake Garner. The group makes the journey up north every weekend in pursuit of their shared passion.
From left to right: Nick Avery-leaf, Andy McQuade, Patrick Mulhern
McQuade began skiing with Mulhern in middle school. At the time, McQuade was part of Wildcat Mountain’s ski team. Since then, he has quit ski racing, and reconnected with the main value of skiing, to “have fun and do whatever you want”. McQuade believes one can “progress individually while being with other people”.
McQuade and Avery-Leaf (back turned) stand at the top of a run.
Garner speaks to Mulhern’s drive for progression, stating: “It takes balls to do what he does, I don’t know what’s going through his head.” Avery-Leaf chimes in; “he’s talented”.
Garner standing at the summit.
This particular ski crew is one of many to pass through ORHS. Avery-Leaf spent many past years skiing at Loon Mountain, NH, with his older brother Ian Avery-Leaf. With a few more years of skiing under his belt, Ian recollects what the ski scene was like when he entered ORHS. “When I first roamed the halls, fall of 2009 as a freshman, all that existed besides my friends were a few upperclassmen. Brandon Lonstein, Max Harris, Ty Guerino, and a few others had left the school, so not many skiers remained,” explains Ian. “A lot of people said they skied, but I don’t consider kids who go up a weekend a season to be skiers,” Ian adds. “Skiing’s a lifestyle and our winters revolved around skiing,” he says. Ian’s senior year was his first time skiing with Mulhern. “I was impressed with how aggressive his style was for a sophomore,” says Ian.
Mulhern butter's his tails and drags his right hand across a roller, demonstrating the aggressive style Ian refers to.
Ian says: “Every lap he [Patrick] was trying something new and improving his skiing and that’s the best way to get better. I wouldn’t be surprised if some brands start to notice him if he goes out west for college.” Ian has continued to follow his ski passion across the country, and now goes to college in Montana, home of Big Sky Resort.
Mulhern butters his noses in a maneuver known as a nose butter 360. With many early season jumps being so small, butters are a common trick taking place on the ground.
Avery-Leaf grips the end of a rail, moments before spinning 270 degrees off.
Avery-leaf at the bottom of a park lap.
Avery-Leaf and McQuade send a spread eagle at the end of the day.
The story of many avid skiers is somehow consistently the same. Across the ski community there seems to be a goal of simply being content with what you do all the time. No one is trying to get famous, get rich, or receive any tangible award for their talent. The reason skiing is so unique is because there is nothing to chase other than simple enjoyment, and respect based on talent seems to be the ultimate success. Mulhern’s skiing speaks for itself and exemplifies this yearn for simply enjoyment, because after all, it’s only skiing.