Riding through varied terrain, reciting basic avalanche safety protocol and memorizing the Responsibility Code — those are all tasks boy scouts must complete to earn their Snowsports Merit Badge at Sierra-at-Tahoe Resort this weekend.
About 30 Boy Scouts of America members from throughout the region will hit the Sierra slopes March 16 and 17 for the resort’s 5th annual Scout Weekend. It’s a chance for people who don’t live year-round at the base of a ski resort to quality for one of the organization’s fun badges, Scout Leader and Merit Badge Counselor Diane Neill said.
“It can get quite advanced. You already have to know how to do (the tasks) before you can achieve the merit badge,” Neill said.
Neill, scoutt leader of a troop in Shingle Springs, Calif., approached Sierra-at-Tahoe about five years ago to organize the first Scout Weekend. Her son had graduated to the boy scout ranks and was eligible to earn merit badges, and skiing resonated with the family since they owned a cabin near the resort.
This weekend, participants will chose their snowsports discipline — skiing and snowboarding in Sierra’s case — and then spend part of the day in a class taught by National Ski Patrol member before they head outside to demonstrate their skills.
There’s no guarantee the boys will earn the badge and the scouts need to be at least intermediate skiers and riders to pass the test, according to Neill.
“There’s a couple of boys who are coming back who have been practicing and are trying to get it again,” she said.
Pat Martin, scout master of the South Shore troop 594/468, said most of the local boys hold season passes and can test for the Snowsports Merit Badge on their own time. Martin said about 10 boy scouts went to Heavenly Mountain Resort two weeks ago to earn the badge with the help of Douglas County Sheriff’s Office Search and Rescue and ski patrol.
“Any scout across the nation can choose to get the snowsports badge. Obviously it’s easier for us. If you’re from Kansas, there aren’t many Snowsports Merit Badge counselors out there,” Martin said.
Sierra-at-Tahoe will offer discounted lift tickets to the scouts March 16 and 17. For more information, visit the event site.
“It’s a great opportunity not only to give back to the community but also to educate the kids … We’re really just educating them on how to be safe and follow the code,” Sierra-at-Tahoe spokesman Steven Hemphill said.