Many kids are getting out on the slopes this winter, thanks to learn-to-ski-and-ride programs offered to local students at resorts across the state.
The low-cost programs are designed to be accessible to all Vermont school children.
At Stowe Mountain Resort, volunteers are trained to coach local kids through what they call the Public School Program. It’s a formula that’s been working for about 40 years.
Over the past weekend, dozens of volunteers for schools in Waterbury, Stowe, Morrisville, Hyde Park, Wolcott and Hardwick descended upon the mountain to learn how to teach skiing and snowboarding.
Some volunteers, like snowboarding coach Harold Cross, have been with the program for years.
"And we keep coming back – 22nd year with the Morrisville school program. It’s been well rewarded. Very rewarding," Cross said.
With his long grey beard and flannel shirt, Cross is an unlikely looking snowboarder. But, in fact, he was the Stowe program’s first snowboarding coach. And he’s still on the hill with students every week throughout the season.
Cross was recruited because he was one of the few people riding a snowboard back in those days.
"Our children, of course, when they were younger, went through the ski program, and they saw me snowboarding and they said, "Harold, why don’t you take a group of kids and teach them how to snowboard?" And, of course I was a little reluctant to begin with, but there again why shouldn’t we be able to teach the younger students this new trade, this new sport that Jake Burton has established only a few years before?," Cross said.
Cross says without the low-cost program, many of his students simply wouldn’t be introduced to snowboarding.
"I think a lot of the students that are in the program wouldn’t ordinarily have a chance to board, because it is very economical for them," Cross said.
Of course, Stowe’s not the only mountain working to make snow sports accessible to local kids.
According to the Vermont Ski Areas Association, resorts in the state give over 10,000 complimentary passes and another 3,700 discounted tickets to school children each year.