Alumni Spotlight with Mat Anderson: Hitting the Slopes

It was 15 years ago, yet James “Mat” Anderson still vividly recalls the first time he considered a career in the ski industry. It was the moment his Eagle Hill advisor, Ms. DiPalma, commented on the Jackson Hole T-shirt Mat often wore to gym class.

“You obviously like skiing,” Anderson remembers DiPalma saying after spotting Mat’s shirt promoting the mountain resort’s premier ski areas. “Maybe you should think about that in your future.”

Anderson did just that.

He’s now a lead salesman for Strafe, a ski outerwear company based in Aspen, Colorado. Anderson runs one of its shops, calling it “an absolute dream job.”

A self-described “ski gearhead” who learned to ski at age three, Anderson is passionate about the ski industry and captivated by the Colorado mountain culture in which he’s immersed himself for the last eight years.

He’s unloaded dynamite from chair lifts (for avalanche control), tuned skis, ran ski lifts, and shoveled an awful lot of snow.

“I get to work with like-minded people, whether they’re ski instructors or on ski patrol or working in the shops selling gear,” Anderson says. “Everyone cares about creating fun for people and giving them the best outdoor experience because we care about that so much, too. There’s a natural, mutual respect for each other. We stick around in this touristy town and work behind the scenes together.”

But to reach new heights, he’s had to persevere.

Born in Buffalo and raised in Norwalk, Connecticut, Anderson began attending Eagle Hill School at age eight when he was struggling to read due to dyslexia. He often felt frustrated and excluded from the fun other kids were having in school.

He credits Eagle Hill’s creative and hardworking teachers, starting with Ms. Abrams, his first literacy teacher, with helping him build confidence through different approaches to reading. And he loved being one of the youngest students to live in the dorms.

Anderson says he uses life lessons and strategies learned at Eagle Hill in his daily life now.

“The self-reflection I learned at Eagle Hill is what works for me now,” he says.  “I know how I think and how I function best. So, say I’m expecting a big shipment to come in at work and I know it’s going to come at a very busy time. I think, ‘Here’s the best way I can set myself up.’ So, even if it’s crunch time, I can get the order packed away, ordered, and all set up while being the most efficient. If I didn’t learn to plan and organize and use notes, I would not focus or prep, and it would be a disaster. But I know to plan ahead better and leave myself more time to get things done.”

And Anderson no longer feels frustrated with reading. “I’m a huge reader to this day,” he says. “I churn through a book or two a month.”

His advice for young learners at Eagle Hill?

“Don’t be afraid. Try. Take chances with reading and learning. Having a broader knowledge of the world brings many great opportunities. I'm glad I learned the skills and drive for it from my time at Eagle Hill."

According to Anderson, when he’s not “nerding out on ski gear,” you can find him volunteering for local nonprofits and charities, such as ski events for veterans with disabilities.  And especially during the summer months, you’ll find him running, hiking, and camping in the Colorado mountains.

But Anderson hasn’t forgotten Eagle Hill. He likes to spend a few weeks back in Connecticut each year, and in 2022 he had a fun time at the Eagle Hill alumni reunion.

He says, “I was so lucky to benefit from Eagle Hill so long ago, so early on, and with great people, and especially by living in the dorms. I had a certain pride in what I was learning at such a young age, setting up my own room and cleaning it, and getting used to living with other people. Eagle Hill is a huge part of what I am today.”

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